So I created my own, an Advent calendar with an experience a day, rather than a toy or piece of candy. Many of the activities are really simple, but I think that's OK. Simple can be special, and sometimes the humblest of experiences is the perfect backdrop for a wonderful memory. My children are counting down to Christmas by taking turns choosing the Christmas book we will read as a family. They get to choose a Christmas card for a family to pray for. We're baking cookies together, going on walks to see lights, hanging fake mistletoe and making smooching an athletic event (which jingles The Husband's bells, of course).
I did end up including a couple of days with treats in the children's' stockings, but only a couple. (I'm not going toooo far to the other end of the spectrum.) Because our Advent calendar is focused more on doing than getting, the surprises are special and actually a surprise, which is how they should be. The kids can be delighted by a trinket because it's rare, something that's harder to do when they get one a day.
We're approaching the holidays with a deliberately slower pace overall. I'm even swiping ye olde debit card less frequently, since my emphasis on experience has led to a natural downsizing in Santa's generosity. I had a moment's guilt about this until I realized one day, while grumbling and cleaning up the kids' rooms, how few toys they actually play with. I want the magic to come from love, and family, and time, not just the sensory overload of a toy store under the tree.
My new holiday approach stems from an attempt at good parenting, but it's totally selfish, too. I'm trying to create memories for my kids, but I'm also trying to create memories with my kids. I know that they'll be teenagers unwilling to bake cookies with me any minute, and adults with families of their own the next. When they're grown, I want to look back on Christmas and remember the other night when I caught the twinkle in my husband's eye during a family giggle fest on board game night. I want to remember what it felt like to share joy with my favorite people in the world, and to be able to savor the memory of holidays saturated with time spent laughing and loving the amazing family I created with the hunky guy I love.
How about y'all, readers? What experiences are you making an effort to create for your families this time of year?