We love Christmas. But it's too commercial -- we end up making more time for shopping and presents than we do for the Christmas values we care about most, like Kindness, and Togetherness, and Family Traditions.
Everyone knows that, but one year, we did something about it. Our kids were opening Christmas presents -- and there were a lot of presents, and after a while you could see the present-fatigue start to set in, as the whole thing became a blur.
Chiara said, "Maybe we ought to put some activities between the presents, to slow it down. And you know, they'd probably like the activities better than the presents anyway." They'd probably prefer spending time with us anyway -- because that's one of the things that Christmas is really about.
So the next year we tried it. We got some big plastic cards and we got stickers, and we wrote "The Christmas Game" on the stickers, and we put them on the cards.
Then we told the kids, "This year we're going to do whatever it says on the cards. If the cards say 'Open a Present,' we're going to open a present. And if the cards say to do something else, then we'll do something else."
They were suspicious.
But we turned over the first card, and it said, "Open a Present," and that was great. And then we turned over the next card and it said, "Go Make Your Bed," and that was not well-received. But the third card said, "Everybody Play a Board Game," and that was lots of fun.
It was almost dinner time before we opened all the presents but it was our best Christmas ever.
So for the next ten years we practiced and experimented and tried new things, and here is what we learned:
The best Christmases make time for Traditions, Togetherness, Games, Memories, Kindness, and Presents -- and for a little spice now and then, throw in a Challenge, a Learning, or a Project.
Whenever family or friends came over for Christmas, they played the Christmas Game with us, and they always loved it. They asked us to write down how to do it, and what works and doesn't work, and how each family can customize it for their own tastes, preferences, and traditions.
So we designed a gorgeous deck of cards, and we wrote a terrific little book -- now every family can easily make time in their own celebrations for the real magic of Christmas, which comes from family traditions, spending time together, renewing memories, and finding opportunities to be kind to each other, to our community, and to the whole world.
We hope you will join us in playing The Christmas Game this year, and begin to take the commercialism out of Christmas, and focus our celebrations on the values we care about most.
Shelly Albaum, J.D., is an attorney who has held senior positions at major publishers.
Chiara Bacigalupa, Ph.D., is a professor of Early Childhood Education at Sonoma State University (CSU Sonoma).
They met as students at U.C. Santa Cruz, and they now live in Sebastopol, California. Their two daughters, Gianna and Toni, who are studying at NYU and UC Irvine, helped design The Christmas Game.
Learn more about The Christmas Game.