Taking Back Christmas

This holiday season flew by for our family this year. Even though it seemed like Christmas started much earlier, the season just came and went by quickly.  It seems like every year stores are putting out their commercialized Christmas junk earlier and earlier. I seriously saw a bunch of wreaths and yard inflatables at my local home improvement store at the end of August– the end of August people– really?

As consumers, shouldn’t we be taking a stand to the early advancements from the platoons of plastic Christmas trees and artificially flavored candy canes? Why do we tolerate it leaking into our Fall season more every year. Is it because people just love Christmas so much that they want to get a jump on holiday shopping and decorating? Is it because children all across the world start making their Christmas lists of toys and XBox and I-phones? Or is it simply because Christmas really is “the most wonderful time of the year”?


From Black Friday to Cyber Monday and now Super Saturday (December 17) and DEC23 (December 23), retailers and online stores are pumping out an unbelievable amount of deals, promotions and limited offers that send the consumer’s mind and e-mail inbox into a swirling mass of purchasing pressure. You see, the real reason why retailers put out that Mickey Mouse Christmas inflatable at the end of summer is to monopolize on a few more weeks of unclaimed territory on our calendars to plant the seed and put the pressure on to BUY, BUY, BUY!


I took my family on a drive through a neighborhood full of Christmas lights in mid-December. As we waited in the long line of cars, idling, exhaust pouring out into the cold night air, my wife peered out the window at a large storage unit facility. “Promise me that we will never get one of those,” she said emphatically.


Disclaimer— My intent is not to offend or slander any of our readers who may rent a storage facility. I do understand that people have them for many reasons. I am simply trying to raise our awareness to the fact that we have a lot of stuff- I have a lot of stuff! How much time, energy and money is spent on managing our excess “stuff”? How much do we really use it or even need it? Does our “stuff” bring the freedom and enjoyment that we were promised when we bought it or does it feel like handcuffs. It is ironic how those rows of storage compartments look like jail cells– I digress.


I think we would all agree that our holidays in general have become overcrowded with stuff. Even to the point that the real value- the really important things we’re celebrating are being inched out by all the clutter! If you stopped someone on the street and asked them what Christmas means to them they would probably say, “To be with family,” or “Time off of work”. Some may even say, “To celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ”. But how many of us can honestly say that all of our consumption and hustle and bustle during the holiday season really reflects the deeper values that we say are most important?

True confession, I am a recovering scrooge and though I really do like aspects of the modern holiday traditions I am so tired of being double-minded in our celebration of the true meaning of Christmas. How can we reconcile the fact that most of us spend a ridiculous amount of money on stuff we don’t need, we act like gluttons, spoil our kids, jack our power bills up for some outdoor lights and then feel good about sponsoring a child in Africa or bringing a plate of cookies to our kid’s school? So what’s my point- right? Am I just another critic bahumbugging through the month of December?


Here’s my point: If we agree that Christmas has become chaotic, that we are struggling to find real peace (even though that was the caption on our family Christmas card this year) and we deeply yearn to simplify in this season how do we do that?

How do we slow down enough to just hug the hot chocolate out of our kiddos, sip on a glass of wine (or eggnog) with our spouse or pile up blankets in the back of a pick-up truck and stare at the stars on a cold night?

What if we just decided to pull back the reigns on our decorations, travel plans and gifts and plan an experience with our family this year? One of the “new” traditions that my family has started is a screen-free day where we shut down our phones, i-pads, i-pods, un-plug the TV and spend the day outside playing, doing board games and making fires. Yea, I know it sounds like an episode of Little House on the Prairie– but it’s actually pretty cool (just saying).

If that’s not your idea of a fun day, try doing a family adventure to a local state park or museum, schedule a kayaking trip or a bike trip one warm winter afternoon. There are so many things that you all can do that doesn’t cost a ton of money, can get you active and outside and can still be classified as a “gift”.


If we truly desire to instill deep values of faith and meaning for our families and children and children’s children- we must be willing to short change ourselves on the things that our consumeristic culture says ‘we have to have’ to make a perfect Christmas. Though this post will hit the internet in the wake of this past holiday season, let it be our first look at next year’s Christmas season. Instead of looking for the first red and green ads in the Sunday paper sometime in July or August, consider this manifesto to “Take Back Christmas” and remember what this season is really all about. One exercise we often do here at Canaan in the summer is to write a letter to our future self. The campers will write a letter to themselves at the beginning of their week of camp and either open it at the end of the week or the end of the summer. It is so cool to see how they’ve learned and grow and even how their expectations change from start to finish.

Take this post to heart as we move into a new year. Write yourself a letter or e-mail to remind you that next Christmas can look different for your family and be a little less expensive without compromising on the quality connections with your loved ones. Hey- if your family’s Christmas season is perfect already and doesn’t need any adjustments then just reflect on all the amazing things that you all share- creating an annual memoir throughout the years. Best to you this year!