Christmas Gifts versus Christmas Experiences

Our family live in two different continents, and with three children, it is easy to accumulate and acquire a lot of stuff! I am a fan of curated living and only the very special items make the cut in regards to clothes, toys, books, and games. But as much as I love Christmas, and as it gets closer and closer in the calendar year, I begin to have slight negative reaction to the idea of mountains of gifts under the tree come Christmas morning. It is for me, not a good way to teach children to respect and appreciate oh so many things — and I prefer, if, and when possible, to be more mindful during this season of abundance. Beautiful, thoughtful, treasured items from independent brands and supporting quality over quantity… that is a message I can get behind! 🙂

I am trying this year to stick to the rule of 4s — ‘something you want, something you need, something to wear, something read’ for each of us. But in addition, to really capture the spirit of Christmas, not just the morning of gift unwrapping madness, I try to make the memories which last more than the stuff. Our Advent Calendar this year, based loosely on Esther’s excellent and very popular Activity Advent Calendar, includes some fun ideas for things to do as a family. For those of you in London or the UK I have added some links to the actual events. But I am sure you can adapt these to wherever you live around the globe.

And because we get to enjoy this ‘experiences’ which are peppered into their Advent Calendar, it means the kids get to enjoy the season in a more considered way, over time, and not all at a once.

In addition to some low key activities like drinking hot chocolate, baking cookies, making pomanders, cranberry garland, and just curling up with a great Christmas film or book, here are some examples of fun things we have done (and will do…. shhhh) for Advent Activities.

Theatre : We recently went to see The Snowman on stage in the West End and it was wonderful! The children were mesmerised — even little baby Georgina — and we all left feeling very Christmassy indeed. I highly recommend finding a child friendly show. We are also planning to seethe Little Lyric Father Christmas. Do you have any favourite shows or a day in a city you do?

Light shows : The season of lights is everywhere. For us in London, riding on the top of a double decker bus through town is exciting especially after twilight. But we also really enjoy Kew’s light show, which we get tickets to in advance each year, and it is a gift that we do as a family, walking around and enjoying.

Nutcracker : A classic production found around the world. I am surprising Beatrice this year and we are going after Christmas as one of her gifts. Hello magical memories and sugar plum fairies! This kid friendly production with the English National Ballet looks lovely and we can’t wait.

Gingerbread : The Museum of Architecture has an incredible exhibit called Gingerbread City at Somerset House and it was so wonderful. We were so inspired, and even took a workshop as a family there to build our own gingerbread train stations. It was such a fun day out!

Those are just a few of our ideas as family days out. And last but not least, a lot of the gifts we ask family for are tickets to shows and exhibits, as well as yearly memberships to museums, zoos, parks, and more! How do you invest in family time versus lots of gifts you can wrap under the tree? We would love to hear your thoughts!

Hope you have a merry Christmas!



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