The Christmas season is supposed to be all about joy, peace, and a fleeting holiday spirit that seems to be gone quicker than a wispy trail of smoke once the dishes are done after Thanksgiving dinner. It’s all of a sudden a whirlwind of school holiday parties, making a list of gifts and going all out to fulfill that list, trying to create magic at home with an elf just because everyone else is seemingly doing it, taking a holiday overnight trip, and trying to see all the Christmas lights and displays because your family will be deprived if they don’t do that.
This is for all you parents who are hanging by a thread trying to make this season the most spectacular of all for your kids and just don’t know if you can hang on much longer. To all of you: you don’t need to do all the things.
Your Christmas tree doesn’t need a giant stack of presents under it. Your kids don’t need the latest toys. You don’t need to stretch yourself so thin trying to cram the most you can into this holiday season. You and your kids are not deprived if you don’t do it all, buy it all, and sacrifice your sanity for an experience, toy, or magical experience that will soon be forgotten.
You don’t need to do it all
Last year, parents estimated they would spend about $276 on Christmas gifts for each of their kids and a whopping 41% of Americans were willing to go into debt for gift-giving. Meanwhile, the estimated worth of unwanted gifts hovers around $15 billion. Those aren’t small figures, especially in today’s world where many families are struggling with everyday bills. Kids don’t need the latest toy, the most expensive phone, and all the other material things that they’ll forget in a month’s time. Smaller gifts or experience gifts, like memberships to places you and your family go often (hello, SC Parks Pass!) go a long way towards making great memories together all year long.
I’m not sure why we parents sometimes feel like we need to do all the things during the Christmas season. Maybe social media, maybe endless ads, maybe just talking with friends about all the cool stuff they are doing, or maybe it’s what our parents did with us that we are trying to replicate with our own kids. Whatever the reason, it’s totally fine – more than fine – to back off from the deluge of activities that come with this season.
You aren’t depriving your kids if you don’t do it all
Your kids will be okay if they aren’t doing everything their friends are doing and it’s a good opportunity for them to learn that not doing everything their friends are doing isn’t something to be ashamed about. We all have our own struggles and priorities and I think it’s good to learn early on that kids don’t need to fit in to have fun. I wish I would have learned that a lot earlier than I did in life.
I didn’t grow up doing a ton of activities during the Christmas season. Sometimes our family would take a trip together, which was a blast. We would go during Christmas and experience it in another state or town and have fun together exploring a new city and making dinner together in a small kitchen in our hotel room. It was awesome.
We didn’t do parades but we did go drive around looking at Christmas lights in neighborhoods with popcorn that we cooked over the stove and tried not to let explode all over the kitchen. We had fun decorating our Christmas tree together. One year my dad found a tree that legit looked like the poor little tree from Charlie Brown’s Christmas and it turned into the joke that never ended year after year since we couldn’t do worse than that tree.
I don’t remember the gifts I got or gave. I don’t remember sitting for Santa photos. The memories from the Christmas season that remain are those with my family. I do remember one gift: it was tickets to a New Jersey Nets (a professional basketball team) the day after Christmas or so. I had played basketball with a passion as a tween and teenager and that gift was special. That’s really all I remember in terms of gifts.
Because of those memories and because I have zero desire to drive myself crazy during these weeks leading up to Christmas, I intentionally try to minimize what we do. While I love writing about new activities for Christmas for Kidding Around, aside from those excursions, I try to take these weeks of Advent to spend quality time together with my kids. We go look at Christmas lights, go ice skating, go to live nativities and remember the real reason for this season, take time to volunteer, and read books together on Christmas. And, I intentionally try to not go overboard on gifts for my kids.
I want to get to Christmas and not be completely worn out or fed up or just plain unhappy. After all, this is indeed a season of joyful expectation. If you’ve got to seriously scale back your calendar to be happier and less stressed, then by all means, do it. You truly don’t need to do it all so your kids can experience the magic of the season. They will remember the special moments with you above all else and that’s what matters.