I live outside of a small town (population 3600), in a rural area populated by many similar small towns. The county seats have courthouse squares surrounded by small, locally-owned business. It’s a great place to live any time of the year, but it’s especially nice at Christmastime.
The decorations go up right after Thanksgiving. Our little town has a community tree, lit up with lights, and every lamp post has decorations hanging from it. The businesses are lined with white lights, all the way through downtown, bringing a sense of unity to the area. Every December we have Christmas on the Bricks (brick streets) with vendors, a parade, talent contests, and a giveaway.
The above is repeated in town after town. You could spend the entire month just visiting all the fairs, craft bazaars, choir programs, plays, concerts, and bake sales. When it comes to Christmas, small towns do it up right.
I remember when I was a kid, downtown Dallas was the place to go to see Christmas decorations. The big department stores like Sanger’s, Neiman-Marcus, and Titche-Goettinger used to go all out on window displays that had nothing to do with merchandise for sale, but rather they were designed to delight the children. Santa Claus and the elves, mechanical, moving animals, nutcrackers and nativity scenes. Trains and sleighs, angels and carolers, they all made Christmas a magical time.
Now it’s lights and lingerie, jewelry and fancy trees. The magic has faded into commercialism. We’ve forgotten that Christmas is about the children. Now it’s who can buy the latest and greatest electronic toy that numbs the mind rather than stimulates the imagination. It’s grownups trying to outdo each other, divorced parents trying to one-up each other, thinking they’ll gain the kids’ affections by what they can buy them.
I challenge you this Christmas to take a moment to just stop. Think back to when you were a child. What made Christmas magical? It wasn’t a $400 PS4 or a $600 phone. We never would have even thought of anything like that. It was a yo-yo, a Barbie–and if you’d been really good, a dollhouse to go with it, a book, or a new dress. It was special treats, a drive to see the lights, going caroling with friends, picking out the Christmas tree.
Can we go back to the way things were? I doubt it. But we can choose what we emphasize at Christmas. If you’re a Christian, the focus should be on the belief, the story of Christ. If not, I have to ask why you celebrate at all? Even then, you could focus on doing good for others, on sharing with the less fortunate, on family. Focusing on the gifts only encourages the commercialism that bankrupts far too many families at a time of year when we should be thankful for what we already have.
So this year, take your kids to see the lights, to watch the parades, to see the Nutcracker at the ballet, or make some cookies with them. Make some memories. They’ll remember those long after the toys are gone.
If you need some ideas for activities to do with the kids, check out our free Holiday Decorating book.
Wishing you all a wonderful Christmas!