I have always loved Christmas. I start listening to Christmas music by September/October, and we have our tree up by mid-late November. This year has been interesting. Even though we have had our tree up for a while and I've been listening to the music for a while (the classical version at school :), I feel like in a lot of ways I'm just going through the motions. This year is so weird in so many ways... between losing my brother right before Christmas last year, not having our own place, and being very busy, I'm afraid the season is just passing me by. But, I think the benefit is that I will use this time to re-evaluate my thoughts/feelings about Christmas.
My daughter also loves Christmas (as most kids do), and for her, this time of year is very magical for her. Unfortunately, we started the whole Santa Clause thing with her, and I feel that she doesn't understand the whole point of Christmas (I mean, at 4 years old, who wouldn't be focused on the Santa and presents part?). It's kind of hard to stop that now (she's at an age right now that it would be tough), so I will focus as much as we can on celebrating Jesus and giving to others, and we're trying to not even talk about Santa much with her. We did the whole writing Santa a letter (actually email!), but that's about it. We're not getting the kids many gifts because they don't need much junk, and we're planning to buy gifts through World Vision to help those in need in the kids' names (and put the cards in their stockings showing what we've done). We've shown Karis the gift catalog, and she seems to be all about it. She saw a baby in the catalog, and we've been praying for him/her every night before bed :). We've talked about how people in other countries don't have food, clean water, clothes, and they can't even go to school. She wants to help them :). The cool thing about World Vision is that you can buy chickens, ducks, goats, pigs, cows, etc to give to families in other countries so they have food/milk year around! We're also going today as a family to buy things (hats, gloves, etc) to fill gallon size ziploc bags to give to the homeless in Dallas.
I hope it doesn't seem as though I'm "bragging" about our giving because that's not the case... (that actually drives me crazy... there was a lady at Target behind me in line telling everyone about all the things they were buying for people)... I'm just processing the change in my heart... it's been a long time coming. In years past, even though we've said that we wanted to give, we never ended up giving... and we ended up getting the kids too much junk (and blowing money on other junk!). I think I needed this off year to show me what Christmas is truly about... It's not about Santa, Christmas trees, presents, decorations, etc... it's about Jesus and giving. And honestly, I want to have that view of life in general! We spend too much money on eating out and on junk that isn't necessary... when there are people in this life that don't have what they need...
How do you balance? I don't feel that the fun parts of Christmas should be stopped, but I want to balance, and I want to show my kids what's the most important. I don't want them to think that everything is about them!
I also don't want to have a judgmental attitude towards those that don't think this way. Everyone is different, everyone has different convictions, and it drives me crazy when people think they are better than others so I don't want to be one of them. The fact that I listen to Christmas music early is even an area for judgment and it doesn't make sense to me!
For those that are interested, here are a few great ways to give... including actually buying things through some websites to give (which are great gifts for friends/families):
Punjammies by International Princess Project
World Vision Christmas Gift Giving Catalog
Bright Hope International