by Linda Pascatore

©1994 The Gobbler: Winter Crystal

Are you tired of a hyped, glitzy, materialistic, stressful Christmas that has lost it's true meaning? Are you spending beyond your budget and still finding that your children want more brand name toys every year? Does anticipation build from Halloween when the stores start to decorate, until Christmas day when its all over after a short period of frantic gift opening?

We have felt that Christmas hasn't been quite what it should be, but weren't sure what to do about it. Some answers are suggested in a book, "Unplug the Christmas Machine," by Robinson and Staeheli. The book was developed from workshops given by the authors to help families improve the quality of their Christmas celebrations.

In the past, Christmas was a much simpler affair. Preparations for the holiday didn't start until about two weeks before Christmas, and the festivities lasted for days. Small homemade gifts were given to children, with no exchanges between adults. The focus was clearly on the religious aspects of the holiday. In addition, each family had its own ethnic traditions that added to the magic of the holiday. When families gathered at Christmas, there were many group activities that spanned the generations, like singing, dancing, playing games or charades, and putting on plays. Some time was always spent outdoors; sledding, ice skating, skiing, building snow forts, or just playing in snow.

To simplify your Christmas, the authors of the book suggest that you first analyze your celebration and set priorities. What are your favorite parts? What would you like to change? You should discuss these questions with your family. Men are often left out of the process, which leaves them feeling apathetic about Christmas. We also forget to include children in planning, giving them the materialistic role of deciding what they want to get, instead of what they want to do.

As a result of this exercise, most families don't revamp their whole celebration; but change a few things that make the holiday more meaningful. You might want to reduce the cost and number of gifts given, focus more on religious or charitable aspects, incorporate old ethnic rituals or invent new ones, spend more time on family activities rather than outside social events, include outdoor events, and spread the festivities over a longer period of time. If you'd like to make changes that will affect other relatives, now is the time to make decisions for next year.

We wish all a peaceful Christmas; a Season of Giving, Love, Joy, and Wonder.