Merry Xmas?

Something I feel needs discussion is how we, at Xmas time, build the kids up with a frenzy of expectation; the presents, the things Santa will bring, the orgy of receiving and getting, all so that the adults can get a kick out of seeing the kids so excited, so we can milk their excitement (really for ourselves NOT them) and then, when the big day comes and the inevitable disappointment kicks in (because what experience could ever match that build up?), the kids, one way or another, melt down, behave ‘badly’ or spoilt or disappointed on Xmas day, and then, I feel abusively, having created this sensory ‘sugar-crash’ of materialism, we SHAME the kids for their behaviour and ingratitude! It’s a double abuse we perpetrate on them – first a fake building up of hope for something which is never delivered, and then an unjust shaming when they don’t behave how we want them to in their confused come-down. All for US, not for them. We kid ourselves it’s for them but on closer examination I feel that’s nonsense.

Kids want our attention more than any present or toy. Focused attention IS love, undistracted by i-phones, emails or TV. That’s all they hunger for and is what will give them a Christmas to remember forever.


  1. Spot on Jamie. As adults we have brainwashed ourselves into believing that the best way to change how we feel is to go shopping. Or get drunk. Or take drugs. Happiness from the outside in other words. The marketing men love this, of course. And inevitably we indoctrinate our kids into the same flawed philosophy. It is abusive, as you say. The build-up of expectation is worse in a way, because it also teaches kids the powerful illusion that happiness is to be found at another time in another place. Rather than in the here and now. Our beautiful planet will not support these levels of consumption forever, so sooner or later we will need to learn how to change the way we feel from the inside.
    Happy Xmas.
    D x

  2. Of course…and I recently saw that the majority of parents feel Christmas is overly material. Its such a wonderful and clear opportunity for each one of us, each parent to be authentic. To our own truth. To our own Heart, Not to project our own “stuff” on to our children ; to submit to the mass energy of consumption and expectation which leaves EVERYONE feeling empty and low. As a parent of five, I know this journey well and it is a constant dance to listen to our own Truth and have the courage to live it – despite what we are saturated with by society and the media. One by one.Together ❤

  3. Jamie, thank you, thank you, thank you for your post. You nailed it, and davidhare3000’s comments are spot on too. Since I was a child, I have had an ambivalent attitude towards the Christmas shebang that my western Christian culture celebrates. When I became a parent, I tried soooo hard to be enthusiastic for Christmas, feeling there was something wrong with me as a parent for not providing that pageantry experience for my kids … who inevitably melted down under the craziness of it all.

    Now my kids are older (18 & 20) and often somewhere else in the world, I don’t have to orchestrate a pageant on 25th Dec … and they are deeply grateful for my “no expectations” approach. Yes, we share a meal on the day if we’re in the same city, or call/skype if we’re not, but we do that once a week anyway. Our connection on Christmas Day is even sweeter because we appreciate the refuge from the frenzy that we provide for each other.

    Last year was one of the best Christmas Days ever: my son was in Canada, but my daughter and I were in Australia where summer is in full swing. So we went camping at the beach for two weeks. We swam in the surf, walked for miles along the beach, had champagne and scrambled eggs for breakfast, and a BBQ for dinner. With a mobile wifi connection we were able to take the inevitable Merry Christmas phone calls from my son and other family members who were, without exception, frazzled and envious of our set-up. I highly recommend it.

  4. How lovely Karen! Christmas perpetuates the ridiculus and continues to confuse a child’s sense of order in trying to figure this crazy world out. There are no ceremonies to mark the passing over from childhood to adulthood unless it might be graduation ….or getting arrested but we have all these silly made up fairy tale holidays to spend hard earned money on unneccessary trinkets. These holidays perpetuate lies deeply engrained in our religious structures and keep us enslaved to the irony of made-up, grown-up fairy tales.The irony of it all! Good for you Karen for celebrating life with your family when you can in such a beautiful down to earth natural way. I just remember the holiday season feeling very phony and unreal.

  5. The greatest gift you can give anyone is the quality of your attention. The greatest gift you can give anyone is a quantity of plastic. Tick appropriate box.

  6. I was guilty of this to a degree when my children were young. I also feel bad about the disappointment caused when they finally discovered it’s all been a big fat lie, and from then on Christmas is never quite the same. I think you’re right, we do it to get a kick out of their excitement and, in part, to relive our own excitement back when we were kids.From experience and since having worked in retail I think all the hype causes a lot more problems than it solves. A massive increase in-store tantrums happen at this time of year when kids are told on the one hand they are getting a shed load of new stuff, then told they can’t have it. Even some of the shop workers are then telling them “Father Christmas won’t come if you’re naughty” to shut them up. It seems to be cultural ingrained.

  7. now then at the risk of stereotyping i almost sense a parental role divide on this at times, my partner ,the mother figure in my kids life is so more apt at seeing and creating the emotional moment ,undestanding the mood and placing greater impotance on the feel than the do …Im on the do…Often wanting your kids to be happy in the moment is so rewarding for parents but shortlived and can be irrespecive of the world around ..With younger ,more dependant kids I understand it falls in part with the role of basic protection and care, sometimes inextricable..the reality appeared to me during separation from my kids birth mum that most parents have kids to bring them joy ,some more cruedely than others…So is this as simple as recognising the reality that we as adults create this and the problem appears to be about creating it in the first place or not having the capacity to deal in an adult fashion with the mess you have created.
    Christmas is predominantly a manufactured consumer event, the element of it which could be about sharing , appreciating and taking time out to respect what you have is a dwindling part…i hate what this time of year does to my kids -they are real believers that stuff will make them happy and they arent as good as the next kid without it …Some chicken soup for this situation is that it doesnt take long for a kid to be a ‘not have’ amongst ‘haves’ to find thier strength and separation, though again the question to the seemingly stand alone parent is- is this the right thing to do- i got two polystyrene cups and joined thier bases with a length of taught cotton, my son moaned about not having a mobile at 12 years old – i cut the cotton -there you are now your mobile -he now stands next to his mates on bbm and thier i phones with his polystrene cup, which could double as a drinking vessel if it didnt have a hole in the bottom…life is hard these days for kids!!

  8. YES!!!! Exactly my thoughts. I love giving presents and recieveing them, but we are caught in a present frenzy. It is becomming stressful for so many reasons for everybody.

  9. I notice you don’t have a way to share a link to your articles, or it seems that way. I like them a lot and wanted to share to a friend. So I pasted the link from your email. Is there another way?

  10. My little boy aged 4 went on and on for me to buy him the film in the supermarket at £2.99 with the green man’s face on it. Having never seen the film, I followed his energy and interest for it and got the DVD. We watched it together….Based on the The Grinch, a fictional character created by Dr. Seuss, the film was intense, scary, full of shadow and full of love. I used the story to help my little boy understand his own huge anger, the importance of love, the power of bullying and hating and the shallow nature of ‘material stuff’. We talk about the film a lot and he is very interested in the little girl who melts the Grinch out of his hard heart. The Grinch eventually has a spiritual experience connecting him back to love and union and is then reunited with his community. It is powerful and my son and I talk about the real meaning of Christmas which is family being together in a loving way and the presents are just a fun thing that happens but not the most important thing. It’s hard to find a balance with the commerce and underlying meaningful spiritual traditions (getting lost so easily) but I think it IS possible and I hope that my little boy will not be harmed by the shadow of Christmas time and that we will retain a sense of presence and fulfillment and see it as well as a mid winter festival when the nights are dark and the days are short. I love it that Jamie speaks out for the kids mental and emotional wellbeing.

  11. Over the years I brought up my children , we gradually reduced the emphasis on presents and increased the emphasis on spiritual and joyful activities. It was easy to reduce the emphasis on the material as our finances became worse so we had the good excuse to say ” just one present this year and a few little things in a stocking ” or when they got to teenage we could tell them what the budget was and they told us a few things they might like .So there was no expectation of a kind of present madness. Then I heard of other traditions that we incorporated. The one I particularly liked was from Germany where at 5pm on christmas eve they have a kind of ‘sacred moment’ with the family and the tree. This can take many forms – it might be singing around the tree and that can be whatever songs make sense to you. I brought my children up in a kind of open-minded christianity so we would turn off all the lights except the tree lights and light the candles . Some times we would hold the candles. Then we would stand around the tree and say a few happy kind of prayers and sing a few carols from carol sheets I had collected. Then we would have a moment of quietness and silence to feel the specialness of the moment. It always meant that Christmas began with a quiet and specal spiritual moment. In this moment I would remind them that Christmas is really about “Peace on earth . Goodwill to all men” and that the most important thing was that we had a lovely time as a family and also remembered to send love and peace to the rest of the world.

    In this kind of way – or whatever kind of way makes sense to you – it is possible to make Christmas really magical and meaningful.

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