Truth be told, I don’t love Christmas.

I think my challenged relationship with Christmas started 15 years ago when I was in graduate school. My husband and I were so strapped for cash, and then these external expectations to buy gifts for everyone in my extended family would come at me, regardless of whether or not I wanted to spend money on any of them. It reached a point where it felt materialistic and not intentional. So, over the years, I have really tried to craft what traditions I instill in my kids to make the holidays a little more values-oriented.

Here are three strategies that I love the most:

1. Be intentional about gift-giving.

In some families, each member draws a name and that person only buys one gift for one person instead of fifteen gifts for fifteen people. You can also donate to a charitable organization in your loved one’s name, and gift them with that. Personally, I love to give my kids experiences like trips and excursion rather than more stuff to clutter the house.

2. Have traditions related to activism.

We’ve created a family tradition around activism and trying to make the world a better place. I am fortunate that I have a family who have done this throughout my lifetime. Here’s what it looks like currently for my kids’ generation. Every holiday season, the kids take on extra chores and earn extra money, and then on Christmas day, when they get together with all of their cousins, they pool all of the money they’ve earned and they donate it to charity. They have a catalogue of initiatives that benefit children from around the world that they can select from to contribute to.

3. Focus on traditions, not things.

Focus on traditions that have meaning as traditions give all of us sweet, little touch points that remind us Oh, it’s the holidays and we do this during the holidays. This time of year feels nostalgic because we practice the same rituals during the holidays. I knew recently that I had done a good job at creating tradition within my own family, when my 18 year old who has already graduated, said to me, Mom, please don’t decorate the Christmas tree without me, because she wanted to come home and be a part of that tradition with us.

I hope these strategies are helpful in helping you make meaning and instill your own values in your kiddos this holiday season.

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