If you don't practice a religion but celebrate Christmas, how can you ensure your kids know the season is about more than receiving gifts?

Giving back

It's not about receiving gifts at the holiday season, it is about giving back to children in need.

Instead of focusing on the specifics of Christianity, or any given religion, take an opportunity during the holiday season to teach your children values that many of the December holidays represent — namely giving, generosity, kindness and love. Lyss Stern, co-author of If You Give Mom a Martini... and founder of DivaMoms.com, says that to her the holidays are not about recognizing a specific religious celebration such as Hanukkah or Christmas, it's more about the opportunity to teach the lesson to her children about giving back.

She says, "It's not about receiving gifts at the holiday season, it is about giving back to children in need. Every year around the holidays my boys and I wrap the toys and coats that they have outgrown and then we go to a shelter and bring them to children that [are] really [in] need for the holidays. It's about instilling good values from a very young age."

Bond over good deeds

Linnea Nelson, director of religious education at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Fairfax, suggests volunteering as a family.

She says, "Look for local opportunities to create food bags, collect food, shop for a 
family in need or volunteer as a family at an animal shelter. If you don't 
see an opportunity, make one! Gather the family to make pies or muffins for 
a shelter, collect old towels and stuffed animals to bring to your local
 animal shelter or write letters to soldiers."

Linnea adds that giving to those less fortunate can also be an opportunity to connect with others in the community: "Whatever you choose, talk about how we partner with people... although we might be giving them tangible goods, the time spent together as a family is invaluable. If you are able to deliver the items personally, you can meet the families and have a conversation with them. These acts of kindness and generosity can 
help your children feel the spirit of the season.

Keep the spirit alive

It is about giving to the people you love and to those who are in need.

Rev. Susanna Stefanachi Macomb, ordained interfaith minister and author of Joining Hands and Hearts, Interfaith, Intercultural Wedding Celebrations and Bless This Child, A Comprehensive Guide to Creating Baby Blessing Ceremonies, feels that focusing on giving to those less fortunate as well as your loved ones is a great lesson to teach your kids at Christmastime.

She says, "The Christmas spirit lives in each of us — whatever religion a person might 
follow. It is about giving to the people you love and to those who are in need."

Make the world a better place

Laurie A. Gray, JD, attorney, teacher, author, child advocate and founder of Socratic Parenting LLC, suggests using the holiday season as an opportunity to "take a break from our busy schedules to spend time with those we love most and to think about the gifts and talents we have to 
offer and the potential within each of us to make our world a better place."

More on Christmas and giving back

Teach kids to give back
Happy interfaith holidays
Holiday celebrations beyond the holly