It took me a while to write this post. The Christmas Game review is one I’ve wanted to write for a while. The Game is something I came across a couple of years ago, and it has changed the way we celebrate the holidays so profoundly that it took me a while to figure out how I was going to explain how meaningful this game is to my family. This year I was sent a copy of Christmas Game Deluxe Christian Bundle to review. This bundle includes all of The Christmas Game decks: The Starter Deck, Standard Deck, Deluxe Deck and Christian Deck. The first three decks are not religious in theme.The Christian deck focuses specifically on tying activities into biblical themes.
The Christmas Game is literally a holiday game changer. It is the answer for anyone who’s tired of Christmas being all about the gifts under the tree, anyone who wants to bring the spirit of family and togetherness back to their celebration.This was us tenfold a couple of years ago. Christmas had become all about the shopping and gifts for us. My husband and I killed ourselves buying gift after gift (remember that scene in The Grinch Who Stole Christmas where Cindy Loo’s dad maxes out his credit card and they celebrate? That one hits home), and my kids talked about nothing but opening piles of gifts as quickly as possible. There was no real focus on family, or the true spirit of the Holiday. I began to dread the start of the holidays because it became nothing but money and stress for me. Then my grandfather got sick. I was fed up, I wanted my kids to remember him and the holidays of their childhood differently. I wanted my Christmas to be the kind you see in a heartwarming movie on Lifetime after Thanksgiving. When I got my first copy of The Christmas Game it helped me transform the way we celebrate the entire holiday season. Our kids still look forward to Santa and gifts, but that is only a small portion of our holiday. Now our focus is on what we will do, instead of what we will get. They look forward to special projects, to making ornaments and baking cookies and writing holiday cards. We anticipate holiday movie nights and playing board games over mugs of hot chocolate. We use The Christmas Game as a tool to inspire us to a better holiday. The idea is simple.
The Christmas game is a card game. It consists mainly of a large deck of cards, which each have an activity printed on them. To play you simply turn over a card and follow the instructions. There aren’t any rules. You can use the entire deck, or you can pick out cards that best suit your family. There are even blank cards included so that you can incorporate your own favorite activities. The deluxe kits also include a guide full of suggestions for game play and an official memory book, that can be used along with some of the cards to record your game yearly.
The cards have nine different categories: Traditions, Memories, Togetherness, Kindness, Presents, Projects, Games, Challenges and Learning so this is a game that can truly be tailored to each family and can be played in any number of ways.
Over the holidays we actually play three different games. I choose to customize my deck by going through the cards and picking out the activities that suit our game.
When organizing my games ahead of time I often use sticky notes to make notations for things that need to be purchased or prepared. Here I need to plan a route fora neighborhood Christmas Light tour and provide note cards for writing thank you notes to friends and family, two of the activities I have chosen for this year.
The first game we play is on Christmas Eve. Every year we host a Christmas Eve dinner for our closest family members. It is small, intimate party – a tradition we started when my oldest was born. Since we only have a few hours I choose activities that won’t take too long, and ones that I know will interest our guests. We start when everyone arrives, and throughout the night, as we eat, drink, laugh and exchange gifts we also pull cards and complete the activities. It is one of my favorite things about the evening, the activities give us a chance to have fun and create so many amazing memories. And as someone who tends to get wrapped up cooking and decorating and so on, it is a great way to remind myself to leave the dishes for later and be an active part of the celebration. Some of the cards I might use for our Christmas Eve party:
- Time Capsule: each player brings an item to be put into a time capsule and opened the following year. I wrap the previous year’s time capsule. We gather around the tree and allow the kids to unwrap it, then we open it to see the contents, and replace them with this years items to be opened again the following year.
- Home Video: Watch clips from old home movies – I’m using this one this year, I’ve put together a 10 minute video of past Christmases to watch.
- Group Photos: This one is great because we get a chance to act silly and take a bunch of fun photos. I add them to the time capsule later on.
- Holiday Lights Tour: we’ll head out after dinner and walk for a block or two together, looking at neighbors Christmas lights.
- Appreciation: All Players sit in a circle and say what they appreciate most about each other. Cards like these are my favorite. They remind us of what we are really celebrating.
All together I will probably do about 10-15 cards. We will pull them randomly throughout the night. If we don’t get to all of them, that’s okay. Some years we have so much fun with one activity that it takes a good portion of the night and we only do 4 or 5 cards! I include some memory cards, so that each year we fill up a few pages in our memory book. When we use it again it is fun to flip back and see the old responses!
I also make a deck for Christmas Day. On Christmas we spend the morning at home with the kids, then get together with my entire family for a Christmas celebration. I choose cards that can be done easily in the morning with the kids, then I mix in some Open Presents cards so that our Christmas morning is a mixture of gift opening and fun activities. This is so valuable to me because for years Christmas morning was a mad rush of opening gifts, throwing on clothes and going to my Aunt’s house to open more gifts. It is frustrating to watch the boys tearing through wrapping paper only to toss the gift aside and move on to the next. Those are not the Christmas morning memories I want! Now we have real memories of silly games and lingering breakfasts. Sometimes we don’t finish opening the gifts because we’re having so much fun. The kids don’t mind, it gives them something to look forward to later on that night.
My favorite deck is our winter break deck. It consists of mostly Project or Giving cards. I design this deck to have the kids choose one card each day over the winter break, and that is the activity we do on that day. It is easy for winter break to become a loop of video games and boredom, especially when the weather is bad. Last year the temperature dipped into the negative numbers for the entire break, and going outside to play for long periods of time just wasn’t happening. The kids looked forward to picking that card every morning and then carrying out the activity on it. Some of my favorites from last year:
- Make and deliver a care package to a homeless person (we do that here)
- Build a bird feeder, bird house or birdbath (we are making bird seed ornaments this year)
- Learn how to can fresh fruit – one of our activities this year, they’ll get to pick the flavors themselves.
- Call a relative and wish them a good holiday – This one is important, it’s easy to forget to reach out to distant family when we are so busy.
- Family Bests Journal – start a journal for each family member to write the best thing that happened to them that week – I love this one, it is a great way to teach the kids to focus on the positive.
Of course this is only a very small sampling of what you can do with the game. There are so many cards and categories I haven’t even touched on here. I give The Christmas Game as a gift every year, to families who are desperately trying to dig themselves out of a Christmas commercialism rut. Now, instead of griping about long lines or lists of toys we need to buy, we swap new game ideas and share photos of the fun projects we have done! I am such a huge fan of this game because it has given us the kind of holidays you see in movies, and what we’ve earned is invaluable. Knowing my kids will grow up with these memories from their holidays and hopefully continue the traditions we’ve started with their own kids is just about the best Christmas gift I could ever imagine!
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