A Man’s Guide to This Christmas
By the Man in the Mirror Team
Christmas is a wonderful time for men and families, but even in an average year, it can also be extremely stressful. Not only do you have the demands of finishing the year at work, but there are presents to buy, decorating, “honey-dos” to take care of, holiday parties, vacation plans, and extra financial pressures.
The American Psychological Association reported that the leading holiday stressors were lack of time, lack of money, and the pressure from commercialism and hype. And that was from 2006. This year adds its own unique set of cares to the list: health concerns, income loss, travel restrictions, and more.
If you’re like most men, you’re probably used to letting the Christmas season happen for the most part instead of making and working a plan. But this year, with its challenges, adjustments, and losses, we want to help you form a foolproof plan to make this Christmas special for your family.
Reading this article is a great start. Now grab some paper or open a new note on your phone and convert what you read in this article into an actual plan that you will execute. Nail down some dates and times for the things you decide to do. If you need other information first, such as the family calendar, get it as soon as possible. The days will pass by faster than you think so now is the time to make a solid plan.
Don’t allow everyone to drift through your time together playing with their devices or watching football. Set aside scheduled time to do some fun things together.
There are tons of things to do safely outdoors together, such as an evening walk to look at lights or a morning of sledding if you have snow. Check your community calendar for Christmas movies on the lawn, ice skating, or free events in parks like productions of The Nutcracker or other shows.
Even though staying home doesn’t feel like something that needs reserved on the calendar, it is! Set aside some specific times to play games as a group. Choose a favorite board game or card game like Apples to Apples or —or if you have a larger group, try Tribes (best with 6 to 20 people), 4 On a Couch (best with 8 to 16 people), or Heads Up on your smartphones (6 to 16 people, works for virtual gatherings, too). Or buy a roll of painter’s paper and paint or color it together to use as homemade wrapping paper.
It’s too easy to look back on Christmas Eve and realize the month flew by in a blur of errands, obligations, and projects. So no matter what activity you do, reserve time to enjoy being together!
Write a handwritten note to your wife if you’re married, as well as to each of your children, no matter how old they are. It doesn’t have to be long and involved; just describe something specific you appreciate about them and let them know how grateful you are to have them in your life.
Consider writing a note also to your parents, mentors, former teachers, or friends. This may become a habit you want to extend throughout the year!
Spend Time Individually
Spend time one-on-one with your wife and each child during the holiday season. With busy schedules, it can be tough to make this happen spontaneously, so put it on the calendar.
Go for a walk with your wife, or if possible, get a babysitter and go on a date. Take each child out for a meal, a milkshake, or to a park—any fun activity that allows you to also talk. It’s important to take each child out individually to spend time with you alone. During this time, present them with the note or letter that you wrote.
If your children are far away, schedule a video call at a time when you know they’ll be free of distractions or deadlines; you could even read your note to them before putting it in the mail.
The goal is quality, one-on-one time with each family member.
Use a Devotional
Use a devotional guide to help you and your family experience the full meaning of the season. You can find short readings for each day of Advent in books, online, and in a Bible app on your phone.
If your children are young, use a devotional with visual aids, such as the Jesse Tree, which tells the story of Jesus, starting with the creation. They will love getting a chance to hang an ornament on the miniature tree.
Read a Book
There are a number of wonderful books that you can read with and to your family during Advent, such as Jotham’s Journey (and its companions) by Arnold Ytreeide. Find a book that has short sections and begin the tradition of reading it together at night. It’s okay if you miss a few nights; just make the commitment to catch up and stay on track so you can finish by Christmas day.
Serve Someone in Need
Although our culture is consistently telling us that Christmas is about presents and getting our own needs and wants met, buying into that myth is a dead end.
Lead your family in establishing right priorities by serving someone else together. This year especially, there is no shortage of people who will benefit from whatever you have to give, whether that’s your time, attention, or money. Help sort items at a food pantry, serve as a secret Santa for a family that won’t be able to buy gifts, hand out homemade cards at a nearby nursing home, help a widow or single mom with household tasks and decorating, etc. There are a lot of ways to serve; find one and make a memory with your family.
Connect to a Church
Ultimately, Christmas is about the God of the universe coming as a man to save His people from their sins. His people, not one person. We were never meant to experience life alone. Your Christmas traditions will be much richer if you live them out with fellow members of the body of Christ.
Attend worship services at a local church, if possible. Many will offer special opportunities closer to Christmas that also allow for social distancing, such as an outdoor candlelight service on Christmas Eve night.
Ask a church to help connect you with a small group and go to their Christmas get-together. Invite someone from church over for lunch during Advent. If you’ve been unable to attend church recently, get connected to a local church online and plan to take the next step in building community there as soon as possible!
These relationships will deepen the joy of the season for you and your family for years to come.
THE BIG IDEA: Don’t go through this Christmas season on autopilot; from the driver’s seat, make this year special for your family.
What are your Christmas traditions that help make the season special? Let us know in the comments below!
*Adapted from our 2015 article, How to Have Your Greatest Christmas Ever.