The giving tree…

We have developed several holiday practices over the years to try and teach our children the non commercial meanings of Christmas, Yule, and Chanukah. This year, with the economy being shaky and our recent cross country move draining our piggy banks dry, we are trying even harder to focus on family time and experiences instead of gifts.

Additionally, it’s tradition in our house to have a culling of the toys about two weeks before  Christmas in anticipation of the goodies to come. We go over the toys we already have and chose those we don’t use anymore to donate to the Salvation Army, the Goodwill, or other causes of note. Most of the time the kids are okay with getting rid of some of their things, though it’s important to remind them to jettison the nice things they don’t use, along with the ones better suited to the garbage bin. (Otherwise you are likely to get a bag of toys missing parts, stained with juice, or broken, instead of something you can genuinely pass on to others.)

We also try and do something charitable to remind ourselves how lucky we are. We have purchased a goat for a family in Africa through WorldVision, done all our christmas shopping from the Hunger Site store, and dropped coins into the Salvation Army bucket. This year Monkey took these lessons on herself and donated half her piggy bank to her schools Giving Tree, a class project centered around providing christmas toys for kiddos whose parents can’t afford them. She came up with the idea herself, and we were very proud of her decision to give her own money, instead of just asking us for ours.

We are looking forward to our Louisa May Alcott christmas this year. I hope we can get our family to focus less on getting and more on experiencing with each passing season. This year we have limited our gift gettting by agreeing that we will each get a gift for each family member, and Santa will get us a gift as well. The rest of the gifts are tiny ones that fit in the stockings. That way each person gets four gifts and a stocking. This is still a generous christmas, but is a far cry from the past, when our tree would be buried in gifts and the kids would practically be bored with unwrapping them before they were done.

The best present we are getting each other this year is time together. My husband is taking nearly two weeks off, Monkey will be out of school, and I will be taking the same time off. That way the four of us can go into the mountains and ice skate, or visit the lights downtown at night, or sled down the hill by the REI. We are decorating together, and making ornaments, cookies, and gifts. We are trying to regain the sense of wonder that used to come with this holiday, instead suffering from the annoyance and stress we have had as adults.

What are your family’s holiday tradtions?

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