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Why My Husband and I Cancelled Christmas

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*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.


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


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.



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!

Comments (1,448)

  • Congrats to you for taking a stand with your children. I love how they are making gifts for each other. The act of giving is important. I want my children to know that I may not have much but what I have I am willing to give to help some one who is worse off then me. I worry that our world is becoming to selfish. How do we change it? By doing our part to change the next generations. Teach your children to be courtesy, kind, helpful, and respectful to others and the world will be a better place. Thank you for having the courage and the strength to stand up and sticking to your beliefs and what you think it’s right for your children. In the end, they will be better for it.

  • Lisa. those adults ripping you apart for the wake-up call you have sent are just the selfish, money motivated people that are in on the destruction of the true meaning of Christmas. Every year when my kids were growing up, they are now 30, 27 and 19, we would grab an “angel” from the tree at Walmart and go on a spending spree for a child in need. We donated tons of toys to Toys for Tots and gave food, toys and blankets to a local animal rescue. It taught them the importance of giving; of making a small sacrifice so others could know the joy of having something when, most often, they had nothing. My granddaughter is being taught the same tradition so I am proud of what my children learned…giving is it’s own gift to oneself! You did it just right!!

  • Absolutely loved this post Lisa and look up to you as a mother and blogger for writing it! I am feeling the same way with my children and many times this year already have thought about the same thing. It amazes me sometimes how my children get away with a lot of the things my parents would have put a stop to immediately!! Again.. thank you for sharing!

  • I find this interesting. Long story short, I think you’re doing what’s best for you and your kids. You’re working towards amazing young people, and I tip my hat to that.

    While we don’t cancel Christmas, our family Christmas has always been “small” compared to other people’s Christmases. The kids get one toy from all of us (and sometimes a shared toy on top of it), a new pair of pjs, two pairs of pants, two new shirts, a nice zip up sweater, underwear and socks. They normally more clothing come Christmas. It’s something we’d normally just buy them, but we make it special for Christmas by wrapping it up and letting them open it.

    We’ve never done Santa. We celebrate the birth of Christ, and an opportunity to get together with family for a chance to give them gifts of appreciation. The kids normally get gifts from family, and that is more then enough to hold them through until their birthdays. I’ve been telling people if they really want to do something for our kids, give them the gift of an experience together. Bake and decorate a cake with them, take them out to play at the park for a day, things like that. We have more then enough toys, and are currently sorting through all them because they don’t play with them all. Birthdays consist of one or two toys from us, and whatever anyone else would like to give them.

    I think because the kids don’t expect a lot on Christmas (or Birthdays) they appreciate what they get. We don’t often buy stuff throughout the year, but will occasionally treat them to something for amazing behavior, or a very well done report card, or bringing home an award from school. This year we’ve been working on random acts of kindness, and talking about how we treat other people, including our siblings. This new year I’m hoping that my oldest and I will go out and do volunteer work together (he turned 7 this year). I’m hoping this year that we’ll finally be able to donate a new toy to a child who doesn’t have any, chosen by our kids. We’ll see.

    Yet again, I tip my hat to you, and I’m glad to hear that they’re learning exactly what you want them to.

    • I agree with you if we remove the celebrate Christ part as he was not born there, and it was celebrated before christ was born.

      • Except Christmas as we celebrate it now, was not celebrated this way in Pagan times. You show you are ignorant of the holidays that others have celebrated.

  • hi, in behalf of the Filipinos (for Cebuanos) i would like to THANK YOU for sharing your BLESSINGS to my fellow countrymen. I’m a first time mom of 1y/o girl and i really appreciate what you did, this might come in handy when my turn comes. God bless your family and Merry CHRISTmas in advance.

  • I think it’s great what you are doing. I do find it interesting the ads that pop up on your page trying to get me to buy all sorts of things for my family for Christmas while reading it though.

  • Hello!
    I never comment on these types of things but after hearing how people are tearing you apart, I felt the need to sign up and tell you I LOVE THIS POST!

    For background, I’m a 26yo young professional who’s not a mom so I can’t comment on what its like to have children, but I can speak to what it’s like to work with ungrateful, entitled young adults whose parents should have been teaching them what you are teaching your kids. They are extremely disrespectful, self-centered, and believe they deserve things they haven’t earned. The people who are ripping you apart and calling you mean don’t understand that you are simply doing your job as a parent the best way you see fit for you and your family. As someone who may have to work with your children in the future, I say thank you for being willing to go against the grain to teach your children these important lessons.

  • I love this! What a super special blessing to help your boys learn about the lasting joy of giving during the Christmas season! I actually want more details on the 12 Days of Christmas Nativity that you plan to give… would you be willing to share how you plan to deliver those (i.e. what will the note for wise man #1 say, what will the note for the sheep say, etc.). We just bought a few sets to give to home teaching families, but I love the plan to deliver one each night. 🙂

  • I think this idea is fantastic-and while my kids are still young enough to enjoy the magic of Santa I will do the Santa gift, but we do a simple Christmas. Jesus got three gifts, so my kids get three gifts—and ONE family Santa gift. It makes the day so much nicer and more meaningful.
    We lived in South Korea last year and I learned how stupid crazy America’s are over holidays. In Korea very few holidays have decorations, or special music, or even gifts to open. The people are happy to have a day off work and school!

  • I think what you are doing is so great. What a wonderful lesson for the kids and certainly a Christmas they will not forget. Too bad haters are gonna hate.

  • I think this is awesome. Lately our kids have been acting really ungrateful for what they have. My husband and I have joked about cancelling Christmas but have never gone through with it. Maybe next year we can do something like this. I want my kids to learn that there are kids that don’t get anything for Christmas so that they will appreciate what they have so much more. Seeing how materialistic my kids are becoming makes me feel like I failed at teaching them what is really important and what Christmas is really about.

  • I love this idea! I know kids who have Christmas lists that are pages long, and they get mad when they don’t get everything. Entitlement has gotten very bad in today’s society.

  • Just have to comment against all of the negativity I’m reading in regards to what you did and how you went about doing it. You are giving the greatest gift ever to your boys. The gift being granted to them to understanding human compassion and empathy. When the toys and gifts are long forgotten, the memories that they will have of what they have done for others will live on. It’s called creating a legacy and leaving a positive footprint on the world. Thank you for planting this seed for others to follow.

  • Lisa, I think what you did was good parenting. Try not to take to heart the mean, hurtful things people have said. You are teaching your kids the true joy of Christmas which is giving! It won’t hurt them to not have a ton of gifts under the tree. They will appreciate what they do get so much more. When my girls were little we started a tradition of only giving three gifts each. It was to represent what the Wise Men brought baby Jesus (gold, frankincense and myrrh). I read about it in a magazine and we decided to implement for our girls. The first Christmas we did it we found that we spent far less and there was no fighting, bickering and it was so much more calm and peaceful in our home on Christmas morning. Best thing we ever did.

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