Posts tagged: Christmas

“Making a List, and Checking it Twice” (Christmas/Holidays Unplugged)

By , November 16, 2007 1:55 pm

No, not a list for Santa, not a gift list, or even a “to-do” list. If you really want to unplug your holidays then why not start by making a list of what your particular holiday means to you, or at least what you would like it to mean.

Only once you figure out what you want your holiday to be, can you then take steps to make that vision a reality.

For example, Christmas to some people has a deeply religious meaning. To others it is a time to gather with family. For others, it may be a time to think more about helping people and making our world a better place. Perhaps your “ideal Christmas” is a combination of several of these themes.

I can pretty much guarantee that no one is going to put on their list:

  • “Christmas is a time to spend a lot of money at Walmart buying gifts of cheap plastic toys and nose hair trimmers.”
  • “What I like most about Christmas is running around like a crazy person trying to create the perfectly decorated house like in Better Homes and Gardens December issue.”
  • “My favorite Christmas pastime is spending hours writing hundreds Christmas cards to send to every friend, family member and business acquaintance I have ever known in my life, all while worrying that I might forget someone who will send ME a card and thus make me feel bad for not having sent them one.”

So, write your holiday list and see if your usual holiday matches what you want to be celebrating. If not, then perhaps it is time to make a few changes.

Read all the Christmas/Holidays Unplugged posts by clicking here.

Photo courtesy of and photographer ronnieb.

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.

Merry Christmas

By , November 5, 2007 10:17 pm

Now that Halloween is behind us, do you know what holiday comes next? What’s that? “Thanksgiving” you say? Wrong…Christmas is next! At least it is in the eyes of the advertisers, the stores and the catalogs.

My Friday trip to Walmart to buy my daughter’s new fish was my wake up call that the next holiday is actually Christmas. Two days after Halloween, Halloween was GONE. The little that remained was relegated to three small shelves containing a few squashed nylon Jack O’Lanterns, several flimsy costumes too ugly to have made it into a shopping cart, and a few dozen bags of cheap, tasteless candy that is now even cheaper (and which will certainly be even more tasteless by next Halloween).

Halloween has disappeared, and in its place there are plastic Santas, jolly singing snowmen, giant inflatable snow globes, and animated wire reindeer made of Christmas tree lights. The toy department is bustling with extra employees stocking the already full shelves with even more cheap plastic Chinese toys. Everything there talks, rumbles, roars, or at least flashes multicolored lights.

To me, there are few things more depressing that the annual Christmas propaganda that seems to begin earlier and earlier all the time. Why don’t they just leave the decorations and Christmas carols up and going all year long? That would surely save some money and maximize profits too.

By now, you might have detected an ever so slightly cynical tone to my thoughts on Christmas. Yes, as you may have guessed, every year I struggle with Christmas and how to make it something other than a shopping and accumulation fiesta. As my children grow older, it is becoming more and more troubling to me.

If it were just me, I would prefer to simply skip Christmas altogether. How’s that for being a complete Scrooge? “Scrooge Unplugged.”

But it is not just me in the world, so I can’t merely stick my head in the sand. I have three children who want to (and should) “do” Christmas. So this year, I am determined to continue my progress toward a simpler, more meaningful Christmas.

With that depressing little intro, I announce a new series at Unplug Your Kids entitled “Christmas Unplugged.” By Christmas, I also mean Hanukkah or Kwanzaa, or whatever your personal over the top, year end festival of light might be.

So…if you are interested…stay tuned for my thoughts, and hopefully practical ideas, for unplugging your holidays.

Thanks to and photographer Clara Natoli for this photo.

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