12/23/2013 02:16 pm ET Updated Feb 22, 2014

5 Ways to Keep the Magic of Christmas (and Lose the Consumerism)

Toni Nagy

If I could harness the anticipation children feel on Christmas Eve, I believe I could solve the world's energy crisis. For many kids, the excitement around Christmas is unrivaled. Waking up to presents delivered by a magical man who flew through the sky towed by mystical beasts captures the imagination of children who celebrate the holiday around the world. I don't want to deny my child of the holiday spirit, but it's also hard not to see this modern incarnation as a consumer nightmare.

As I frantically search Amazon for the perfect Lady Bug costume that isn't too itchy, has antennas and comes with a tutu (but not a black one, only a red one), I can't help but feel conflicted. Of course gifts are a huge part of the exhilaration children feel at Christmas, but I don't want it to be limited to that. The origins of the Christmas spirit have been diluted, morphed and in may ways hijacked by our culture's obsession with materialism. Let's not throw the baby out with the bath water (you get arrested for stuff like that); there are many aspects of Christmas worth preserving.

Five ways to save the Christmas spirit:
  1. Quality, not quantity: You know when you go to a restaurant and the menu is 17 pages long so you end up ordering a hamburger because you are drowning in options? For a kid, receiving too many toys is also overwhelming. Chances are there are a few really special things that your child wants. Taking care and valuing the possessions you do have fully is a priceless lesson.
  2. Children as gift givers: Let them experience being both a recipient and a giver. Encouraging them to make things for people fosters creativity and a sense of pride and accomplishment.
  3. Highlight family time: Talk to your child about how special it is to share time with friends and family. Focusing on the positives and the rarity of all being together will remind your child how lucky it is to have this time.
  4. Appreciating the Christmas tree: In a world where nature is at risk, teaching children to value the natural world is critical. If you are like me and don't want to forgo the traditional tree scenario for environmental concerns, talk to your child about the role of trees in our world, for example how they make the air we breathe. Create a tradition that honors harmony and love of nature.
  5. Thank-you letters: It is not easy for Aunt Susie to think of the prefect gift for your little one (even lame gifts took effort). Having your child write a letter thanking her will not only make Susie feel appreciated, but will also teach your child the importance of gratitude.