Contents Beloved Prayers Eye On Entertainment Editorial Ask a Franciscan Links for Learners Faith-filled Family Subscribe Book Reviews
Battling the Christmas 'Gimme's'
By Susan Hines-Brigger


Bigger Than the Gifts
Plenty of Opportunities
For Teens: Make Some Music
For Kids: Christmas Card Prayers

I am writing this column in October, and already my kids’ Christmas lists far exceed our family budget. Now, I know that I’m not telling parents anything new. My kids do it, I did it, my parents probably did it.

These days it’s hard to battle the Christmas machine. Advertisements for the latest greatest toys that kids just have to have for Christmas are everywhere. It seems as if I can’t turn on the TV, go to the store or pick up a magazine without being barraged by a chorus of “I want that for Christmas” from Maddie and Alex.

And as much as I wish I could put an end to the whole commercialism aspect of Christmas, I have to admit that there’s something about seeing my kids’ eyes on Christmas morning when they receive that gift they’ve really been hoping for.

No, my challenge is not to do away with Christmas commercialism, but rather to show my kids that there’s so much more to the season.

Bigger Than the Gifts

This message really hit home last Christmas when in a fit of frustration with Maddie’s constant “I want’s” I asked her if she realized that some kids have very little—not just at Christmas but all year long. She looked hor-rified. It never occurred to her that not everyone received lots of Christmas presents or had enough food or clothes. At five, that’s understandable. As a parent it was important for me to explain it to her, and tell her that Christmas is not simply about getting and giving gifts.

And then it hit me that this was one of those parental moments where you realize if you’re going to talk the talk, you need to walk the walk.

Plenty of Opportunities

One of the best pieces of advice I have received as a parent is that, if you want the kids to stop doing something, focus their attention on something else.

So I decided to make an effort to refocus our family on the true meaning of the Christmas season. And, in fact, thanks to the rich tradition of our faith, this isn’t quite as hard as I thought. The kids love their Advent calendars and our Advent wreath (See Advent Wreath: Popular Symbol of Advent), and Maddie has even collected some of her toys that she no longer plays with and asked to donate them to kids who don’t have any toys.

It’s a slow process, but it’s one well worth doing. In fact, every once in a while, I catch my kids with the same look I have seen on their faces on Christmas morning.

Here are some other suggestions to help your family reclaim the true spirit of Christmas:

Make the religious aspects of the holiday accessible—and fun. Growing up, my sisters and I loved playing with the figures of our Nativity scene, and we were encouraged to do so. My parents could have placed the set out of our reach and kept it in good shape—these days Mary, Joseph and Jesus all sport chipped noses from years of kissing each other—but instead the figures and the story of Christ’s birth were made accessible for us to discover and explore.

Rather than just setting the Nativity scene under the tree, put together a more decorative scene for the figures, including trees and hills. Or you could build a manger.

If you don’t wish to have your Nativity scene handled by young children, you might want to invest in a child’s version. Fisher-Price has a very nice Little People Nativity Scene.

Don’t overdo it. The holiday season can be stressful with all the parties and things that need to get done. Set aside time for your family to be together. Perhaps you could watch some of your favorite holiday shows together, read Christmas books (including the Bible story of Jesus’ birth), decorate the tree, make cookies or just play a game.

Think of others. Every Christmas season, our parish puts a tree in the back of our church with the names of individuals for whom gifts are needed. The tags list sizes, interests, etc. Have your family choose as many names off the tree as you feel you can afford. If possible, have each family member pick a name—and take on the responsibility for finding a present for that person. Parents will obviously need to help, but try to let the kids take the lead in picking out the gifts.

Focus your gift-giving. The thing I love about Christmas is the challenge of finding gifts that go beyond what a person might expect. For instance, my father-in-law always talked about a shillelagh he remembers his father having. So for Christmas last year, I found one on the Internet to give him. The year before that, I researched his family’s genealogy for him. For my dad, I have put together a scrapbook of his service in the Army during the Korean War. Make an effort to find those gifts that carry an extra meaning.

Extend a welcoming hand. We all have our group of family and friends with whom we interact on a regular basis. This is especially true during the holidays. How about expanding that circle to include neighbors, someone from your parish who may not have family nearby or residents at a local nursing home? Invite them over or arrange to visit them.

Next Month: Hard to Say I'm Sorry


For Teens: Make Some Music

When I was in high school, our chorus used to go at Christmastime to various locations and sing Christmas carols. We sang at nursing homes, malls, the school cafeteria and other places. What always amazed me was the way people would immediately gather around and join in singing.

If you’re not part of a formal choral group at school or church, gather some friends—or members of the parish youth group—and go caroling in your neighborhood. Or call and see if you can visit a local school, hospital or nursing home. I bet you’ll be surprised by the positive reaction you receive.

For Kids: Christmas Card Prayers

As I was growing up, my mom would tape all the Christmas cards we received to the back of our front door. I used to love looking at all the different cards and remembering the people who sent them.

I recently read an article about a family that each day during the Christmas season would select a different Christmas card they had received. The family would then offer a special prayer for the sender before their evening meal. In addition, you also might share stories about the person(s) who sent each card.


Do you have ideas or suggestions for topics you'd like to see addressed in this column? If so, send them to me at “Faith-filled Family,” 28 W. Liberty Street, Cincinnati, OH 45202-6498, or e-mail them to

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Ask a Franciscan  | The Bible: Light to My Path  | Book Reviews  | Eye on Entertainment
Editorial  | Editor’s Message  | Faith-filled Family  | Links for Learners
Beloved Prayers  | Saints for Our Lives  | Web Catholic  | Back Issues

Return to

Paid Advertisement
Ads contrary to Catholic teachings should be reported to our webmaster. Include ad link.

An Web Site from the Franciscans and
Franciscan Media     ©1996-2016 Copyright