You’ve heard it all before, right? Complaints about retailers who put up Christmas decorations by Halloween, the commercialization of a religious holiday, and the stress and exhaustion (and emptied checkbook) caused by hunting down “the perfect” holiday gifts.

I’m not sure how you handle it all, but I’ve tried different techniques to cope with the madness that is Christmas in America.

This is the time of year I inventory all the coats, boots, clothes, toys, and other gently used items in the house that would better benefit others in need. Not only is it freeing to purge the closets and drawers, but also it feels good to know that these donations will end up helping others less fortunate than me.

Another thing I’ve done in the past is ask my family not to send me gifts, but to take whatever money they might’ve spent on me and donate it to a charity (if they pick a charity of my choice, I match it). One year I was able to buy two new kitchen appliances for a shelter for abused women thanks to my family’s cooperation. I didn’t get a single gift, but it might be one of my favorite Christmases ever.

Thirdly, the older I get, the more I realize that the truly memorable things in my life revolve around things I’ve done rather than things I’ve owned. Therefore, now that my kids are teens, we’ve switched from buying “stuff” to buying a meaningful experience (a camp or lesson). Hopefully, later in life, they’ll appreciate that idea more than they do right now.

Finally, this year I also want my kids generate an idea of their own that is in the true spirit of giving (as opposed to “buying”). That reminds me, I need to check in with them to see if they’ve come up with something.

Care to share any special traditions you and your family have that showcase the real meaning of this holiday season?

xo–Jamie

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