As many of you know, our family is VERY into the whole Advent Conspiracy movement in which we spend the month of December focusing on Spending Less, Giving More, Worshiping Fully, and Loving All. A big part of that is reducing the money we spend at the holidays so that we can do more charitable giving. Since Ben and I are still in the midst of our Debt Snowball, we're not so much focusing on charitable giving in large amounts yet. But we do want to set up some traditions and teach these values to O.
A while back, I saw this idea floating around pinterest and I LOVE it. So I decided to begin instating in this new tradition this year...
Instead of an Advent Calendar with trinkets, toys, or candy inside, I decided to wrap up our Christmas books! Then, instead of looking at all of our Christmas books all at one time, O will have the opportunity to open one each day leading up to Christmas.
In order to keep this activity cheap, I've actually been on the look out all year for used and otherwise cheap Christmas books at the Goodwill and at garage sales. You'd be amazed how many there are, even in July! Sure, the ones I have aren't necessarily my "all time favorites" right now, but I figure as the years go on, we can weed out, replace, and add to this collection until it becomes Olivia's favorites from her own childhood. The idea is that you wrap each one, and then number them, opening the one that corresponds with the date each day.
I'll admit that we don't have 25 of them yet… I only own 15 Christmas books at present. But that works out nicely, since we're not starting until today (12/3), and we are going out of town on 12/18… so we won't be able to continue from 12/18 until 12/25 anyway.
It sort of seems counter intuitive to "teach" Olivia to open one present per day when we're also trying to teach her that the holiday season isn't about gifts. But here's the lessons that I think are important for her to learn:
1) Being grateful - While Santa isn't going to spray our house with a million gifts on 12/24 and Mom and Dad don't believe in a ton of gifts bought at retail value, O will receive many gifts during her lifetime from family and friends. It's important to learn to accept gifts graciously and be be happy with each one you receive.
2) Patience - the idea of delayed gratification is very hard to teach any child, much less a toddler. We may not be totally successful at doing this, the idea of seeing 15 wrapped presents and only getting to open one each day might be hard. But if we can start instilling this now, maybe it will reduce or prevent the obnoxious habit that many of us (me included!) had as a child to open 15 presents in a row, as fast as possible, and then be bored or disappointed 15 minutes later when it's all over.
3) Reminiscing - this year, all the books will be new for O. But next year and in the years to come, these will be "old friends" that she remembers from the past and enjoys again, as if they were new! I have fond memories of the time of year in which my family got out the Christmas books, set them out in the living room to be read over and over for the month. It was nice to see so many "old friends" on the bookshelf that I'd forgotten about in the 11 months between holidays.
4) Quality Time - each day when we open a book, we'll sit down and read it together, as well as the other books that we've already opened. Olivia loves to sit on mama and dada's lap and look at pictures. When we do this, we're not just teaching about receiving a present, we're teaching about spending quality time with family during the holidays-- it's an interaction, not just an item.
5) The Joy of Reading - simply put, any time I can teach my child to love a book instead of a plastic toy that makes noise, I'm thrilled. I could blather on about that, but it would be a whole post of it's own. There are all sorts of 'pre reading' skills that are important for O to learn at this age though-- holding a book right side up, turning from left to right, pointing at the pictures and commenting on each page, etc.
And for your viewing pleasure, I thought you'd appreciate the beginnings of our other Holiday pictures from this week…
but before you scroll down, in what ways are you and your family giving less presents and giving more presence this year???