I'm not sure what ages the OP's children are. Obviously it's easier when they are younger. We hardly have any family where we live, so also does make it easier to control how things go.
This is our third year of having an Intentional Christmas with another family -- all together it's 4 adults and 4 children. Right at Christmas time, we go and stay in rustic cabins in the mountains for five days. It's a beautiful quiet snowy nature spot with hardly any people around. We rent 2 tiny cabins for the families, and a slightly larger cabin for gathering together so that we have private space for naps etc. The cabins are very simple -- wood stoves, ancient furnishing, etc. There is no heating other than the wood stoves, and no running water or bathroom -- it's like camping. We have to take a walk to a communal toilet and shower. There is electricity. We spend our days doing basic stuff (hauling water, keeping the stoves stoked) and having fun in the snow. We have a bonfire and sing carols at night. We don't do any decorating, not even a tree (we have trees in our regular homes though). We have a big turducken dinner on Christmas and share other meals with the other family as well. We hang stockings, and Santa brings one
toy per child -- each child gets the exact same gift. Parent or friend gifts are opened back at our regular homes so that there is no fighting over toys or hurt feelings -- it also lessens the focus on "stuff" at this magical time of year. We read special stories and do a scavenger hunt. We save tons of money, we avoid social engagements that are based on obligation, and we preserve our children's innocence when it comes to meaning of Christmas. We love this tradition
. After many years of being disappointed by Christmas, I now look forward to it
:. It's also really important that there are no phones or computers for people to get sucked into
. We have found that making Christmas an experience
is so satisfying. Here are some photos...
Another thing that I like to do is lots of crafts throughout the month of December. This year I might try to do a craft advent calendar -- have all the craft supplies bought and organized in advance to do a craft every day or every other day -- my kids would love that. It's about doing
, not getting.
I am also totally letting myself off the hook this year -- I am not buying gifts for adults at all and I'm letting them know this in advance. Aaaaaaah....
. Only our very closest child friends will be getting small, inexpensive gifts. I've decided that if I want to connect with someone at Christmas, I should do it by spending time with them or writing to them. And if I really want to give something to someone, I can. It doesn't have to be at Christmas. In fact, it feels better to do it at their birthday or "just because". I am not planning to make stuff because I really don't have time and IMO handmade gifts are not generally appreciated enough to make it worthwhile.
My advice would be to develop a vision for what the essence of Christmas is for you and your family, and just
do that. IMO, with older kids just buying less is going to feel Scrooge-like unless you make a priority of doing
things that the whole family is going to enjoy. State the intention of making Christmas magical, peaceful or whatever and then plan out how to do that in advance. IME, Christmas gallups up before I am ready and it can be sooo stressful when there is no plan. That's when my credit card gets a workout
:. We do spend money on the cabins, but these are memories that will be imprinted on our minds and on our children's minds forever.