Through no fault of their own, people who love my children are asking them what they would like for Christmas. It is the conversation topic du jour. What would you like for Christmas? What are you asking Santa for? Did you write your Santa letter yet? Not that there is anything wrong with relatives and friends expressing their love through gifts (and conducting some research to ensure maximum impact upon opening). But the constant focus on presents makes it pretty tough for little kids to understand the true depth and beauty of this time of year.

Stopping the Gimme-gimme-gimme train takes more than just forbidding children from obsessing about presents during the Christmas season.

Mama: You are forbidden from obsessing about presents during the Christmas season. Now put away that Toys R U catalog.
Child: Ok, mama.

Nope. It just doesn’t seem to work that way. But my husband and I have hatched a plot with the hope to instill a deeper understanding of the season of Advent and Christmas in our children. Here are the details:

Step 1: Minimize Exposure to Advertising
Some key things need to be in place for our plan to work: hardly any TV, no trips to the mall, no catalogs lying around. This way, they aren’t bombarded by advertising. Unless this is the case, Step 2 and 3 may not stand a chance.

Step 2: Back to Basics
When we talk about Christmas, we usually refer to it by its original and child-friendly name: Jesus’ birthday. I find that our children are Birthday Experts. They know what birthdays are all about. Birthdays involves presents and cards for the birthday boy or girl. Talking about Christmas this way sets up Step 3.

Step 3: The Gift
What are we going to get Jesus for His birthday? This is the big family project. Each day (or when we remember), at the end of the day, the kids try and remember the good things they’ve done for other people, or the sacrifices they’ve made. We ask the kids to write (or draw) their efforts. We’re going to try and collect them all together and address them to Jesus for his birthday. We’re hoping that this family project displaces some of the energy that we spend trying to figure out what presents we’d like to receive. Hopefully, it focuses our family towards what Jesus would want for his birthday. It creates a daily activity (or conversation, at least) that has (so far) captured their imagination and holds their attention. I’ll keep you posted.

Many families I know do something similar, or have other beautiful Advent traditions that help get us ready for Jesus. I would love to hear what your family does.