Unwrapping the True Meaning of Christmas

child-at-christmasThe True Meaning of Christmas

When you think back to your own favorite Christmas memories, what comes to mind? Hanging your favorite ornament on the tree? Waking up to find that Santa enjoyed the cookies and milk you left for him? Shouting “like a lightbulb!” during “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer”? The fact is, children’s most treasured Christmas memories are made of something much more valuable than what’s inside the wrapping paper. The best memories are created when families focus their holiday season not on big gift budgets, but on quality time spent together.


Now, I know what you may be thinking. Our children are only young once; shouldn’t we spoil them a little while we can? Certainly, you can. But consider the message you are sending your child when you drop $350 on an XBox because “he deserves it.” Without a doubt, you love your child, but teaching him that love has a price tag sets a precedent for the value of love that is not only sad, but woefully incomplete. Toys break. Tech gadgets inevitably malfunction and crash. Games and DVDs eventually gather dust on a shelf.


Although we are loathe to admit it, many parents spend a lot of money on their kids’ Christmas gifts because we are competing with other parents. We don’t want our son/daughter to be the only one who doesn’t have a brag-worthy item to talk about when they return to school after the holiday break. In other words, we don’t want our kids to feel like they are loved less than other kids. And while we may not think our children are aware that this is the reason we’re spending so much, kids have a sense of the family’s budget and may wonder at our motives if their gift seems well beyond it. Competitive gift-giving sends the wrong message about the relationship between gifts and love.


Remember always that children learn best by following our example. We can retell the story of Scrooge and Tiny Tim until we’re blue in the face, but if we continually place a monetary value on our expressions of love, children will learn that their lives, even their relationships, revolve around money. We can do better than this. Our kids deserve better than this.


So this holiday season, instead of maxing out your credit card on big-ticket items that sooner or later become junk, give your children thoughtful gifts within your budget. Place the emphasis instead on spending time together. Start a new tradition (here are some great ideas!) or rekindle an old one from your own childhood. The gift of time spent together sharing laughter and food and fun is one that brings a family closer together, and that is a present that defines the future.


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