My Christmas list for Luke is done and has been sent off to family and friends.  It’s full of carefully considered items; toys and books all selected to aid in his development and feed his passions.  I can’t say we’ve gotten a list together for the older kids quite yet.  They aren’t that easy to buy for anymore.

I feel a little guilty making out Christmas lists.  I feel like I am immediately focused on what to buy.   Almost immediately when the calendar turns over to November, the discussion in our family turns to wish lists.  Family members ask us for gift ideas.  Jeff and I start discussing gift ideas for the kids.  The number of shopping days begins to countdown.  The pressure starts to mount.  Make a list, shop and wrap.  The same old Christmas routine begins.

Of course I know there is more to Christmas than gifts.  Growing up my family was very focused on instilling values that focuses on the “true” meaning of Christmas and what it meant to really give.  We volunteered every season.  Sometimes packing shoeboxes of gifts, sometimes baking and assembling cookie platter to deliver in the community, and caroling to the elderly.  Giving back will always be a holiday tradition for my family and me.

I don’t think giving back is the answer to my holiday season frustrations, at least not in whole.   When I reflect on my childhood Christmases and ask myself what it is I really want Christmas to be this year, immediately memories of family moments full of warm feelings, laughter and bonding fill my mind.  Christmas Eve game nights, tree decorating, time spent with friends and family.  It’s the warmth of relationship and connection that fill my most vivid memories.

I feel like generally, we’ve all succumbed to the idea that it’s just easy to try to buy those moments.  Let me buy all the right ornaments and ribbon so I can create that special moment of trimming our tree.  Let me buy all the right food, table settings, candles, etc so my Christmas party will be perfect.   Let me buy all the right toys for Christmas morning so it’ll be the best Christmas ever!  It seems like every ad I come across is showing me yet another wonderful thing to buy for my perfect holiday.

I feel like it can be all too easy to get caught up in the shopping frenzy and subconsciously chase after a feeling.  Our focus can sometimes be centered more on buying all the right things instead of those intangible heartfelt moments we all desire.  Everything doesn’t have to be “perfect” to make that connection with our loved ones.  Perhaps before shopping, and before those lists are finished, it would be helpful to first stop and think about what really makes Christmas meaningful.  Defining first what’s truly important can save us from wasting money on the unimportant things.

This year it’s most important to me to take advantage of every opportunity to bond with my family.  There are only so many years left before the older kids have families of their own.  We may not always have the opportunity to be together at Christmas.  I want to make the most of the moments we have.   That may mean that I buy a few things to enhance those moments.   Yet, I want to maximize every dollar I spend this holiday season, ensuring it’s being spent on things that matter most to my family and me.  I want my focus to be on fostering more family connection, recognizing that some of the best gifts don’t come from a store.