Unplug the Christmas Machine (by Jo Robinson & Jean Coppock Staeheli) – Christmas Unplugged

By , November 12, 2007 10:08 pm

Last week I announced a new series of posts entitled “Christmas Unplugged.” Actually any major holiday can be inserted in place of “Christmas,” but I think it will be easier for me to just focus on one holiday and allow you to generalize.

For several years now, I have really been trying to figure out how to simplify Christmas. Christmas just seems so over-the-top sometimes. Even without TV I am irked by the commercialism and the messages of spending money as the only path to “The Perfect Christmas.” I don’t like all the massive exchanges of gifts that often are unwanted or unneeded.

Before children, I could ignore my discomfort. After all, it is just one day a year. But ever since I have had children, I have felt the need to focus my thoughts much more on how and why we celebrate Christmas.

I think I will write more on this topic next time for it is the starting point of any transformation of Holiday traditions. Today, I want to begin this series by introducing a very interesting book that has helped me think more about my “issues” with Christmas and what to do about them.

When I first announced my Christmas Unplugged series last week, several of you commented that I should read Unplug the Christmas Machine. Well, I already had (or nearly had, I think I still had one or two chapters to go), in fact it was one of my inspirations for writing this series.

I accidentally found Unplug the Christmas Machine: A Complete Guide to Putting Love and Joy Back into the Season on Amazon a while ago. I wish I could remember how. I put it in my “Wish List” for future reference and finally bought it back at the end of September, as my thoughts turned to yet another round of holiday confusion.

I have really enjoyed this book, and have found it very useful for helping to sort out my thoughts. I guess I am not alone in feeling empty and miffed at the holidays.

Unplug the Christmas Machine covers all the bases. Whether you are an exhausted overachiever, a guilty underachiever, have annual family conflicts to deal with, hate the commercialism, want more spirituality in your Christmas, male, female, with children, childless, etc. etc. etc. I think you will find some helpful thoughts and ideas in this book.

I always like reading chapter titles when I consider a book, so if you like that too, then here they are:

Intro: The Christmas Pledge
1) “A Christmas Carol” Revisited
2) Women: The Christmas Magicians
3) Men: The Christmas Stagehands
4) The Four Things Children Really Want for Christmas
5) The Homecoming
6) Inside the Christmas Machine
7) The Gift of Joy
8) A Simple Christmas
9) Christmas Revival
Appendix: Resources for a Simple Christmas

Each chapter ends with exercises for helping you determine your feelings about the particular subject of the chapter. There is also always a question and answer section that often contains concrete ideas and helpful resources.

The Appendix is a book unto itself and is packed full of ideas and resources that the authors have found useful for helping to simplify Christmas. The subjects covered are:

-Decorations, broken down by category (Greens, Tree, Candles, etc.)


-Christmas Cards


-Food (includes recipes)

-Gifts, includes great “alternative gift ideas” and “easy homemade gifts” (as far as I’m concerned, this book is worth buying just for this “Gifts” section alone!)

-Alternative Christmas Activities for Churches

-Making a Christmas Budget

If you feel really energized by the message of this book, you can help enlighten others by buying a Leader’s Guide ($20) and hosting your own “Unplug the Christmas Machine” workshop.

I could go on and on about all the useful, concrete information and encouragement that is in this book. But the main point of my post has to be that if you have any doubts at all about Christmas, try reading Unplug the Christmas Machine: A Complete Guide to Putting Love and Joy Back into the Season to see if you find some inspiration.

You could get it from the library or go all out and buy it. I decided just to buy it and am glad I did, since I view it as a reference book to be pulled off the shelf whenever I need a bit of encouragement or a useful idea.

One thought on buying it: new at Amazon it is currently $10.36 (paperback). I purchased a “Like New” copy from an “Amazon Seller” for about $5.00 (including shipping) and honestly I couldn’t tell that it was not a brand new book! So if you want to buy it, shop around.

7 Responses to “Unplug the Christmas Machine (by Jo Robinson & Jean Coppock Staeheli) – Christmas Unplugged”

  1. Cloudscome says:

    This book looks great. I am going to try to keep the gift giving to mostly charitable donations. I like to give to service projects in someone’s name. I am putting together a post about some of my favorites.

    I want my kids to learn to appreciate giving as part of the celebration while they are young. I am trying to get the rest of my family to appreciate it too! We do a round robin exchange for the adults and cousins, with everyone picking one name so the gift list is already simplified. I try to make handmade gifts and give a donation as much as possible.

    This year I think I will keep it to one toy and one handmade item (might just be scarves or mittens), one cooking project (bought through a school fund raiser; pretzels or cookie dough) for each kid, a pile books and one family game. Plus a goat or some chickens for another family through World Vision.

  2. Kate in NJ says:

    I have to read this book!
    Maybe I should by a bunch of used copies and give them as gifts..lol.
    My whole family could use it.
    We have tried to limit the gift monster around here, but we still have a house full of “stuff”.

  3. Jenny says:

    I got this from the library yesterday, so it’s next up after my spelling bee book. It appears to be ancient though, so I’m wondering if I’m missing anything by not having the revised edition. Most of the information is probably the same, and I’ll probably end up buying the newer one anyway! Thanks for recommending it.

  4. Andrée says:

    There is another link somewhere that I cannot remember at the moment. It is for Christians to simplify Christmas. Our former minister used to promote it. I wish I could remember because it was so valuable and important. Does anybody know what it is?

  5. […] Four Things Children Really Want for Christmas” (read my post about this great book here). I’ll let you read the book for all the details, but basically kids want family time for […]

  6. […] Unplug The Christmas Machine (a book review – very inspirational book if you are disillusioned with […]

  7. prasti says:

    thanks for posting about this book. i’ve never heard of it before, but it sounds like one i would be interested in reading. i feel the same way about the whole commercialization of christmas and the focus on spending, spending, spending to make any of your gifts worthwhile. we try very hard to keep our kids from losing the true focus of christmas, but sometimes it’s difficult when they end up with an over-abundance of gifts from other people.
    .-= prasti´s last blog ..2/4 =-.

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