If you’ve ever had Mariah Carey’s “Where Are You Christmas” hit just a little too hard, then this is for you.
I remember Christmas being so magical when I was a child, but as I grew up it seemed to become all about consumerism and Hallmark movies with plots about as deep as a mug of hot chocolate. If you’re wanting to bring back the true meaning of Christmas (and maybe even some real joy), here are seven ways to make your Christmas more meaningful.
1. Buy fewer presents for fewer people.
Buying dozens of presents for dozens of people is a surefire way to turn Christmas gift-giving into an arduous task, as opposed to a meaningful expression of love. Try buying fewer, but more thoughtful, gifts for the people you love most and come up with a still sweet, but less shopping-heavy, token for everyone else on your list.
I personally only buy gifts for my husband, daughter, parents, and one sibling. Everyone else (neighbors, employees, friends, aunts, and uncles) receives a Christmas card and a few baked goods. In my family, my siblings and in-laws do a gift rotation so that each year we only buy for one sibling. This lets us spend more time and money getting one great gift instead of scrambling to find less thought-out gifts. This kind of gift-giving was honestly a game-changer for our family.
2. Put your money where your mouth is.
Black Friday used to be one day of sales, but now it's two or three weeks of “Don’t miss this deal!” ads in your inbox. Now is the time of year when it is the hardest to stick to our values when it comes to the things we buy, but that also makes it the most important time to do so.
If you care about environmental sustainability, don’t buy your nephew a bunch of plastic toys. If you hate fast fashion, skip the Walmart ugly Christmas sweater. If you don’t think people should have to work retail on Thanksgiving, don’t go out shopping on Thanksgiving.
Buying according to your values can often seem too expensive, particularly during the holidays when there are extra expenses. But if you focus on buying less and making gifts when possible, you can free up room in your budget to use your consumer power the way you want to.
This all requires discipline and forethought, but it makes the things that you do buy more meaningful because they are from companies that align with your values.
3. Read a meaningful Christmas-y book.
Swap the snowed-in-with-a-hottie-who-turns-out-to-be-Santa’s-heir romance for a meaningful Christmas read that reminds you of the things that are most important.
In my opinion, the best thing to reawaken Christmas magic (and maybe a little belief in Santa) is reading The Autobiography of Santa Claus by Jeff Guinn. It starts with the real person of Saint Nicholas and brings you right up to today’s Santa Claus. I’d call the genre historical fantasy, and the story brings back the childhood joy of Santa Claus, along with a heaping dose of the true meaning of Christmas.
There are also some great religious Christmas-y books like Joy to the World by Scott Hahn to refocus the excitement of the season on Jesus’s birth.
4. Watch a thoughtful Christmas movie.
Don’t get me wrong, I will continue to watch the Princess Switch movies every time Vanessa Hudgens puts one out, and I do love the silly and hilarious rom-com Holiday in Handcuffs (it’s not what you think). However, these movies do nothing to make my Christmas meaningful and joyful – not to mention the fact that they aren’t remotely related to Jesus’s birth.
Commit to watching good-for-your-soul Christmas movies this year and I bet you’ll see a shift in your Christmas spirit. A Charlie Brown Christmas will forever be a reminder of what is really important at Christmas and of how to look beyond the commercialization of the season. If you want to watch something religious, any of the Christmas specials put out by The Chosen are wonderful and worth watching.
5. Give the gift of your time by volunteering.
We talk about the season of giving and sharing, but we often end up giving mainly to people who don’t need anything. Volunteering at a soup kitchen, toy drive, church fundraiser, or holiday event are great ways to give the gift of your time during this season.
Outside of formal volunteering, find ways to reach out, give, and share in your communities. Invite a lonely neighbor to one of your holiday get-togethers. Take clothes and toys to your local thrift store or homeless shelter. Grab an angel from the angel tree at church. Look around your neighborhood for someone you can help or befriend.
6. Make something.
During the coziest time of the year, focus on what you make, as opposed to buy. Try out a couple of baking projects, one traditional family treat and one new one. Knit a scarf for a friend instead of buying a gift for them. Make your own wreath from discarded branches at your local Christmas tree lot.
Whatever you choose, making something makes it more meaningful for you and for the people you share it with.
7. Don’t do it for the ‘gram.
When it comes to Christmas activities, outings, and parties, all roads lead to social media. Consider this your reminder that if you bake cookies, teach your nephew how to dance, or dress up in your holly-jolliest outfit, you don’t have to put it on Instagram to make it count.
I invite you to sit back and experience Christmas without bothering to think of cute captions or worrying about good angles. Don’t make your holiday bucket list based on the festive activities that you see online. Maybe even skip social media for a couple weeks to avoid FOMO. Do the things that get you in the Christmas spirit. Wear the sweaters that you think are festive. Bake the cookies without trying to perfectly dust the countertop in the background. And if you happen to snap a few pictures to send to Grandma or to put in the family album, that’s great – but consider it a bonus and not the purpose of what you’re doing.