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Why My Husband and I Cancelled Christmas

*2015 update: This article was written by a prior author of Over the Big Moon. She is no longer contributing to this website. Out of respect for her and of the experience she and her family had, any emails sent to Over the Big Moon from the media in regards to this article will not be answered. Thanks for your understanding.*

It’s true. We have cancelled Christmas in our house this year. Well. at least the version of Christmas our boys have been focusing on.

cancelled christmas

Let me explain. We have not cancelled putting up decorations, celebrating the birth of our Savior, or any of our other heartwarming traditions. But, we have cancelled presents, Santa, and stockings. Their letters to Santa this year will be asking Santa to find someone who needs their presents more.

Here is why – John and I feel like we are fighting a very hard uphill battle with our kids when it comes to entitlement. It is one of the biggest struggles as a parent these days in middle class America. Our kids have been acting so ungrateful lately. They expect so much even when their behavior is disrespectful. We gave them good warning, either it was time for their behavior to change or there would be consequences. We patiently worked with them for several months and guess what, very little changed. One day after a particularly bad display of entitlement John said, “we should just cancel Christmas.” And, so that’s what we did.

Instead we will be taking the money we would have spent on presents and put it towards service projects and giving gifts to others this season. We are trying to teach them the pleasure of giving rather than continuing to feed their childhood desire for more.

The first project we did this season was to hold a clothing driving in our neighborhood. We gathered gently used clothing, sorted them, and packaged them up to send to a village in Northern Cebu of the Philippines. The village was hit hard by Typhoon Haiyan last year. Then the kids wrote letters and found hard candy from their Halloween stash that we could ship to the kids in the village. It was awesome! Instead of being sad over giving up their Halloween candy they were excited and kept wanting to give more and more. After we had the boxes all packaged up we mailed them. The kids loved it! It was a lot of money to ship and they understand that they gave up having something, so they could give these clothes to others.

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We also ordered a couple of these 12 piece Nativity sets.

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We will be choosing two families for the 12 days of Christmas. Each day we will deliver a different piece of the nativity. On Christmas day we will give them the last piece of the nativity, baby Jesus. We have a free set of printables for the Nativity countdown here. That will be 12 nights of fun memories we will be making trying to deliver the pieces without getting caught. We are also looking into an Adopt a Grandparent program. For Christmas dinner we have invited several older widows and couples in our area that don’t have family around to eat with us.

See what I mean? How cool will this Christmas be! Instead of focusing on what they will be getting, we will be keeping the focus on what they can give!

The few presents they get from Grandparents and other families members will be more cherished because the quantity will be less. They can enjoy what they get rather than feel overstimulated with so much. Christmas morning won’t be less special without Santa coming. Instead we can enjoy our Cinnamon rolls, play games as a family, and truly enjoy the few presents they did get. There is a good possibility that Santa will be writing them a letter of how proud of them he is and perhaps put a few pieces of hard candy and an orange in their stockings. We have Santa Stationary that is free for download.

I really think that we as parents need to take a step back and look at our motivation for giving gifts to our kids. Obviously we enjoy giving to our kids. That is not bad! But, have we gone too far?  I have had so many people say to me, “This is such a good idea, but I don’t think I could do it.” Which was so true with my husband and I! I think we were more disappointed than our kids when we cancelled Christmas. How often are kids threaten that Santa won’t come if kids are naughty…. yet have you ever heard of anyone that really followed through on that threat? That is where the entitlement comes from. We continue to give our children things even when their behavior doesn’t warrant it, simply because we as parents don’t want to live with the consequences.

That is why we have taken a stand this year. While this may not be the best choice for everyone, it feels right for our family right now. We really want Christmas to be remembered for the right reasons and to keep the focus on the Savior and the feeling of giving. That is the true essence of Christmas. The feeling of kindness and giving are what give Christmas its magic. I am excited that our kids get to focus on that feeling. I am almost certain this will be the best Christmas they ever have! 

Updated to add:

I just wanted to clarify a couple of things. First, my kids are in no way hurting for things. It’s not like I took Christmas away from Tiny Tim here folks. They have good clothes, shoes, and so many toys they can’t keep their playroom clean. They are not sad about what we have done! They have reacted by making gifts for each other and sneaking them into each others stockings. They are learning exactly what we wanted them to learn, because they are not moping around feeling sorry for themselves. They are thinking of others.

The second thing I wanted to clarify is why I wrote this post. Some people seem to think I wrote this for attention. Ummm, the attention you get from posts like this is not good and actually extremely difficult to handle. Right now there is a whole thread, not only ripping me apart as a mother, but also ripping my kids to shreds. The reason I wrote this post is I want to empower parents to feel like it’s okay to take a stand. I think half of the reason we as parents are afraid to take a stand, is because we don’t want our kids to feel like they have the mean parents. I wanted to share what we are doing, so any parents that feel they are struggling with the same issues in their home can see what others are doing and get ideas for their family. My intention is to help support other parents and to raise amazing kids. Unfortunately we had to close the comments. There were too many people who were not being respectful to our family and also other commenters.

I wrote a follow up to this post on December 15th about how our month is going and also my response to the all the craziness surrounding our decision. You can read my response here.

You can also read the follow up on how our Christmas morning went here.

 

Lisa

Previous author of Over the Big Moon. I shared my passion for home and family life! I love graphic design, DIY projects, cooking, and working in my garden! My favorite role is taking care of my husband and our 3 amazing and busy boys!
  • Dorene Rowand-Schmidt

    I think this is a wonderful idea. So many children don’t even know that the reason for Christmas is the birth of Jesus Christ. I’ll admit we overwhelmed our son and usually our 6 nieces and nephews with presents Christmas day BUT I am so happy to say this tradition did not make our son (or most of our nieces and nephews) grow up to be a punk who expects everything to be given to him. By the age of 12 it was like pulling teeth to get him to tell us even one thing he wanted for Christmas. His retort to my questions would be, “I have enough for my own toy store, I don’t need anything else”. How proud that makes a parent feel.. oh and frustrated because you have to guess what they want. My husband and I stopped exchanging gifts decades ago because if we needed anything (and the older you get the less you need) we would just go buy it. I think having your children take part in choosing gifts to give to children who NEED things, like food and clothes, is a wonderful experience for them. As you said, they’ll still be getting gifts from other family members and they’ll experience the joy of giving to others. Our church helps support over 40 missionaries around the world and my guess is your church does the same, so sending them extra money to buy for their community would be a huge help. Our one missionary is the Philippines was just saying that the children she teaches are asking for more rice to eat. Congratulations on your idea!

  • Dorene Rowand-Schmidt

    Wow I just read a bunch of replies below and they TOTALLY have nothing to do with “Cancelled Christmas”. Why do people have to go off on their own “war path” instead of sticking to the subject? Just tell Lisa how great (or horrible) her and her husband’s idea is. Personally I think it’s terrific!

  • Em

    I find this inspiring. I’m a new mom with a 5-month-old daughter. I want to teach my precious baby about the joy of celebrating Christ’s birth and giving to those in need at Christmas time. Even before I heard about your post on a Catholic radio station, my husband and I were planning our Christmas tradition and how we can focus on the true meaning of Christmas, which means leaving out Santa. We’re still going to decorate a tree, make cookies, put up lights, and display a nativity scene. We’ll give her a gift (from us, not Santa), but not a huge gift, and this will be secondary to giving to those in need. Santa Claus won’t be coming to our house; instead she will grow up to know who St. Nicholas was and what he did. God bless you and other parents who want to raise incredible, grateful, generous, God-loving children.

  • Lisa v

    Bravo. My husband is half Dutch, so we adopted celebrating St. Nicholas Day last year, Dec. 6. That is the day that Santa Claus visits our family. The kids get 4 presents each, plus something little in their stocking, and candy in their wooden shoes. It’s so liberating! I finish Christmas shopping around Thanksgiving, and then we have the rest of December to focus on the real meaning of the season, Jesus Christ. We look for opportunities to serve other, fill our advent calendar with fun, meaningful family activities, and spend December thinking of homemade gifts to give each other on Christmas Day. My kids still have gifts from Grandparents and Aunts/Uncles on Christmas, but they know that the gifts given to them on Christmas are from someone that loves, cares, and thinks about them, not a mystical elf. The change did take courage and a bit of explaining to family and friends who couldn’t quite grasp our reasoning. Way to go.

  • Dani Banigan

    I think you guys rock. As parents you’re giving your kids something so much more special then a bunch of gifts on Christmas. Kids these days expect everything handed to them and it’s just not right. Bad behavior shouldn’t be rewarded and I think canceling Christmas is a great way to show that and also teach them about giving to those in need. With all the cell phones, tablets, Jordan sneakers and other high priced unneeded items kids get these days, its refreshing to know that some parents really do want to raise their children to be well rounded individuals and not only understand that you don’t get rewards when being bad, or not behaving, but also that putting other first is a great thing. They will always remember how much fun they had packing those boxes of clothes and candy to send overseas. You’re giving them such good life lessons. Don’t led the nay sayers get to you, you guys are doing it right!

  • Dale

    I believe these are GREAT lessons you are teaching your children. Too many children & adults are all about what are you going to do for me. Wish I had thought to do this when my children were small & XMAS became all about GIME, GIME, GIME.

  • Sarah Wade

    I think it’s a great idea! Good for you for taking a stand. I’m always amazed at how rude people can be online! I mean, if you don’t agree- just click off the page. There are plenty more things to read online. I’ll never understand. Anyhow- good for you! What a great idea… we may just do it ourselves!

  • christy

    If more parents took a stand, society might not be heading in the direction it is today. I applaude you!

  • Bobbi

    Years ago when our family was very very young; our parents really had our backs and took care of our little family. The first year my husband and I could afford it ourselves we had so much fun buying and wrapping but the grandparents didn’t hold back either. That Christmas was overwhelming and out of control. We decided that year things had to change so we committed as parents on three gifts only. Essentially what was good for the Savior was good for them and it worked really well for Santa to bring something, a gift from Mom and a gift from Dad. We had service oriented activities around the home to help them serve each other and mom and dad. As our children got older we changed it again now they get two one from Mom and Dad. My children range from 14-28 at the age they decided they were to old to believe they became an elf. We gave them the money to purchase something and give to someone else. There are several trees around shopping centers, churches, homeless shelter, and the hospitals. It has been so rewarding to watch them find a person and then find a perfect gift. One year my now 18 year old daughter picked another girl her same age, we do have a ceiling of what they can spend but she recognized how blessed she is and she wanted to make the gift extra nice so she took her own money and added to it. When her younger siblings saw this they followed her example and now they save money to add to their gift giving sometimes they pick more than one person and spread it as far as they can other times they just add to the requested item to make it that much nicer. Just side note Santa still fills a stocking because if your an elf of course you believe.

  • Stella Bell

    I applaude these parents – it is very difficult to stand firm and use tough love. You as a parent questions your decisions all the time asking did I do the right thing – decisions aren’t just to make situations better for the moment but also for the long term. The parents actions of cancelling Christmas will teach these children lessons that they will carry for the rest of their lives – that the world doesn’t revolve around them, that there are others in the world – and sometimes being gratful is enough – teaching childrent they have to earn what they get in life will shape and form them in their adult lives. More parents should be teaching these lessons. Parents lead by example and following through is the best thing to demonstrate to your childrent how to start something and how to finish it. PAT YOURSELVES ON THE BACK – GOOOD JOB – GOOD PARENTING – and don’t let anyone tell you any different – those who are trying to tell ou this is wrong they are teaching their childrent to be self centred and greedy.

  • Taya

    Good on you! You saw a problem with your kids behaviors and actually did something about!! Well done and hope it goes great on the day!

  • I think what you’ve done is absolutely wonderful. As parents, you are the only ones to know when your children have gone too far in the entitlement direction, and you are the only ones who can effect a change. Others who deride you will be the ones with grownup kids who are always looking for something and thinking of no one but themselves. So, be proud of yourself. Going against the grain is not ever easy, but you have had the courage to do so, and in so doing, you are gifting the world with better human beings. Thank you.

  • Robin

    I say Amen… Good for you and your husband… I think its a good learning lesson for your boys and to all.. Maybe they will want to do the same thing next year and make it a tradition.. One never knows… Merry Christmas..

  • Laura

    I would love to see more parents doing what you’ve decided to do. One of the greatest lessons I’ve learned is that the joy of giving is so much more special than the joy of receiving.

  • Velma

    You didn’t cancel anything; you changed the focus in a very positive direction.

  • Helen Cole

    You have given your children the greatest gift – and one which they will never forget – unlike, I suspect, many of the others you will have lavished on them! Bless you!

    Helen Cole, France

  • Amanda

    I saw AWESOME FOR YOU!!!! And AWESOME for your kids for handling the whole thing like they have been! Exactly like you were hoping. I see nothing wrong with this nad ALOT of parents should. too many screaming brats in the stores and the parents give in just to make them shut up. I was in Hobby Lobby recently and the mom had a baby and a toddler and the toddler was supposed to pick soemthing out for her new room and the mom was showing her some stuff and the toddler said “No I dont like that I hate it, you’re so mean Mommy!” and started screaming. the mom said “well if thats how you feel follow me, we are leaving” and the little girl was instantly was apologetic and still crying cause she didnt get to pick out anything and the mom left the store saying, how disrespectful that was for her daughter to say that to her and to behave that way and she wasnt getting rewarded for that bad behavior. PROPS to that mom too! Im not perfect, never will be, but i try so hard to teach my kids respect and when I see stuff like this happen..yes it happens, they are kids and they are tryingn to see what they can get away with. and they have to learn, like everyone else. but your article and what your family has done, I 100% support! And I love how your kids are handling it. GOOD FOR ALL OF YOU!!!

  • Linda V Reid

    What they are doing is not a punishment. they have now opened their children’s eyes to the fact that there are consequences and rewards depending on your behavior. The children have many toys and gadgets already. They are not being deprived of anything. They are being taught that others have much less and that inviting people to the house that otherwise might be alone is kind . They are teaching them that Christmas is not just about getting .The best gift the parents can give these children is that it really is better to give than receive . The children will receive joy in their hearts when they see the joy and happiness they bring to others with generosity. Well done and very courageous parents in my opinion.

  • Jenna

    I feel this is an amazing thing to do! We have done something similar. It is a great way to get back to where the roots are. Good on you and your family! 🙂

  • Natalie Saylor

    Don’t listen to the haters! You are teaching them a wonderful lesson about giving and they seem to be loving it. It sounds like you have brought much more meaningful traditions to your family over mindless consumerism. The people who are criticizing you are so brainwashed by our materialistic society that they can’t understsnd the loving lesson you are teaching them. You didn’t cancel Christmas…you brought back the true meaning of Christmas!

  • lori-g

    Lisa, you are my new hero!! My sister sent me this because she knew I would love it and I do. You rock! I live in an affluent area where my biggest complaint is the entitlement of the kids in this area. Ok maybe second biggest after property taxes. lol. This is an inspiration! We do try to keep Christmas small but even all the little things add up to too much stuff that we don’t need. I applaud you and your husband for your decision! Your boys will have wonderful memories and stories from this Christmas forever!

  • Breezy

    I applaud you and admire you… I did this when my son was 10 years old. Not for misbehaving but I thought the true meaning of Christmas had been lost. I never regretted doing it.. Each Christmas he would get ONE gift. nothing big, just meaningful. If my son were alive today, he would be 44.. He always remembered the lesson and it was good for both of us. Each Christmas we would make a new memory, going to a movie, (which we never had done on Christmas) Cooking a Turkey and staying in. Just no gifts,, but Time together. It’s the most important. Good luck with your children

  • drgnldy

    Terrific post and with the best of intentions! I applaud your family sharing and creating a “true Christmas”. Merry Christmas to you all!

  • Jeri@got2havefaith

    The hateful comments from other parent make me cringe! This may not work for everyone, but it is working for you and your family. Sometimes you must do something drastic to teach a lesson. I can’t image that this is punishment for your children at all. I applaud you as a mother (and your husband as well) for standing up for what you believe, standing firm in raising your children to be caring and thoughtful adults and having the guts to publish it on your blog. Parenting is tough enough without be ripped apart by strangers. Merry Christmas!

  • Jamie

    I, for one, think what you’re going is great and it looks like the proof is in how your kids are reacting. Keep it up! 🙂

    • Jamie

      Ugh. Should be “what you’re doing.” I can’t edit the comment to fix.

  • charlie

    Good for you. The mere fact that they are already making gifts for each other says a lot about them, and you as great parents. Merry Christmas

  • Menshealth99

    Lisa, you rock. I am totally on your side here. I have two girls, age 14 and 10, and lately we have had many disagreements with them about feeling “entitled” to the things we give them with no sense of what I have done or contributed to earn these things. Just like the motto of Alcatraz, you are entitled to a bed, clothes, an education and food. Anything else you get is a privileged. We have talked about taking them to a homeless shelter to see how people who really have nothing live, so that they will be more appreciative of what we give them, and how they can help those in our community who are truly needy, not truly wanting.

    We celebrate Hanukkah, and we gave up giving presents of junky toys a few years ago, and have never been happier. We give our kids presents of clothing and games. We do give them a fun gift, such as a CD from their favorite group.