Life is busy, we all know that. It’s especially busy when there are children in the house. The fact is, December can be full-on frantic for families, and holiday plans often get bulldozed into the trite routines we all find ourselves stuck in. What we need are some meaningful Christmas ideas that redirect us from kitschy, corny, and knee-jerk materialism.

Busy or not, December is still the season romantics like to call, “The most beautiful time of the year.” If we’re ever going to get a fair run at beautiful, we really do have to slow down and smell the poinsettias. We must nudge our families away from the mall and in the direction of meaning, and enter into the spirit of giving. Because Christmas is standing right there, impoverished, waiting for us to look beyond ourselves, and catch a glimpse of the star, the shepherds, and God’s most amazing promise.

Try the following ideas for making Christmas meaningful this year.

1. Countdown from Thanksgiving by following a simple Advent calendar:

You can pick one up in most Christmas catalogs. But take a careful look to make sure each day or window has a message that ties in to the real meaning of Christmas. Use the daily verses or thoughts as a guide to set each day on the proper trajectory.

2. Gather the family to watch one meaningful holiday movie together per week:

Miracle on 34th Street. It’s A Wonderful Life. A Christmas Carol. A Charlie Brown Christmas. We all have our favorites, and the best stories help us refocus and think about how huge a story Christmas is. Add in pizza, popcorn, and a few good discussion questions and you’ve got a great family evening.

3. Sponsor a needy family with kids that match your children’s ages:

A family service project is a great way to help our children switch from selfish to generous during a Christmas. It can make for wonderful family memories and leave a lasting impact on everyone involved.

4. Read a Christmas book together as a family:

Family story time may sound like a blast from the past, but gathering together for a few minutes of a story two or three times a week could fit in at family mealtime, bedtime, or some other window of opportunity. Again, it’s a shift in focus, a warm experience, and an intentionally out-of-the-ordinary reminder that this time of the year is special.

Adapted from All Pro Dad