A couple of years ago, we were trying to figure out how to make Christmas work with an ever shrinking budget. The solution? Homemade Christmas. I set up "Santa's Workshop" in my room and made all kinds of wonderful treasures. It took forever, but Christmas morning still felt like that glorious day of opening presents that I valued.
The next year, the kids were getting older and wanted in on the homemade Christmas. This took even longer because now I was helping each of them individually create their treasures. I will say that the end result was wonderful. Christmas morning was full of eagerness for others to open the treasures made specifically for them. It was a beautiful day.
And I was exhausted.
When Christmas of 2013 rolled around, I knew something had to change. The budget was still tight, and even though I loved making gifts for the kids, I missed the time with them over the holidays, and that's really what they wanted. So my husband and I decided that our gifts to our children that year would be time....Christmas Presence (not presents).
Best Christmas ever.
What about the unwrapping? What about the Christmas lists? That doesn't sound like Christmas, does it?
I realized that with all of the Christmas parties, events, shopping, etc. I missed my family time. The central fact that my family celebrates at Christmas is that Christ came and gave us the gift of His presence. I wanted my family to be able to not miss the reason for the season by getting wrapped up in presents.
In order to pull something like this off, you have to have the whole family on board. We gathered the kids and made our Christmas pitch. It was pretty simple:
- This year the money we normally would spend on Christmas presents would be spent on activities to do together.
- Everyone would still have something to unwrap on Christmas morning
- They would help decide what we do
So the kids made their list of what they'd like to do together for Christmas and then put them in a jar. I took the ideas and mapped them out over the twenty-five days leading up until Christmas, with a grand finale on Christmas morning. Each day the kids would open a card with the day's gift of presence. Sometimes there would be a physical gift to go along with the card, but many days it was just the idea of the fun that sustained the kids.
On Christmas morning, the presents were given with an activity so that the lack of boxes to unwrap wasn't so dramatically evident.
The reality: we don't need any more stuff. My kids have all they need.
Another reality: they will be gone before I realize it. I need to make the most of every moment because the days are short.
Over the next five days, I will be giving some ideas for ways to give your children the gift of your presence this Christmas season.
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Betsy Strauss is an unexpected homeschooler, mother of three, who is in a relationship with a sweet man for life. She loves reading books, drinking coffee, and learning anything with her kids.