These days, it seems pretty fashionable to say Christmas is just a capitalist machine that exploits people out of their money.
The sad thing is, out of all of the people who say that kind of stuff – none of them are kids.
For kids, Christmas is all about making happy memories that they’ll carry with them for the rest of their lives. Memories about growing up, and their families.
Christmas may just be about money and presents for some, but for many parents it’s about making the festive period a special, almost magical time of the year that brings their family together.
Try some of these activities with your family, then tell me Christmas is all about consumerism. And no, none of them include wandering around a shopping mall.
1. Go to a Christmas market
Christmas markets are great. They look like Christmas, taste like Christmas, and even smell like Christmas. Everybody at them just seems to get it.
If shopping comes into Christmas at all, this is what it should be about. Delicious cakes, hot chocolate, mulled wine (for Mum and Dad), and home-made crafts.
2. Go Christmas tree shopping together
Synthetic Christmas trees are cost-effective, don’t make a mess and are easier to get hold of. Still, they just aren’t Christmas, are they?
Visiting a tree farm and choosing this year’s living-room centrepiece is a decade-old family tradition. But it’s a tradition that’s dying.
Christmas isn’t about fake alternatives of taking shortcuts to get to the end. It’s not about just having a tree in the corner. It’s about the whole process: the decorating, somehow fitting it through the front door, and driving miles just to get the perfect tree.
This year, leave the fake plastic thing in the shed and go on a full-family outing to find your 2017 (real) Christmas tree.
3. Make your own decorations
Let me tell you about my favourite Christmas decoration. It’s a wonky, discoloured star that we always put on top of the tree. The edges are folding, and there’s a small tear in it, but it’s still my favourite. Why? Because I made it with my mother, over 30 years ago.
Some people may prefer a minimalist, strictly colour-coded feng-shui-tree, but I can’t help but smile when I walk into a family-home and see an explosion of colour in the corner, bursting with decorations that have been amassed over the years.
The internet is an absolute goldmine of ideas. All you need are a few materials, the family together, and a bit of creativity. It’s not about making a work of art. It’s about sharing experiences, and making something of your own.
This year, perhaps I’ll finally retire my star, and let my own kids make the replacement.
4. Give back
Here’s a question. When did ‘Christmas is about giving’ turn into ‘Christmas is about buying expensive presents’?
Religious or not, we want to raise our children to be generous, and caring and Christmas is the perfect time of the year to teach them some valuable life-lessons.
Spend a winter-weekend going through some old stuff and making a charity-pile, or even put together a food package to send to those less fortunate.
Christmas is about caring. And caring is sharing.
5. Make a new music playlist for this Christmas
It’s all too easy to fall into the trap of sticking the same old CDs on every year (until they have more than one hole in them).
As we get closer to the festive period, make the most of the 21st century and create a YouTube playlist with the whole family.
You can find just about every Christmas song that’s ever been written on YouTube, so everybody will have a chance to add their favourites, and it’ll give each Christmas its own unique soundtrack.
6. Do some family-Christmas cooking
Delicious guilt-free feasting and Christmas are the best of friends.
In fact, a post-Christmas diet is probably the reason New Year’s resolutions were invented. But for now, let’s make the most of things.
Whether it’s baking (and decorating) cookies, making a fruitcake, or preparing the Christmas dinner: Christmas cooking is something the whole family can do together.
You don’t need to go out shopping for Christmas cookbooks either – there’s already a wealth of recipes on the internet.
7. Take advantage of the weather
Around Christmas, it’s freezing outside. And that’s a good thing.
Before you shake your head and click the on the ‘X’, let me explain why.
Christmas just wouldn’t be Christmas without wrapping up warm, and heading out for a long family walk. The air is refreshing, and there’s nothing cosier than warming up in front of the fire, or in a country pub, after an afternoon stroll.
If it snows, you shouldn’t even need convincing. The second the snowflakes start to stick, tell your S.O. to close the laptop, and the kids to drop their homework and put their gloves on.
Snowmen, snowball fights, snow angels – they only come round once a year.
8. Go on a Christmas mini-break
If doing the same things every year, and Christmas is starting to feel a little like Groundhog Day, why not do something a little bit special this year?
The winter holidays really bring the best out of some places in the world, and a long weekend for the whole family could really make 2017 one for the family album.
This isn’t an advertisement, and I’m not trying to find a way to get your hard-earned money, because that isn’t what Christmas is about.
Sure, there are some cynical people out there, and a lot of greed-heads might just see Christmas as business potential – but the way to combat them isn’t by turning our backs.
The way to combat them is by refusing to lose track of the family values that made, and continue to make, Christmas so special.
For our own children’s sake, losing those would be a tragedy.