Making the Best Christmas Ever
Christmas has been in the stores for over a month now. I find myself avoiding the aisles because of some unwritten rule I’ve made for myself. I don’t want to celebrate Christmas until after Thanksgiving. Is anyone else with me? The fact of the matter is, many of the things I love about Christmas are because of my thankfulness. Spending time with family around the table, making sweet treats together and decorating the house are all a part of both holidays.
This holiday season I want to challenge myself (and you!) to make this holiday season about family and to make it the best Christmas ever.. It’s so easy to find ourselves wrapped up in giving gifts, receiving gifts, buying gifts, planning gifts, making gifts…. etc, etc, etc. While our hearts may be in the right place, life gets busy. Too busy. And pretty soon our well intentions take us away from the very people we’re wanting to give to.
Quality time. PRESENCE not presents is my goal this year. And I’ve made four specific parameters to how I’m going to achieve that. Do you want to join me?
Here’s how to have to MEANINGFUL PRESENCE in your holiday this year.
I am a traditions girl through and through. I can tell you exactly what we’re going to have for Thanksgiving and for Christmas dinner at my parent’s house each year – down to the cranberry sauce. I can also tell what my mom’s going to make for breakfast on Christmas morning, what we’re having for dinner Christmas Eve, and even where each of our family members will sit when we open presents Christmas morning. However, in starting my own family, I’ve forgotten to create little traditions just for us to enjoy. Last year we decided to add the tradition of watching “Home Alone” when we put up the Christmas tree. This year we’re adding a tradition of going to a Christmas tree farm to cut down our own tree. These may seem like little things, but I think they bring a grounding to our family and make it our own. Each year I’m hoping to add just one more small tradition that my boys can take with them as I’ve carried on traditions my family shared with me.
Plan experiences, not just gifts.
Last year I shared that each of our children would only receive four gifts from us. We’re planning to do that again this year using this budget guide. To add to it, we’re planning a special family trip to take this January. We’re hoping to take the kids to a children’s museum in another state and get away for a weekend together. Since our budget is less with only four very intentional gifts, we’re able to spend the rest of that money towards memories we can make together. For travel tips to save you money when you plan your experiences check out this Holiday Guide.
Nothing bring a family together more than serving others less fortunate. This year, we’ll be making Operation Christmas Child Boxes. It’s something tangible my kids can be a part of. We’re also going to be serving random acts of kindness as part of Gifts From Emma. As they get older, I hope to plan trips to serve at soup kitchens and the like.
Turn off your phone.
Turn it off. Just do it. Rip off the band aid. Sure, I want to get pictures of my kids experiencing things and giving to each other. But after five minutes of that – the phone is going OFF. Too many times I’ve found myself with good intentions turning on my phone to take a picture only to see a notification and then I’m on a rabbit trail – that ends up with 10 minutes of my mind somewhere else. I don’t want to miss out on being present by trying to capture something I’m not even really in. Does that make sense? Do you find yourself there, too? I love a good picture like anyone else, as evidence by the ones I’m sharing today, but I don’t need to be on my phone 24/7 to get them.
Slow down Christmas morning.
One of the things I grew up doing each Christmas morning with my family was opening gifts. I’m sure I’m not alone in that. But specifically what my parents did was slow down the morning. We went around in a circle and each person opened one gift at a time. Everyone watched and cheered and ooed and awwed. And then the next person went. Our Christmas mornings last about four hours these days with all the spouses and grandkids but this tradition we have kept. Why? When you open one gift at a time, it becomes about watching the person receiving and the joy they feel. It truly becomes about the giving.
Each year I let my kids buy one gift for each member of my family (which totals over 20 now). They buy each gift at the Dollar Tree – but I let them pick it out completely. Why? Because on Christmas morning when every single person in the room is focused on that one person receiving one of their gifts – their eyes fill with excitement and they truly experience the gift of giving. If we all ripped our gifts open all at once, the focus is on receiving. And for my kids, I want them to know the gift of giving first. Sure, it’s hard to keep a four year old and six year old patient as they wait their turn, but they’ve learned to wait – and you’ll find them right next to grandma helping her to open her gift from them. (Which was a chicken dog toy last year. They bought it because Grandma loves to play! It has such purpose to them. 😉 ) It’s a blessing my parents instilled in me from every Christmas morning – and I’m thankful to pass it on to my kids.
While these ideas are simple, they can lead to a profound experience for your family this year, and for mine. Don’t get wrapped up in the giving gifts so much that you miss out on the presence of each other. Time together is priceless and can never be replaced. Toys will fade away but the time you have together will make a direct impact on your children, and even you!
I write all of this as a reminder to myself. I have a good friend who lost a child this year, and my heart breaks every time I think of it. I can’t try to even imagine the pain they are in, but I know that each of us would give back every single thing we’ve ever bought to have five more minutes with a child that is lost in a tragedy. I have learned so much from my friend who has shared her raw experience with me and so many others.
This holiday season will be different. I will be thinking PRESENCE and not presents as I plan my time over the next few months. Will you join me?
The holidays are for focusing on moments that matter. But for many Americans, financial stress can get in the way. This year, you can make small changes that make a big difference for your financial well-being.
In this holiday planning guide, you’ll find tips for getting organized and making a plan for holiday spending so you can feel confident in your ability to stay on track with your budget. You’ll see how other Americans are shopping, traveling, celebrating and giving in ways that make the holidays cost less, but mean more.
For more holiday planning advice visit holiday resources
Meaningful spending made easy with a budgeting tool to help you make a plan and stay on track with your holiday spending. Download here.
This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of SunTrust. The opinions and text are all mine.