Christmas shouldn’t be all about presents, but in our modern culture, some people only know Christmas for gift giving. Throughout much of Asia, Christmas is celebrated enthusiastically. Christmas carols are played around China, where I lived for a year in 2011-2012, but no one there knows what the holiday originally celebrated. For many people, there is no meaning in Christmas.
If you are in a position where Christmas needs to be more modest than in the past, there is something you can do. If only, so you can avoid the holiday credit card hangover, you can remake this Christmas to be less expensive and more meaningful. By making Christmas more about giving than getting, you can save money and have a happier holiday.
Consider this plan to help you enjoy the Christmas season in a whole new way:
Plan as a family
As the holidays approach, gather the family and discuss your desire to have a more meaningful Christmas — one that won’t cost as much. Have everyone in the family contribute to a discussion about how you can do something kind for a significantly less fortunate family. You may want to discuss a one-time service project for a family, an evening serving meals at the homeless shelter during the Christmas season or perhaps doing a "Twelve Days of Christmas" anonymous surprise for a family in your neighborhood.
Involve everyone in service
Be sure to involve everyone in the family in doing the service. Youngest to oldest, everyone should participate. By including everyone in the plan, you can help each one of your children reframe the holiday season.
As you plan, organize and execute your holiday service, do it with gusto. Behave as if you, personally, are enjoying every minute. Don’t ever give your children the impression that the service you’re doing is a chore, or a bother to you. Anticipate joy and you will experience joy. If your children see you happy about this, they will catch the spirit of it, as well.
As you do your Christmas shopping, cut back from past years. Focus on buying the things that your children will need, like new clothes. Work strategically to acquire only things that your family will truly appreciate.
Don’t surprise them
If you are cutting back significantly on the Christmas shopping budget this year, don’t let your kids find out Christmas morning. Make sure that they understand that your service activity is related to cutting back on the extravagant Christmas spending.
Whatever your faith, share it with your children at Christmastime. Help them to understand your worldview. Give them the gift of your faith. They’ll never forget the lessons you teach them.
By framing your holiday with service to people who are truly less fortunate, you’ve given meaning to the holiday and satisfaction to your children, regardless of the scope or scale of what’s under the tree. You can, with less money, give your kids a happier and more meaningful holiday.
Devin Thorpe, husband, father, author of Your Mark On The World and a popular guest speaker, is a Forbes Contributor. Building on a twenty-five year career in finance and entrepreneurship that included $500 million in completed transactions, he now champions social good full time, seeking to help others succeed in their efforts to make the world a better place.