When Anders was little we talked about how we wanted to do something different with our family at Christmas. Something that highlighted the meaning of it more--not making Christmas a drudgery. Something that wouldn't develop a sense of greed with the boys where the would be disappointed with presents they didn't get instead of what they have, where they focus more on making a list of things they want instead of thinking about those who don't have anything.
We settled on celebrating the model of St. Nicholas instead of Santa Claus, so a couple years ago we started honoring St. Nicholas Day and not having a visit from Santa. So on St. Nicholas Day (December 6th), we share the story of who Nicholas was, how he loved Jesus and how he gave to those in need because of that love. The boys each get one present. They each have made up a shoe box for Operation Christmas Child. In the future we hope to incorporate some sort of family service project (possibly serving at a soup kitchen on Christmas Day). At Christmas the boys get one more present from us and some small things in their stocking. They will remind us that Jesus is the greatest gift of all.
The new challenge this year is teaching them to be respectful of others' beliefs. We've had to coach them not to tell others that Santa isn't real. And we're in a community where there are other holidays celebrated by people (they don't even bother trying to do a holiday concert or anything at Anders' school; I think because it's so much work to incorporate all the celebrations of the different families this time of year).
Today, it was nice that St. Nicholas Day fell on a weekend. After rest time the boys came out of their room and we played a St. Nicholas game: each person took turns rolling a dice and with each number their was a different part of Nicholas to draw (head, beard, eyes, robe, miter, staff). We made some ornaments to give to others. We shared the story of St. Nicholas again (I got games, craft ideas and stories from The St. Nicholas Center). The boys got their presents. Then, since both presents were building sets, they took time to put them together. We finished off with some popcorn and nachos while watching a Veggie Tales video (unfortunately we didn't get the new St. Nicholas one yet).
Today is the 2nd Sunday of Advent. Traditionally the second candle is the candle of peace. Part of why we try and celebrate Christmas differently is that we want it to be a peaceful time of year, rather than a stressful and hectic holiday that ends up being resented rather than cherish. There is still busyness for us, but it tends to be more meaningful and fun rather than something we have to do. In the midst of all the parties, preparation and general hecticness, may you experience the peace that a small child, God incarnate, desired for all people to experience in Him.