Keep the holidays simple



With the holidays quickly approaching, it is easy to get caught up in the excitement and quickly drain yourself – including financially. Often, we center our ideas about holidays around gifts, especially Christmas. I know this is something I have been guilty of. Every year, I make a pledge to myself to cut back; but then the time comes, and I feel like I’m not giving my family enough. The truth is, when we look back on the gifts we’ve received, those aren’t the memories we hold dear; it’s the traditions that make the holidays special.

Giving up the notion that our children need the latest toys, the coolest new tech and to be the most fashionable kids in class isn’t easy – in part because we want to make them happy; but mostly because marketers and advertisers do really good jobs of training our psyche to believe we need the material items. One helpful tip is asking yourself, “does this fit in with my holiday goals?” or, “does my child need this?” before purchasing an item. Asking yourself these questions can open the inner dialog: “do I need this or is the marketing working on me?’

The first step in creating a simpler holiday season is to discuss your goals with your partner or family. Decide what is important to you and what the holidays mean to you as a unit. Write out your goals, whether it be to spend less, give more, create new traditions; put them on paper. Do this early, and hold each other accountable as you get closer to the season.

Another idea is to center your gifts around experiences, not items. Our happiest memories are almost always about things we’ve done, not items we’ve received. Memberships to places in or around your community are always great; and as a bonus, they’re whole family gifts, not just for one person. Ideas for memberships could be the zoo, a museum, a gym or even season sports tickets. Not only does the excitement of these gifts last long after the excitement of opening them, but these are things your family can enjoy together.

Finally, don’t forget about your favorite childhood traditions. Take this opportunity to share with your children some of your fondest holiday traditions. For me, it’s cookie-baking day and gingerbread houses. These were two separate traditions we continue to this day in my family, and I have loved introducing my kids to them. These traditions don’t have to be expensive. It can be reading your favorite book together, making cookies, watching a certain movie. Holidays can be full of joy and magic without having an excessive number of gifts under the tree. The magic comes in the memories you make together.

Talk to your family about ways you can make your holidays even more meaningful by cutting out some of the excess. The memories you make will be worth the changes.

Christine Weinzapfel Hayden serves as Youth First social worker at Corpus Christi and St. Philip Catholic Schools.