Make Christmas more about experiences than things: three free ways to keep up your holiday cheer
Oklahoma City family fun fills the air, and our calendars, this time of year.
There are amazing holiday experiences just around every corner, so many it's difficult to choose which to attend. And it's all beautiful and painstakingly planned, often free to the public, always festive. Christmas lives in our hearts but it also fills our schools and museums and public streets. I see that caring spirit in angel trees, food drives and care package assembly sessions. There is a sense of community that extends beyond our own worries about stocking stuffers and if we'll have enough sparkling punch.
That feeling of getting up and out of your own house, escaping from all the worries about what's prepped on your to-do list vs. what still needs a lot of effort, can make an important difference within the community but also at home. The lead-up to Thanksgiving at our house this year was difficult, with sick children, deadlines and a canceled dinner. My oldest son, Sam, is 11 and he is old enough to know the difference between when we're experiencing normal holiday stress and when things just aren't going to plan.
What saved Thanksgiving this year was the fact that he and I chose to make it different. We served the homeless and ran a turkey trot, two activities I had wanted to do in previous years but just never did.
Thanksgiving ended up being a holiday filled with peace and gratitude. Everything came out perfect in the end. I hope the same thing happens at Christmas; there's a fine balance between taking care of all those details and overengineering it. The pressure to create an amazing holiday that can be installed shared and compared with other people puts a lot of pressure on parents, especially moms. Take care of yourself this season; go for a run, go to a party and then show your kids it's not all about what we can fit in a wrapped box.
Here are three free ways to make this Christmas more about experiences than things:
Find a place to volunteer: I've seen an increasing level of interest and response in kind for younger children's opportunities to volunteer. Check out this list. I've found it's worth making a phone call to ask if there are any restricted tasks because of age so I can let my children know in advance what they'll be doing. That way, they go with a task in mind and are already informed they won't be doing what older kids can; in other words, there's no public meltdown about not being allowed to drive a forklift or knowing you have to use athletic shoes. When my oldest saw other kids in line for a Thanksgiving meal and heard it would be their only meal of the day, his priorities changed from all-things Pokemon really quickly. What I like about getting established with a volunteer organization is that we now receive notifications on my social apps with dates we can opt-in to volunteer. Making charity ties fit into our calendar felt impossible before but organized ways to help that we can schedule rather than just blindly deciding without much information is a gamechanger.
Get out and see your city on the Oklahoma City Streetcar: Having to repark your car in the city that invented parking meters has been a deterrent for visitors downtown who want to get from one location to another where it's just a little too far to walk, especially in inclement weather. The Oklahoma City Streetcar solves that dilemma and a celebration in honoring of its opening is tonight at Oklahoma Contemporary. Show kids their city from the inside of this new way to get around. There are two routes: the two-mile Bricktown Loop and a 4.8-mile Downtown Loop. All rides start and end on a streetcar platform so you won't be out in traffic. Strollers are allowed and little children will like the option to sit or stand. It reminded my 6 year old of the airport tram. Rides are free now through Jan. 5. Regular fares apply after that date; a single ride is $1 per person but there's also a $3 day pass that's valid for 24 hours. Although there are many holiday events you could hop off and visit, besides shops and cafes, just going to see the lights around Automobile Alley is a fun outing.
Go to a free event: Our editors select 10 events each month that are the best around for free family fun. They've also set up our calendar to display all the free events in one place and you could scroll for days with all that's going on this month. Live nativities, theatre performances and Santa visits are just some of the topics covered in our Winter Fun Guides, which designate what's free and detail cost where possible. We visited Luminance at Mitch Park in Edmond and it was a lovely stroll.
Experiences as gifts: Another way to make the joy of the season last well beyond when you first open a gift is to buy experiences instead of things. Check out our gift guide for suggestions. Memberships, playdate admission, classes and lessons and other excellent ideas abound. I know I would so much rather have a month of swimming lessons gifted to my children or a gym membership than another item to keep around the house.
There are still plenty of shopping days left. It's all doable. Love your Christmas season, with your loved ones near. May your patience and your wrapping paper be two things you already have just enough of this month.