So as not to turn into an all-out Scrooge, I sometimes look back and muster my inner child to survive the season. Despite all the hassles and challenges our family had when I was growing up, I’ve always loved the Christmas season. It meant good food, happy family times and shopping money coming from uncles, aunts, and other relatives. For a relatively happy person, I was always my happiest during these times.
Fast forward to today, the JOY of the season is what I try to let everyone around me experience, most specially my kids. So how can we best celebrate the season while minimizing the focus on the commercialism of it all – malls, bazaars, exchange gifts, parties, etc – all of which can spell disaster to our wallets, energy and spirits?
Here are some simple JOYs of the season that you can have with your loved ones --
Pimp up your house!!!
Part of feeling the season is preparing and dressing up your house. You can let you kids be part of the fun while ingraining in them a sense of tradition and responsibility. Let them help you in choosing and putting up the decors. If you have more time, or have the creative inclination for it – you can also make your own decors with your kids! Over time, they begin to appreciate it. In my case, my little girl is the one demanding now that we decorate the house already (we did it early November), and the boys are more helpful in buying and putting up the lights outside the house.
Feel the air! Feel the season!
“Malamig ang simoy ng hangin”* best describes the weather during this season – which for me is the best part! There’s just a slight cold breeze, no rains, less humidity. It’s perfect for taking long walks at night or early morning. Do this with your kids after dinner and see the neighborhood’s lights and decors. Do this in the morning and attend some Christmas traditions like the Misa de Gallo or Simbang Gabi*. It’s a great way to feel the season, have some extra bonding time, and wean the kids away from their gadgets even just for at most an hour.
There’s no escaping gift giving of course, but you need to make some sense into this. Over time, I’ve learned that the best way is to categorize the gifts, make a budget for each category and stick to it! Here’s an example:
Name: Godchild 1 (Niko)
I do this in excel with each tab representing every year. This makes it much easier to make a budget and tally actual expenses. Plus, in the succeeding years it becomes easier to make sure you don’t give the same gift every time (This is a key learning from a fiasco I had years back when Santa gave the same exact gift to one of my kids... but that's another story to be told).
Once you have the list, you can have common gifts for some while personalizing the more important ones. I normally do a common gift for officemates and other groups I belong to. But I personalize it too by giving something that shows them who I am – like donations to causes I believe in (http://www.pathwaysphilippines.org), my favorite books or books that have special meaning to me.
You can teach your kids to make their own lists and budget, and have a bazaar day with them buying their gifts (I normally include in their list their gifts for the household help to ingrain a sense of gratitude to people who help us everyday).
Family bonding and traditions!
This for me is the best part of the season! Plan and make sure a lot of the holidays are spent with the family and doing traditional activities – Misa de Gallo / Simbang Gabi, midnight mass, Noche Buena and Buena Noche, Christmas and New Year get togethers, etc. Since we go home to the province (if you call Davao City one) for the holidays, the kids get to experience a more traditional, family-oriented Christmas with their expanded family which I value so much since it keeps them grounded and away from too much materialism.
At the end of it all, this is what it truly means… family, traditions, love. Gift-giving during Christmas is just a manifestation of all these. Christmas is meant to be a celebration of this One True Gift -- for God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, Jesus Christ, to us so we can all be part of His one great family. We should do our celebrations with foremost of this in mind.
A Blessed Christmas to all!
* Malamig ang simoy ng hangin: Filipino for cold breeze; the term was popularized thru a Christmas song titled Himig ng Pasko
** Misa de Gallo or Simbang Gabi: nine day masses which serve as a novena prior to Christmas. Misa de Gallo, which means rooster mass in English, is observed early morning; while Simbang Gabi, which means night mass, is celebrated at night.
About this blog: Originally written in Dec, 2012 for www.kiddiekist.com, a start-up parenting site targeting those with children below 12 years old.