Free Ways to Have a More Meaningful Christmas

December 7, 2012

It’s no surprise that I’m a sucker for the holiday season. I look at Christmas lights and displays today, the same way I did as a child. The first tree I saw decorated outside of my new office, this year, nearly made me gasp with joy. (I did smile to myself and Instagram it.) I’ve been known to drive past the same displays a dozen times, before finally getting bored of them. And don’t even get me started on how much I love to decorate my own place…

What I love about Christmas has nothing to do with the gifts and everything to do with what happens before and after you unwrap them. It’s the feeling in the air; the love that consumes us; the desire to show people just how much you care about them. But it’s easy to get so caught up the “magic” of it all that we forget about our budgets. I’m the first person to admit I can look at almost any store display and think of people I could buy things for. And while my intention is good, my budget isn’t as big as my heart. So, with only 18 sleeps to go, I think it’s time to share some of my favourite (and free) ways to have a more meaningful Christmas.

Decorate as a family.
If there is one family who does this well, it’s the Flanders. Every year, we drive to one of the outdoor lacrosse boxes and pick out the perfect tree together. After sawing a fresh cut through the trunk, we toss it in Dad’s truck and bring it back to the house. From there, all of the decorating is done as a family – from stringing the lights to hanging the last ornament. However you decorate your home, do it together. Are some of you working opposite schedules? Do your kids not think it’s cool anymore? It doesn’t matter. Decorate the tree at 10am or 10pm, on Saturday or Wednesday. Just do it together.

Plan your meal together.
Instead of pinning the responsibility of Christmas dinner on one person, get everyone involved in both the meal planning and the shopping. When you are writing your shopping list, make sure everyone is getting a dish they love and then try to enjoy shopping for the ingredients. Yes, the stores are busy. Sure, some people are pushy. But don’t be one of them. Pick the perfect potatoes. Smell the fresh herbs. Taste test any cheeses. And imagine how excited people will get when they see the dessert. It’s going to be a meal everyone will enjoy eating; why not enjoy planning it?

Get everybody moving.
After all of the presents are unwrapped and you get your turkey in the oven, lace up your shoes and get out of the house. Go for a walk. Go for a hike. Go ice skating or, weather permitting, play at the park. Do any or all of these things together. Not only is the fresh air good for you but it’ll help everyone burn off some of the crazed excitement that comes with opening gifts (especially for kids). I’m not saying you have to hit the gym and make everybody do a #pfworkout! Just do something active as a family. And imagine how amazing the house will smell, when you get back…

Remember your manners (and be sincere).
You should be saying your p’s and q’s everyday of the week, already. But performing simple acts of kindness and thanking people for the little things, at Christmas, can go a long way. If you overhear someone saying they can’t find something at the store, and you know where it is, take them to it. When someone puts food in front of you at the dinner table, thank them. And when you wish anyone a “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Holidays,” mean it. This season is crazy enough, with the pressure to get everything bought and done by one particular deadline. Stop to smile and sincerely wish that people (family or strangers) have a good day.

What are some of your favourite (and free) ways to celebrate the holidays?

  • Rob December 7, 2012 at 7:36 am

    Well said, Cait. Too often our “nuclear families” are so spread out (as ours are) across the country that we miss the chance to come together at this special time of year to share experiences.

    Years ago in Montreal on each Christmas eve after Church services, we used to all get together at grandparents’ house, with extended family and often with their significant friends, and we’d enjoy home made meat pies, open presents and sing carols (well some of us with good voices would sing – lol). These days the family unit has dwindled in attending numbers but we still try to carry on and pass down this tradition to the younger generation.

    • Cait December 9, 2012 at 10:13 am

      Sounds like a nice tradition, Rob! Keep keeping it up :)

  • Cassie December 7, 2012 at 10:47 am

    I’ll be honest, when you mentioned the Flanders family I was nodding along thinking it was a Simpson’s reference. It took me a minute to realize it was actually your family you were talking about, lol. Love the togetherness reminder :)

    • Cait December 9, 2012 at 10:14 am

      Ha! That’s obviously not the first time I’ve had the Simpsons referenced re: our last name… but at least you didn’t ask how Ned and Maude were.

  • Joanna @ Our Freaking Budget December 7, 2012 at 11:27 am

    Great reminders. We’re cutting back on our Christmas spending this year as we prepare financially for a baby girl to arrive in just a few weeks. But I agree — it’s not about the gifts; it’s about that special feeling in the air. And I’m notorious for getting grumpy in big crowds, so I’m gonna try focusing on savoring it more this year!

    • Cait December 9, 2012 at 10:27 am

      Do it! And congrats on upcoming arrival of your baby girl! Sounds like you have a lot to smile about, this holiday season :)

  • Katie C. December 7, 2012 at 12:43 pm

    I have a post coming up next week about battling Christmas fatigue because I just haven’t been feeling it this year (and felt similarly last year). But you know what? Your enthusiasm and good cheer are contagious, Cait! Good for you for focusing on all the things you love about Christmas and really enjoying the season for the time it brings you together with people you love.

    • Cait December 9, 2012 at 12:16 pm

      Yesss! Happy to pass on the contagion :)

  • Dayle December 9, 2012 at 12:07 pm

    I really enjoyed this post…
    I read in the Toronto Sun today about a family (and their neighbours) that have their Christmas lights set to music … they put on the show and collect donations.
    It is in Pickering … their website is
    Have a Merry Christmas.

    • Cait December 9, 2012 at 12:17 pm

      That’s so fun! I wish I had a way of getting out there!

  • B. (Below Her Means) December 9, 2012 at 2:52 pm

    Completely agree. It doesn’t have to about consumerism. I like to put on the most iridescent green eyeshadow possible (have had the same little case from Bare Escentuals for about four years now) and play Mariah Carey’s Christmas album on high volume. :)

    • Cait December 9, 2012 at 4:06 pm

      That’s my all-time fave Christmas album, B, so that sounds amazing!

  • Leanne December 11, 2012 at 4:38 am

    Haha we decorate as a family every year but all it results in is three hours of shouting and screaming at each other – probably not the desired effect…

    • Cait December 11, 2012 at 6:39 am

      Oh no! Maybe you can be the one person who doesn’t shout? :)