Our daughter Shanna believed in Santa until she was 9 years old. It seemed to represent everything related to Christmas, but Shanna felt sorry for him. She was sure a jolly old man like him would feel sad because the mail only came in December, so until he was 9 years old, he began corresponding with Santa every January for 11 months, deliberately excluding December and asking only for his friendship.
She inspired me. After years of trying to find a way to change our superficial model of Christmas to a more meaningful one, surely I could follow my young daughter’s lead to create a Christmas tradition that takes the main focus away from gifts.
My criteria were not complicated but I needed to cover the things that were important to our family:
1. Make it more about family and bonding than about gifts.
2. Include everyone of all ages.
Our family has come to know this unpretentious event as the Christmas Olympics.
It begins just after lunch on December 25 with the gong of a bell that makes last year’s Olympian run through the house with the cheap plastic olive leaf wreath on his head while carrying the makeshift torch (a stick of wood with a hand-drawn flame). …. happily donated when our three children were still carrying crayons.
The Christmas Olympics are a great way to ensure that the young and old stay as involved in the occasion as everyone else because they also pick a game that they are good at.
While many people spend the 5 days before Christmas shopping, my family is very busy gathering “stuff” for their game or researching “party games” on the internet, and that’s half the fun!
The game that each person chooses remains top secret until the moment they are designated to begin their game. Each person’s playing time is indicated simply by where their name is found on the paper that records the points of the game. After all, the Christmas Olympics are meant to be fun with few rules!
If you have 5 family members, each game gives a player a score of 1 to 5, depending on their position in a game.
The following is a small sample of some of our Christmas Olympics;
or Poop the Potatoe, which actually means jumping around a table with a potato between your legs and facing everyone, placing it in a bowl on the floor.
o Orange peeling contests. The longest unbroken shell wins and everyone gets a break from the fiber in candy and chocolate.
o Snow golf … one or two holes on a short course (use food coloring around the hole)
o Glance contests
o Memory games. Read a meaningful or funny short story and ask questions later. It is truly amazing how well adults do NOT listen!
o Guess how many pieces of candy, nuts, or quarters. The winner gets points and the jar!
o Spin the coin. The longest spin wins.
o Card or dice games of chance.
o Find the Apple Pot. Blindfolded, he crawls across the floor tapping a wooden spoon to find a pot full of water and an apple. Retrieve the apple with your mouth. This is timed. You can get creative using a soft tomato or marshmallows (if someone has knee or back problems, put it somewhere on the counter)
or Guess what’s in the sock? Each sock contains an item from a family member. Contestants get a single 10-second feel, 1 hint, and just 2 guesses.
At the end of the day, we laugh, create memories and crown the Olympian with the coveted but sticky plastic head crown and surprisingly everyone is always proud to wear it.
We all thank Shanna for seeing things differently from the rest of us and for having the courage to act accordingly.
Our children, although now young adults, are just as excited about the afternoon of December 25th.
Let the games begin …