Keeping Materialism Out of the Holidays

I am pretty sure that, if it were just me, I would be celebrating the holiday season with no more than a fat cup of egg nog, a James Taylor CD, and a few simple handmade gifts for friends and family.

But I have three small children, and that means that – like most parents – I must balance the spirit of the season with a series of nagging “wants” and whines.

Nothing squashes the spirit of Christmas more for me than this. But – it’s a fact of life. So, over the last seven years or so, I’ve found a few ways to help me prevent the spirit of materialism from stealing the season…

1. Make an agreement with the adults on your list that you will exchange either handmade items, or donate to a charity in their name. When we model selfless gift-giving, it can make a big difference to watchful children.

2. Discuss with your children, whenever possible this season, how it feels to give. Refocus on the giving aspect of the holiday as much as you can.

3. Adopt a special cause each year. The Heifer Project ( is wonderfully suited for holiday traditions. This charity allows you to purchase a gift animal for a family in need (ranging from heifers to rabbits and everything in between). These gift animals then provide resources that the recipients need to thrive in daily life. When we purchase a Heifer Project gift for someone, our kids draw a picture of the gifted animal, and we wrap the artwork in a frame.

4. Purchase your holiday cards from Unicef.

5. Ask each of your children to write a Dear Santa letter and to include at least three things that they can’t touch or see.

6. Focus on family traditions and celebrating family togetherness.

7. On Christmas Day, plan something to do directly after all the gifts are opened. No matter how long a family spends unwrapping presents, there is sometimes a sense of deflation after the last one. Each year, we get dressed to go to grandma’s…

8. Help your children to raise money for a good cause this time of year. Organize a fundraiser where the children wrap gifts for a donation or $1 or $2, for example.

9. Instead of a material gift, give something that will create memories. Some good ideas: sporting events, plays, movies, concerts, a mother-daughter trip to the spa.

10. Make the process of preparing for the holidays every bit as important as the big day itself. Carve out time for baking, decorating, and wrapping gifts as a family.