Posts tagged: holiday/celebrations

Happy Holidays!!
(“…brought to you by ___”)

By , December 3, 2008 8:03 pm

This is a post I should have written about two months ago. Two months ago when all the cheap plastic decorations first made their way into the supermarkets, Walmarts, Kmarts and Any-Other-Marts in the United States. Here in the U.S., shoppers have been regaled with muzak versions of The Little Drummer Boy and Silent Night since well before Halloween (October 31st) this year.

Now that we have finally gotten that pesky little Thanksgiving holiday over with, the commercial Christmas onslaught can begin in earnest.

On my Thanksgiving cross-country trip, I realized what I have been missing without TV for all these years. Ads. Hundreds and thousands of ads promising me the best Christmas ever (what is that anyway?) if only I purchase a new Best Buy flat screen TV, or Macy’s cashmere sweater, or Zales diamond necklace, or _______ (insert advertised product in blank) for my loved one.

I had forgotten what it was like. Although I had a fabulous trip, I was quite relieved when I was finally home and able to retreat to the refuge of my quiet house to end the commercial attack on my psyche.

And here comes the part that I should have written about three months ago when I first detected the initial stirrings of faux holiday jolliness in the stores:

Since many readers are probably new to Unplug Your Kids, I should let you all know that last year while suffering a holiday existential crisis, I wrote a series of posts entitled Christmas/Holidays Unplugged in which I explored alternatives to the traditional American commercial holiday experience.

I know it is a bit late now that December is already here, but if anyone is in need of a bit of inspiration, or encouragement, or alternative holiday ideas, then hopefully you might enjoy some of these posts.

I have listed them all here and linked to them so you can click on what sounds interesting to you. I hope that someone will find this helpful! 

(Also:  If you find a topic interesting, be sure to read the comments too since readers often left their own wonderful insights and suggestions.)

1) Merry Christmas

2) Unplug The Christmas Machine (a book review – very inspirational book if you are disillusioned with Christmas/Hanukkah)

3) Making a List and Checking it Twice (what does your holiday really mean to you?)

4) Holiday Prep – Part 1 (Introduction)

5) Holiday Prep – Part 2: Help! Holiday Prep Makes Me Miserable!!

6) Holiday Prep – Part 3: Help! I Love Doing it All, But How Can I Find Time to Do it?

7) Celebrating Advent

8) Commercialism in Your Mailbox?

9) A Holiday Linky Assortment

10) The Great Christmas Tree Dilemma (Real? Fake? Living? What else?)

11) Buy Handmade

12) Donate this Year Instead of Gifts

13) Santa Lists and Sponge Bob (dealing with kids’ gift requests)

14) Combating Commercials (fighting the effects of toy ads)

15) Help!  Too Much Stuff!! (ideas for cutting down on the amount of “stuff”)

16) A Post as Small as a Stocking Stuffer (“nice toy” stocking stuffer ideas)

(Thanks to Everystockphoto and phtographer”tandemracer” for this photo. View license terms here.)

Combating Commercials (Christmas/Holidays Unplugged)

By , December 8, 2007 11:28 pm

I still remember growing up and seeing TV ads with Barbie looking gorgeous and twirling around by herself and thinking that if I had that particular Barbie, she would dance around like that and be like a best friend to me instead of a plastic doll, and my life would be perfect. Well, Santa did occasionally bless me with that wonderously miraculous gift of the moment, but the wonderous gift never did what it seemed to in the ads, and it never changed my life.

How do we explain to kids that what is in the ads they see, is not what would come in the package under the tree? The easiest way is to have no TV, so they see no ads.

Barring that more radical approach, the book Unplug the Christmas Machinehas some good suggestions for how to teach your kids about TV commercials:

According to this book, studies have shown that children under the age of 5 cannot distinguish TV commercials from actual programs. (Thanks for the link Dana!)

The authors suggest that parents watch at least one hour of TV with children, in order to discuss commercials.

+ Have young children call out “commercial” whenever an ad appears.
+ Talk to children (especially older children) about what is being advertised and how the product is made to seem appealing.
+ Have older kids count the number of commercials in one hour, or even have them time the length of each commercial.

Here are some ideas that grabbed me from the website PBS Parents: Children and Media:

+ For Grade Schoolers:

“When watching TV with your child, question the commercials.Voice your skepticism by posing questions such as these: Who do you think created this ad? What do you think the message is? What might the advertiser not be telling us? Do you think you can believe what you see? Start with obvious targets—ads promoting high-fat foods, for example—then move on to more subtle ads, such as those promoting a cool or attractive lifestyle. Explain how advertisements are often meant to make people feel that something is missing from their lives. “

+ For Pre-Teens:

Try muting an ad and have your child tell you what he or she thinks the ad is saying. Or…have your child close their eyes and tell you what he or she thinks it is showing.

There are so many more wonderful ideas grouped by age at PBS Parents: Children and Media, that I shall just have to link to them by age here:

Grade Schoolers


Quote of the Day:

“Adolescents, youths, and even children, are easy victims of the corruption of love. Deceived by unscrupulous adults, who, lying to themselves and to them, draw them into the dead-end streets of consumerism.”

– Pope Benedict XVI, quoted today while talking about Christmas (heard on tonight’s NPR All Things Considered)

Sorry this is so “heavy.” I am not Catholic, nor do I usually get into religion on my blog, but I did think this was a quote worth thinking about, no matter what one’s beliefs.

Read all the Christmas/Holidays Unplugged posts here.

Holiday Prep – Part 1 of 3 (Christmas/Holidays Unplugged)

By , November 17, 2007 10:18 pm

It seems to me with regards to Holiday prep, that there are two types of people:

1) Type 1 dislikes all the pressure to decorate, bake, and generally make everything “perfect.” Some of these people are OK with that and accept the fact that their only Christmas decorations might be a wreath and a dusty old artificial tree pulled down from the attic…or perhaps nothing at all. However I suspect that many of these reluctant types often begrudgingly try to keep up anyhow, succumbing to guilt…or family, social and commercial pressure to “create the perfect holiday.” While this might lead to the appearance of a “nice” Christmas for everyone else in the family, it leaves Mom feeling grouchy and tired (and yes, it is usually Mom not Dad who undertakes the Holiday prep).

2) Type 2 genuinely loves to “do it all.” These people decorate their home inside and out, bake cookies, pies, cakes, gingerbread houses etc. etc. They might shop for months for the perfect gift, or perhaps craft most of their holiday gifts by hand. Although they enjoy the whole “Holiday Process,” Type 2 also often has a big problem: how to accomplish all that they want to accomplish and still have time to enjoy the Holiday themselves.

So where am I going with this? My next Christmas/Holidays Unplugged post will offer helpful (I hope!) hints for dealing with the issues faced by my “type.” The following post will be by a guest blogger of the other school of thought, offering suggestions and hints geared towards those particular problems.

OK readers, how well do you know Mom Unplugged? Am I a “Type 1” or “Type 2?”

Photo courtesy of and photographer Jared Tolla.

“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.

Panorama Theme by Themocracy