I’ll be the one to go there: the holiday season is creeping up on us. It’s on the horizon, folks. Our local grocery store’s “seasonal aisle” looks like the next three months are closing in over us all, half lined with candy corn and half with fake pine scented candles and Santa Clause window clings, with turkey-adorned paper goods sprinkled throughout. It’s a bit overwhelming.

I struggle with the holiday season every year. I love seeing it thorough my children’s eyes, and I love the crafts, baking, and music. But I hate the commercial side of it. I’m a full-on Grinch when it comes to that side of things!

I’ve already prodded a bit to see what will be on my kids’ Santa lists this year, and my older son said “I have no idea. He can just surprise me!” while my younger son said “Maybe a Matchbox car?” They have no need for a lavish gift-filled holiday, and I resent the pressure to fill our tree with more stuff we don’t need. Santa will of course stop at our home, but he may focus on things like family time together, bearing gifts of “movie night” DVDs and maybe some cross country skis.

What I’d really like to focus on this year with my 4.5 and 7 year old sons is gratitude and giving back. Their Santa lists are light. They have what they need. Each year, there are heartbreaking stories of kids asking Santa for things like warm coats, backpacks, and a home. Stories of the crisis facing refugee children in Syria flood the news. Children in our own community go without treats and toys at the holidays, and we have more than we need. While I don’t want to miss out on the fun of gifts on Christmas morning, I do want them to know the joy of brining holiday cheer to those who need it.

So this year we will focus on holiday experiences. We’ll bake, and share treats with people who need a smile this year. We’ll shop for children who may not receive other gifts. We’ll donate special foods to our local food pantry, like holiday baking supplies that would otherwise be an impossible luxury for those facing difficult times this season. We’ll go to tree lightings, drink cocoa, and decorate. As my kids “age out” of Santa, I want them to learn the true magic of the season.