Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Christmas means carnage...

Okay, Christmas doesn't really mean carnage but I have to laugh at that little scene from the movie "Babe." Especially after all the presents are unwrapped and there are bits of paper, bows, and ribbon strewn everywhere.
In our oft-times materialistic society, the focus can tend to be on "How much will I get?" or the opposite, yet still materialistic, "How much can I give?". The real reason for the Christmas season can get lost in the midst of the hustle and bustle of fulfilling what we perceive as obligations, trying to be the best holiday hostess, trying to not disappoint our families, buying things, wrapping things, sending things, making things, and eating things. I think, too, there's a big emphasis on making Christmas not all about the stuff but while those efforts are worthwhile, it still adds extra pressure. If I don't donate to every worthy charity, help in the local soup kitchen, or donate toys at the mall, I'm a Scrooge. It can be very overwhelming and simply suck the joy right out.  I worked in retail for 7 years and can attest that while there are moments of true "holiday spirit" out there, most times people were rude, selfish, overbearing, stressed, and less than nice as they shopped. It took 2 years of 'recovery' for me to enjoy Christmas again.

And I enjoy Christmas! I love it! It's my favorite holiday of the year (although Easter and July 4th come in close seconds.) To combat some of the holiday craziness, we try to focus our Christmas celebration on the birth of Christ and how that is the greatest gift we could ever receive!
We've found ways and traditions to make that work for our family. Here's what our Christmas looks like:

* We send Christmas cards. I stamp and papercraft, and I love making cards. I try to make them earlier in the year so that after Thanksgiving, they're ready to address and send. We usually print pics of the younglings to go inside. It's a way for us to keep in touch with family that's geographically far away.

* We keep the decorating fairly simple. The younglings each have a small tree in their bedrooms that they decorate themselves. The living room, dining room, and kitchen all get a little dressing up, and we decorate the front porch. No elaborate light displays with timed music or giant inflatable things outside.

* We don't bake. Simple as that.

* We try to keep gifts for teachers and coaches small, and we do the same year after year. Something like hand-dipped pretzels in a cute container.

* We don't exchange gifts with my husband's family (they live several states away) or co-workers, just cards. We draw names with my family. Bass and I put our name in as a couple so we only buy for 1 adult and for any kids (right now, there's only one child other than our own.) I like being able to focus on buying for just one person. I feel like I can put more effort into choosing gifts or making special things for just that one person.

* Each year we buy or make 1 tree ornament for each child which they open the day we decorate the tree, and we buy 1 Christmas book that we open on Christmas Eve.
Last year's tree shortly after moving into this house. Notice the unpainted windows and lack of window treatment---eek!
* We listen to the same Christmas CD each year when we decorate the tree. (Avon's Christmas Treasury of Classics ---- it's super old but it was the only Christmas tape we had, I think, and we always had it playing for tree decorating.)

* We go to church for the Christmas Eve service each year and read the Christmas story (Luke 2) on Christmas morning after we open our stockings.

* We only buy 7 presents total for each member in our family. It helps us keep expenses low and again focuses our shopping into something meaningful. I found a Victorian era poem ages ago that we use for our stocking gifts. It says:
Something to eat
Something to read
Something to play with
and Something they need.
I find a gift that fits each of those categories and actually wrap them before putting them in the stockings. It cuts down on the random junk and cheap fillers that I'd probably be tempted to buy.
For our main gifts, we do 3 larger gifts:  gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Well, not literally. That would get boring and probably expensive. I don't see my 7 year old being terribly impressed with myrrh either. :)
Each of the three has a meaning behind it.
Gold is something valuable or something that they really want.
Frankincense is something that can be done with or for the family. (Ex. sewing lessons with Mom, a DVD to watch together, or a board game)
Myrrh is something that they need. (Usually of higher value than the stocking gift.)

And that's about it. There are other fun activities or holiday parties that come up each year. Usually I sing in the church cantata, and the kids have opportunity to sing at church or school. We like driving around to see Christmas light displays and decorations and have a list of favorite movies and CDs that we bring out each year. We try to keep a balance as we celebrate..... if an activity is going to be too much, we simply don't do it. If it will fit in our schedule and add something to our lives, we say yes.

The biggest thing for me is to spend the weeks before Christmas praying that the Lord would show me something new this year. A friend told me that she had made this her prayer each Christmas and Easter season, and I loved the idea. I've already begun praying that He would open my eyes to something new this year, something to reflect on, something to wonder about, something to hold on to, that would make Christmas even more special.
1st Christmas present from Bass --- an olive wood, hand carved nativity from Israel

No matter what the traditions are in your family, may all of your holiday celebrations be joyous and filled with love! Merry Christmas!

Linking up to some of these parties and here.


  1. Jennifer, I love the 7 gifts idea. May God bless you beautifully in this celebration season...and always!

  2. What lovely traditions you have created for your family.


Your kind comments make me smile!

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