WHILE the commercials that appear everywhere at this time of year might make it seem as such, Christmas is not about gifts. It is about celebrating the birth of Jesus, who walked this earth and died for our sins — and about family. The real magic in the season can only be experienced when you spend quality time with loved ones. Having beautifully-wrapped presents waiting under a tree on December 25 has become a part of the Christmas tradition, yes, but that does not mean you can't have Christmas without tangible gifts.
Parenting mentor and adolescence coach Jayson Downer says that while gifts provide temporary joy to children, it is the quality of the time spent with their parents that will cement in their core memories and help them form an identity for themselves.
“Presents are good, but your presence is far more valuable,” he said. “As parents we must not only provide for our children financially, but we must be emotionally available to them. We must ensure that we spend time with them at Christmastime, not just money.”
He recommends these activities for the family at Christmas:
Make Christmas cards together
Making Christmas cards to send to relatives is not only a fun way to bring out your children's creativity (and yours), but also a way to make extended family feel special. This activity provides tangible keepsakes that families will treasure as symbols of love and affection. Writing someone a personalised card will also help your children to think of the positive attributes of that person and why they love them. This is good for their development and expression
Have a family movie night
Christmas classics such as the Bethlehem story or even more contemporary Christmas movies like Home Alone are all great picks for staying in and bonding in the living room. If you prefer to go out as a family, Frozen 2 is a great family-friendly option that is in theatres now.
Cook a meal together
Food is a big part of the Jamaican Christmas experience, and a time when many traditions are passed on. Having the kids help out in the kitchen will not only boost their self-esteem by allowing them to feel like a valuable part of the family unit, but it also allows you to pass on, or even start, your very own family traditions. It doesn't have to be a grand feast to be meaningful — as long as you find a way to incorporate the entire family.
Go to church together
Even if your denomination does not observe Christmas Day officially, fellowship as a family is essential in nurturing the spiritual well-being of each member, and a good way to socialise and share experiences with other families. Many families like to spend New Year's Eve in church, and this ensures that you start the new year together in the house of the Lord.
Have a games night
Whether it's the traditional games such as dominoes, cards and board games, or the digital games on the children's tablets and smartphones, games night is a fun way to bring the family together. This encourages friendly rivalry and allows different members to shine at whatever games they are good at. Win, lose or draw, many laughs will be had and memories will be made.
Christmas is about giving of what we have to others as God gave the gift of his only son to humanity. One way in which you can instil this principle in your children is by allowing them to see you give, and by allowing them to give too. Whether it's volunteering at a Christmas treat, donating your family's gently used clothes and toys to charity, or simply sharing your Christmas dinner with a less fortunate family, there are many ways to do something positive.
This list is not exhaustive — you might even opt to start your own Christmas tradition with your family. There is no wrong way to spend the holidays with your family — what's important is that you spend the holidays with them.