I know the feeling. It’s Christmas. And you want to give your kids the perfect family memory. Glowing tree, beautifully wrapped packages beneath it, matching pajamas and the sweet smell of something delicious wafting in from the kitchen.
But the WORK! The sheer prospect of decorating, shopping, wrapping, and cooking up all this perfection is mind-boggling. Come mid-October many of us are already dreading the Christmas card chaos and by Thanksgiving panic is approaching.
Stop. Breathe. Let me share with you some ways I have simplified the holiday to make the meaning of the season remain the reason. As a mother of 15 children, if there is one thing I have learned how to do it is to simplify and streamline just about every aspect of our big and busy lives.
Find meaning in the tree
Setting up our Christmas tree and explaining the meaning behind many of our decorations is the first way we bring Jesus into our celebration of His birthday. I explain to the children that the tree is green to remind us of the new life we have in Christ. The lights are there because Jesus is the Light of the World. The golden ornaments remind us He is King. The garland of red beads symbolizes His blood that bought our redemption. As we place the pearly strands around the tree, I explain to the younger children that we are a pearl of great price to our Lord. And the star on top is to remind us that God guided the wise men from afar to come worship the Lord. If this all sounds like a Hallmark moment, please feel free to interject such notions with plenty of reality. There are 15 kids, lots of fragile ornaments and strands of giant C9 light bulbs that either break when someone steps on one or burn a kid’s hand when they didn’t listen to me to leave the lights alone. Falalalala, la la la LA.
Do away with wish lists
We did away with Christmas lists eight children ago. The stress was giving me palpitations. The children were always changing what was on the list and last minute runs to the toy store were adding up to a house payment. As a mom who thrives on seeing the complete wonder and joy on my children’s faces, it had become outta control. Outta here, Mr. Wish List.
When the housing market crashed in 2008, as a family that makes a living by selling real estate, we had to really evaluate how to holiday. The driving force may have been a smaller pocketbook, but the reasoning was way overdue. We landed on two gifts from Mom and Dad and one from Santa. After all, Jesus only got three gifts!
Prayerfully consider each gift
Before we open our first present, we stop and give thanks to the One who provided for every good thing. We remember the gift of His Son and how the goodness and kindness of God has given us the opportunity to bless our children that special morning. Stopping to pray before the gift opening shifts the attitude from “gimme gimme gimme” to His incredible goodness.
The first gift each child receives is something we see as part of their purpose, or it is attached to a meaningful passion of theirs. One of my oldest daughters is interested in medical missions, so when she was about twelve we gave her a lab coat with her name on it and a simple doctor’s bag filled with staples like a thermometer, a stethoscope and some other basics. Our second gift is something they have wanted, something they mentioned in passing. With four teenage daughters, this mostly involves makeup, while my little boys still get excited about anything loud or with wheels. These gifts are wrapped and placed beneath the tree. Santa’s gifts are all set up, unwrapped, with nametags on them. Santa always leaves the children a note by the cookies telling the children to remember Jesus is what we are celebrating, and that God loves them so much He gave His only Son for them.
Take time to cultivate gratitude
Christmas morning we take our time opening every gift, each person waits their turn and everyone enjoys seeing the new present and the excitement on their sibling’s face. The process takes all morning, and my husband and I revel in every second of it. Taking time to enjoy every gift for every member of the family helps the children respect the importance of each gift and cultivates gratitude. The unhurried pace of the morning allows reflection on the gift God gave us when he gave us His Son.
Stockings are laid across the dining room table in age order. We don’t have a fireplace mantle and even if we did it wouldn’t be able to hold fifteen Christmas stockings chuck full of candy sweetness and special little prizes like false eyelashes for the big girls, soda pop flavored lip gloss for the middle girls, hot wheels cars for the boys and board books for babies.
Focus on Jesus
Simplifying Christmas is the best way we have found to keep the meaning of the true gift, Jesus, the focus. Getting rid of the Christmas list knocked out the demands of the children and made them focus less on what they are getting and remember all that God gave us when He sent His son. Christmas with fifteen children is less crazy than you may be thinking but infinitely more amazing.
Visit Lyette Reback’s inspirational parenting website at Believewithme.com where you can find encouragement, hope and real answers for your parenting challenges.