For kids, Christmas really is the most magical time of year, but in the last few decades it seems to have become more and more about what and how much is under the Christmas tree on the 25th December. Consumerism has driven this, and it’s us adults who lavish gifts on children unnecessarily, fuelling their appetite for ‘more is more’. The festive period should focus on time together, special moments and only the most thoughtful of gifts. Chloe Heywood shares her own experiences and ideas on celebrating Christmas in a less consumerism led way and opting to crank up the magic instead….
For most of us, celebrating Christmas is a magical and wonderful thing. Just thinking about it conjures up images of crisp white snow (which actually rarely happens in the UK) and the warm glow of sparkly fairy lights. Homes filled with smells of freshly baked mince pies eaten warm straight from the oven, mulled wine with festive spices and beautifully decorated gingerbread houses. Front doors adorned with wreaths and of course the centre piece – the Christmas tree – decked out in baubles, tinsel and more twinkling lights.
But, the aspect of the festivities that I find less appealing is the consumerism that seems to have crept in – the shops and supermarkets fill their festive aisles earlier and earlier each year and we seem to be encouraged to feast and indulge like never before. This indulgence extends to gift giving and our social media feeds become filled with adverts and tempting offers. It feels like our worth is becoming linked to how large the pile of presents is waiting to greet us, as we wake on Christmas morning.
Since having children, the magic of Christmas in our household has increased ten-fold. Seeing little eyes light up with wonder and amazement at every festive moment has made it more enjoyable for us as adults, too. Yet, we are very aware of our desire not to be indulgent and over-excessive, and it has encouraged us to really consider what we want our version of Christmas to look and, more importantly, feel like.
Over the last couple of years we have been switching our focus away from the expansive piles of presents, concentrating more on the magical moments and experiences of the festive season. We try and spread these throughout December to limit the pressure of having to have one amazing day centred on the 25th. So far, it’s making the run up to the ‘big day’ a whole lot more enjoyable and I feel less overwhelmed by what to buy and how much to spend.
Extending the magic
One way we turn the whole of December into a festive experience is via our Advent calendar. I tend to make ours out of small simple boxes that are then filled with festive activities, as well as the customary small treats! These often include making mince pies, decorating our tree, a visit to Father Christmas, attending our local Crib service and crafts such as making paper chain garlands and salt dough decorations. This means that Christmas becomes more than just one special meal with gifts under the tree – the preparations and lead up are just as fun as the day itself.
We have recently adopted the idea of a Christmas Eve box as a new tradition for us. A new pair of pyjamas, a sweet treat and a Christmas themed book in a small box that gets opened on the night before Christmas has been a lovely way to spread the magic a little bit further. I hope we will continue this even when our children are older.
Shop small and get crafting
When it comes to gifts, there needs to be a balance. Children are well versed in the idea of receiving gifts on Christmas morning so, of course, ours do wake up to goodies under the tree, but these tend to be purchased in a more intentional way, considering how it will be used and where we buy from. We focus on purchasing gifts from independent shops and makers to find something a little bit different, and that will often be more durable and cherished for longer.
I also make some gifts, usually edible, such as gingerbread biscuits, and spend time wrapping them with ribbon and personalised labels. If you have the skills, it’s lovely to make other gifts such as handmade knitted items or perhaps you are nifty with a needle and thread and can craft a soft toy, a pencil case or even a super hero cape!
Experiences over things
I’m sure like mine, the children in your life already have lots of lovely things, often more than they have time to play with, so rather than filling the house with more toys. we opt to include experiences and gift memberships for them. There are lots of lovely monthly subscription ideas for children including books, craft boxes and baking sets, all which will keep their attention for longer than a few minutes on Christmas Day. Often these arrive monthly through the post so the surprise of receiving a present continues even when Christmas is long gone. Tickets to an event or stage show, lessons for something they would like to learn (ballet, judo, music) or a theme park visit are all things they can look forward and you will create memories as a family or it may become a passion for the rest of their life. Be creative with how you present these gifts, as little faces may look disappointed by a boring envelope – so add a small, related item to enhance the joy of unwrapping it.
These thoughtful changes to how we approach Christmas means that we are not only able to move away from a consumer driven Christmas of excess, but it also teaches our younger generation that the true meaning of Christmas. It is not found in the receiving of gifts but in the activities done together that fill us all with happiness and love, while making wonderful memories along the way. Surely that is where the real magic of Christmas is.