UnPlug the Christmas Machine

UnPlug the Christmas Machine

Believing in the true spirit of Christmas, I commit myself to… Remember those people who truly need my gifts…




What is UnPlug the Christmas Machine?
It is a popular book that has helped individuals refocus on the true meaning of Christmas in a culture that believes more is better. It is perhaps best known for the “Christmas Pledge”:

The Christmas Pledge

Believing in the true spirit of Christmas, I commit myself to…
* Remember those people who truly need my gifts
* Express my love in more direct ways than gifts
* Examine my holiday activities in the light of my deepest values
* Be a peacemaker within my circle of family and friends
* Rededicate myself to my spiritual growth


Free Study Guide
A study guide to use with the book (Copyright ©1991 by Jo Robinson and Jean Coppock Staeheli) is available for free online.

Sample Discussion Activity
One of the activities that the Leader’s Guide offers (for a workshop) includes the following discussion of nine categories that stress people out over the holidays. For more information on these subjects, refer to Unplug the Christmas Machine.

1. Holiday preparations  
While people know full well that they are busier than usual at Christmas, they invariably underestimate the amount of work involved. Few people realize how many of the chores are primarily the responsibility of women. Throughout history, Christmas has been a celebration of hearth and home, and logically, women have played the key role.

But today, the family celebration has become increasingly elaborate and women’s lives have become more diverse. Over 50 percent of all women now have outside jobs in addition to managing the household. This means that a lot of women feel overburdened by their traditional holiday role.

2. Family and friends
For most participants, spending time with family and friends is one of the most important parts of Christmas. Even if they have little money to spend and little time to devote to holiday preparations ­ if they are surrounded by close and loving people, they will have a good Christmas. But for some of the participants, the family reunion is disappointing. Often the problem can be traced to long- standing family difficulties. The knowledge that few of their key relationships are simple and tension-free.

Human relationships are complex and when the added strain of the Christmas season is factored in, there are few families that sail through the season without periods of tension or unhappiness. A mature acceptance of this reality can add immeasurably to people’s enjoyment of the holiday. But sometimes the family tension comes from another reason ­ poor planning, such as trying to see too many people in too short a time, or neglecting the needs of young children ­ which can be remedied.

3. Finances
As a nation, we spend billions of dollars to wish each other a Merry Christmas. And each year advertisers spend millions of dollars trying to persuade us to spend even more. (“Nothing feels like real gold.”) But for many families, the amount of money spent on Christmas strains the budget and/or results in a lavish celebration that is in conflict with their values or spiritual beliefs.

4. Family traditions
Some people will discover that their celebrations are cluttered up by some meaningless activities, while others will realize that theirs are too empty. They need to plan a more comfortable level of activity.

5. The spirit of Christmas
Whether they are churchgoing or not at Christmas, people want to feel connected with ideas and experiences that are larger than themselves. But frequently the very way they celebrate Christmas works against the spiritual feelings they long for. There are several common problems.

  • People may be relying entirely on church sponsored activities for value and meaning while their family celebrations are devoid of spirituality.
  • They may be so busy with gift giving and social activities that they don’t have the time or presence of mind to nurture their spiritual lives.
  • They haven’t taken the time to decide what is truly important to them about the celebration.
  • Non-Christians may be overwhelmed by the task of trying to find their own meaning in a secular, commercial celebration.

6. Christmas presents
In many American families, gift giving has eclipsed all other Christmas traditions, taking up more time, money, and energy than all the other parts of the celebration combined. And yet, when people have a chance to stop and think about it, many decide that this obsession with gift giving robs the celebration of meaning.

7. Physical well being.  
Most people can’t imagine being relaxed and renewed by the holiday season. The unspoken law is that you should push yourself to the limit in a quest for a perfect Christmas. Balance bursts of energy with activities that restore vitality and enthusiasm, making it possible to be more loving and receptive to the people.

8. Children 
For many adults, children are the one true note of the holiday season. When Christmas seems to them little more than an excuse to eat too much, drink too much, and spend too much money, one look at a child dancing around the Christmas tree can restore their faith in the celebration. But parents often find that Christmas commercialism makes it difficult to create a spiritual, meaningful, joyful holiday for their children.

9. Charity
Even though charity has been an integral part of Christmas for centuries, many people are surprised by how few charitable activities they take part in. One reason for lack of involvement is that commercial interests encourage them to channel their resources into giving gifts to equally affluent family and friends rather than reaching out to those in need. Another reason could be that they are so busy orchestrating a grand production they don’t have the time, money, or energy to devote to the needy.


UnPlug the Christmas Machine and the activities associated with it can be found at Simple Living


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