Creating Holiday Joy on a Budget

Dear Santa,
Please bring me a Hello Kitty coloring book, and I want a horsie, and I want a rabbit, and I want a baby sister, and I want fifty dollars, and everyone says that I should ask you for my two front teeth. Please bring me all of these things because I’ve been really good. I listen to Mommy and Daddy except when I can’t. I love you Santa. I am going to make you cookies. Does Rudolph eat cookies? I love you Santa.

This Christmas list, written by my 6 year-old daughter (who is currently missing her two front teeth), makes me smile because it embodies so many of the characteristics of pure childhood: innocence, egocentrism, and a love of animals, especially reindeer. Her letter also makes me think about the decisions that I must make during the holidays. How do I get my children to enjoy the holidays without going broke? Does her every wish have to come true? Can I convince her that there is more to the holiday season than getting gifts?

I think so. Focusing on local seasonal activities and adventures seems like a great way to highlight the joys of the season without straining my pocketbook. The excerpt below, brought to you by parentingpress.com, is a great resource for winter activity ideas in our area.

Whether you’ve got a tight budget or you’re disgusted with the commercialism of the holiday season, there are a lot of reasons to make your family understand that “stuff” isn’t necessary for happiness. And there are a lot of ways to celebrate the season without focusing on expensive gifts.

One idea: sit down with family members and ask each to suggest a couple of activities that they’d like to be part of this month’s events. Pencil in as many as you can on your calendar, whether most everything has to happen on weekends or if you have some weekdays free. Among the ways we at Parenting Press (and in Benton County) celebrate with our families:

– Take a ride on the Corvallis Trolley

– Visit the Pepsi display (now located at the Fairgrounds in Corvallis)

– Visit Christmas Storybook Land in Albany (great for young children, strollers, and pictures with Santa)

– Attending local holiday programs, including displays of local artisan handicrafts

– Decorating pine cones with paint and glitter to mound in a bowl or hang on the tree

– Baking, especially gingerbread men and women and sugar cookies

– Setting up the electric train and cardboard village that are usually in storage

– Surprising the kids by moving into the dining room for a weeknight candlelight dinner

This year we have already gotten to build snowmen, go sledding in the park, and pack snow into dishpans to make blocks for a child-size igloo. When “snow fun” has been on someone’s wish list, we’ve gone sledding at Mary’s Peak or a state “sno-park” just off a mountain pass highway.

Whatever you do, enjoy, and remember to bring your camera. The pictures will be great for Thank-You cards after receiving those Christmas “I wants”.

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