As a child, I remembered Christmas to be a time filled with Christmas carols, cosy meals with friends and family and all-round festive cheer. Nowadays, however, Christmas (for my children at least) seems to carry a very different tune.
My children look forward to Christmas as much as they look forward to celebrating their birthdays, for the simple fact that Christmas is the one other day of the year where they can expect to receive multiple presents!
In spite of my numerous attempts to create meaningful activities for the family during this holiday season, the ‘black hole’ of consumerism in our 21st Century society has proven too strong to resist. And who can blame them? Countless advertisements and beautifully decorated department stores filled with the latest toys constantly reaffirm their misguided belief that Christmas is the season for receiving more than giving.
As I listened to my son repeat “I want [insert name of toy, any toy, here]” for the umpteenth time, I began to ponder over the true spirit of Christmas and wondered how I could help my children make this a more meaningful holiday instead.
Simple acts of service
I’ve realised that this season of giving does not always need to include grand acts of service. Starting small has enabled us to embark on the act of giving almost immediately. Something as simple as offering to help an elderly neighbour push her cart of groceries from the market allowed my children to understand that the focus should not be about bringing attention to themselves but about meeting someone else’s needs instead.
“Starting small has enabled us to embark on the act of giving almost immediately.”
This year, we will spend time making cookies together as gifts for our neighbours as well as writing cards and buying drinks to appreciate the cleaners who work hard to maintain our estate.
The best time for de-cluttering
Over the years, my children have amassed more toys, clothes and books than they need or have time to truly enjoy. Teaching them to think of others should also include being able to donate some of these toys and books away to other children who would find greater need for these items, especially during the festive season.
I won’t lie, it was tough at first. Upon inspecting their array of toys and books, my children declared that everything was precious to them and nothing could be given away. It took some time to help them see how they had been blessed with more than they needed and once they understood that some of their things could help bring cheer to another child or family, they wasted no time sorting out little used and sometimes even brand new items for donation.
Serving one another
If we desire to look beyond ourselves and gift an act of service to someone else, why not start by practicing it in our own homes? This year, instead of buying each other Christmas gifts, we have decided to do something special for a family member. This act could come in the form of helping dad throw out the rubbish, or offering to help a sibling pick up their toys for the week or accompanying mom to the supermarket and carrying some of the groceries home.
“If we desire to look beyond ourselves and gift an act of service to someone else, why not start by practicing it in our own homes?”
One of the simplest and sometimes most precious gifts we can give to anyone is the gift of a genuine smile. Acknowledging our neighbours and the people who live and work in our community with a smile is a gift, and a rare commodity in a society where we are always rushing about, managing busy schedules.
I have hope that these simple, achievable actions will go far in helping my children understand the true spirit of Christmas and in turn, create a practice of giving gifts that will last a lifetime.
© 2017 Focus on the Family Singapore. All rights reserved.