Yes, I hear you saying "nice idea, Theology Mom, but we do have obligations!". I hear you! Here are some ideas to get away from the gift-wrapping and turkey-stuffing mayhem.
Advent prayers: I love the Advent wreath. Some of my fondest memories as a child were coming together as a family and saying special Advent prayers before dinner. This tradition combines my favorite elements: prayer, ancient traditions, and fire. For more information follow this link.
(Special thanks to my Dear Friend who shared this with me.)
Go to church before Christmas day: This should be obvious. Catholics are big on community. It's why we get together once a week to celebrate the Eucharist. The Eucharist is the heavenly banquet. If you want to know what heaven will be like, it will have wine, candles (there's that fire thing again), music, and moms running after their screaming toddlers. We should feel right at home.
Pray by yourself and as a family: Church is where we go to pray as a community and celebrate. Home is where we go for quiet reflection. Read the Bible. Pray the rosary. Learn about the saints. We are blessed to have two thousand years of prayer tradition to draw from. Failing that pray that your children will sleep through the night/stop fighting/prayer of the moment. Those are valid too.
Spend time, not money: Take your children to Zoo Lights, children's Christmas concerts, or to the local coffee shop for hot chocolate.
Bake with your children: Do all of the special desserts have to make their appearances on Christmas day? (That was our tradition growing up.) Why go crazy getting every body's favorite desserts out at once only to see them go to waste? Teach your child(ren) to make his/her favorite dessert. Spread it out over Advent.
Do charity work with your children: Bring your children (if they are old enough) to a soup kitchen or have them help trim the Angel tree at church.
Have your children pick out toys for needy children: (Thanks to another Special Friend for the last two ideas!)
Ask your family what they want for Christmas dinner: Many of my mom friends are discovering that the family would prefer something simpler than a turkey meal - especially if you're still finishing the leftovers from Thanksgiving. Spend the time playing with your kids.
These are only a few ideas. To use the tired phrase: Jesus is the reason for the season. To refer back to an earlier post, we are waiting for an event that we cannot control and that will lead to our transformation. Spend some time in prayer and ask Jesus how He wants to celebrate His birthday with you. You will be pleasantly surprised at the results.