Many people fall victim to the piles and piles of gifts under the tree and the mad rush to unwrap them all, we were no exception. A couple years back, I got this very empty and unsatisfied feeling after watching the kids dive into unwrapping gift after gift without stopping to reflect on what had just been opened. It was so overwhelming for me and I believe for them as well. It was then that I decided we needed to really pare down, refocus, and spread things out a bit more.
Saint Nicholas now makes his appearance on December 6th, leaving little trinkets and treats in the children's stockings. On Christmas there are usually only two gifts per child under the Christmas tree; one from Wingnut and I and one from their "roommate". Gifts have to wait until we've gone to Mass and have had a sit down family breakfast. On Epiphany the children will receive one more gift, usually a family game, video, or books. The children are allowed to open packages from distant family as they come in over the days before and following Christmas. It has been so much easier to focus on the true meaning of Christmas and celebrate the other wonderful liturgical feasts leading up to Christmas this way. We have ended up becoming more thankful for what we already have and for the gift of Christ himself.
*Family Service Project: Scrub down and polish all wood chairs in kitchen and dining room.