Has anyone noticed the irony of Black Friday? After a national holiday of reflection, gratefulness, and thanks, we rise before dawn and sometimes literally kill one another for material goods. Apparently, we get hung-over on gratefulness. Teaching kids the meaning of Christmas means confronting cultural attitudes that run from Wall Street to Wal-Mart. But, here are a few practical ways to bring the spirit of Christmas back.
Make Christmas Mean Others.
Pick a charity, and for every Christmas dollar you spend, put away one for needy children. Tell the kids, “This Christmas, you are not going to get as many gifts, because we are going to help needy kids.” Have the kids pick out the gifts and present them. You will be surprised at the inner philanthropist that awakens in your kids.
Make Christmas Mean Family.
Create a non-gift-oriented family tradition for the holiday season. Select a tree together; have a tree decorating party; or have a cookie decorating party. Whatever you do, make it a family event. Afterward, have Christmas snacks and family time. As the children get older, navigate the schedules and significant others to keep Christmas about family.
Make Christmas Mean Giving.
Give young children a gift allowance, and take them shopping. Walk them through the process of considering each family member. For the youngest, Mom or Dad may need to keep track of the money. For older kids, present opportunities to earn Christmas money, implying that gift-giving is expected.
Have Contests on the Meaning of Christmas.
This only works if there are a lot of children, so include any kiddos that attend your Christmas gatherings. Have a contest to creatively present the meaning of Christmas before the family. This can be a speech, a little drama, a picture, a song… The kids will enjoy the creativity and the limelight, and will certainly get the point. If it works, make it a tradition, and kids will enjoy the long-standing competition.
The Santa myth, while fun, is all about greed and consumerism. Teach kids the truth from the very beginning. Santa is just a fun game to play, like any other one. Santa can still come in the middle of the night and leave fun goodies, but the kids will be in on the game. They will enjoy playing along, but will not expect a magical figure to cater to their materialism.