Walking through town it is easy to see Christmas reduced to a big commercial event – with shops competing to lure you into buying more food, presents and decorations than you need.

Many parents worry about the huge costs involved during the festive season and how they and especially their children can keep up in comparison to others. But the magic of Christmas does not have to be about big presents.

Dr. Katrin Bain, author of the Pocket Rescue Guides for children, shares her top suggestions to help you create the magic of Christmas – your family’s way.

Magical Memories

Just think back to your own childhood. How many presents do you remember? And what made the essence of Christmas in your family? In all likelihood it was the atmosphere and the rituals on and around Christmas day.

With small children, I find it is very easy to make Christmas magical. In our family the excitement starts in early December. We have a big, real tree with real candles and Christmas in our house starts properly when we decorate it all together. During the advent weeks, we bake biscuits to eat and give as presents and also decorate gingerbread houses that the children can eat on Christmas Day.

Make Hazelnut Macaroons

250g ground hazelnuts
250g icing sugar
2 Eggs
Mix the eggs and icing sugar, then add ground nuts. Form small heaps on a baking tray and put one whole hazelnut on each heap.
Bake for approx. 20 minutes at 175°C

Create the atmosphere

In our house, Christmas Eve is all about the atmosphere of Christmas. In the late afternoon we go for a walk to look at the decorations in houses nearby. When we come home, we light the candles on our Christmas tree and sing carols. We then play board games or make puzzles, read stories and enjoy the festive atmosphere together.

Write lists

Of course my children are also looking forward to the presents that they receive on Christmas Day. They write long wish lists and I ask them to mark the three most important presents – with them understanding that they will not receive all the presents on the list. Children’s expectations of Christmas are mainly shaped by their experiences and parents can do a lot to make Christmas about much more than presents.

Find new ways to celebrate

I feel that families should find ways other than just exchanging gifts to celebrate Christmas. Does your family enjoy baking? Arts and Crafts, winter walks, or candles? Giving at Christmas is much more than presents. And if you associate Christmas with more than gifts, then your children will too. The best thing to do is to celebrate the way you want to, especially if like my family you celebrate more out of tradition than for religious reasons.

Without the religious framework and structure, it is even more important to make Christmastime meaningful to you and your family. Don’t worry too much about external traditions; find a way that works for your family and resist comparisons with other people. Your children will grow into family traditions and develop an understanding of Christmas through them. In my experience it’s the atmosphere that creates memories much more than the gifts. The gifts are then the icing on the cake.

About the author: Dr. Katrin Bain is a social pedagogue and the author of the Pocket Rescue Guides for children.