Regardless of how it is portrayed by the major retailers, the spirit of Christmas is more than the spirit of gift-giving. And it's certainly more than expensive gifts paid for on credit card after finally settling on something that probably won't be wanted anyway. While giving gifts is not a problem unless it's a problem, i.e. if it stresses us out or we can't afford it, there's more to Christmas.
What I am trying to do in my family is to teach my children to have a spirit of generosity. We spend time together, make things and try to think about how we can help others at Christmas. There are plenty of opportunities; food and gift donations to charity groups, volunteering or doing something nice for someone.
Many of us complain about how commercial Christmas has become. I can easily buy too much for my children but at the end of the day (instead of getting lashings of gratitude) I get frustrated and teary children who are simply overwhelmed. When it comes time to pack up the wrapping paper and put the new things in their rooms it's all too much. There is too much stuff and nowhere to put it!
Everyone ends up a lot happier if we focus more on doing something special together, being active or 'crafty'. We do buy a present or two for the children but it's not over the top. I no longer feel stressed as the number of shopping days decrease and can instead look forward to the holiday as a special time to spend with my family.
Donna MacFarlane is married with three children and is a former Olympic athlete, now living in Western Australia.
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