How do you make Christmas something special? I mean really special?

How do you make sure it’s not clogged with commercialism?
How do you make sure it’s never something to be dreaded or hated or celebrated for all the wrong reasons?
How do you make Christmas a time of reflection, of love, of thinking of others; a time to cherish?

These are things I have agonised over since having children.
How can I stop Christmas becoming a time given over to presents and excess and I want, I want? Of worrying about money or hammering the credit card or, heaven forbid, getting into debt so you can buy Aunt Vera a cashmere cardigan.

There is such a wall of noise at this time of year: Brightly coloured shop fronts, a constant flow of adverts for expensive toys and an air of stress hanging over everyone.
We aren’t religious in this house, but I love the values it brings to the festivities; To think of others, to be with family and friends, to show kindness for kindness sake – and for heaven’s sake, buying something you know someone will love and not because of how much it costs (Ok, that one’s not such a church one as a Tara one).

All year round I try to teach my children to be kind to others. To treat people as they want to be treated, to be considerate and compassionate, to think how their actions impact on others.
Then at Christmas that is in danger of going out the window as they see people roll their eyes at ‘having’ to write the Christmas cards or pulling their hair out because they haven’t bought 4 chocolate logs for Boxing Day.

It is hard. Really really hard.

This year my son was helping me package up some toys and games for a family in Ireland who have hit hard times. We don’t know them, but a call for help was sent out and we were in a position to do just that.
And that evening Dan and I are reading at bedtime and one of the words he comes across in his book is ‘poverty’. He asks what it means and when I explain to him, he says “are those the sort of people we help at Christmas?”
And I say yes, swelling with pride that my 8 year old now sees this as a part of our festivities.
“We help them because they don’t get anything at Christmas . . . “ and the minute those words leave my mouth I know, I KNOW, I’ve made a big ole mistake.

Dan. His little brow creased in puzzlement says: “But why doesn’t Santa delivery to them? Surely they need it the most? Surely he would go to them first?”
Bugger bugger bugger bugger.
He’s looking quite upset and I truly do not know what to say.
“I don’t like that mummy. Why would Santa be so mean?”
Oh god, I’m ruining his childhood . . .

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