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Ah, splurge. The word itself is an indulgence to the tongue. Say it with gusto. But this is your conscience speaking: I am here to tell you to strive not to acquire more junk and in the process not spend beyond your means this holiday season. As parents we have an urge to give our children the best or the most or the seemingly one thing in the world that would make them happy (at least until the next toy comes along). But—and here is my rant—we in the United States of America possess too much stuff! Let us not train our children in a likewise manner. Our kids will have a big enough chore cleaning out our garages, attics and storage units when we downsize or leave this earthly realm anyway. Hint: start purging now!

We can take the holidays as an opportunity to teach our kids restraint. Let us demonstrate self-control. I have tried modeling this behavior by saying aloud, “Oh, I sure would enjoy having that _____ (fill in the blank) but we already have a ______ (camera, decoration, sweater, drill, etc.) that works just fine.” Or, “I’m going to try hard to be satisfied with the clothes (or whatever) that I already have. Can you think of something that you have that you’re content with?” You may be pleasantly surprised by what comes up later if you implement this tactic.

I remember Christmas morning as a child and the thrill of opening new gifts, and as an adult I still enjoy Christmas morning and opening new gifts! But more than anything, we and our children will have lasting feelings not from toys and gadgets but from experiences together. So, how will you celebrate the holiday season with your children? Bake or decorate cookies? Light advent candles and read the Christmas story from Scripture? Open advent boxes or calendars as you count down to the big day? Maybe you’ll attend the city center or neighborhood tree-lighting ceremony. We make an annual trip to a holiday carousel. I know a family who holds an annual “game night.” (Contrary to my first impression this does not mean everyone sits around playing Monopoly, Apples to Apples, or Taboo. Rather it is an opportunity to feast on the harvest from hunting season for an evening. Clever.)

Maybe you need to modify your traditions this season so you don’t overindulge or overspend. Do you get a Christmas tree every year? Do you go to the same lot, store, or tree farm? Do you test each one for its fir scent and perfect shape? These are wonderful ways to instill a sense of family or community in your brood. As children grow and their lives simultaneously get busier (and parents’ lives, too) you may not be able to schedule that trip to the tree farm. Or with the media’s flurry about a bombing economy, you may find it prudent to hold back and get the small Douglas Fir rather than the tall Noble Fir. This is all well and good because the memory that will stick with your kids is that you had an adventure of sorts, you did it together, and it was fun to switch the flavor of your outing.

There are a number of people in our region who are feeling the pain of the economic downturn or a job loss. Whether you fall into that category or not, I encourage you to reduce the amount of stuff that will add to clutter; instead, aim for holiday experiences with your children and enjoy the memories that follow.

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