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Simple Christmas

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How to celebrate the holidays and birthdays were on the top of my list when I found out I was going to get to be a parent?  How to make things memorable, but keep the stuff at a minimum.  How to make things meaningful and not material.

Well, we’re still figuring out how to approach the first birthday in February, but I think we’ve got Christmas figured out.

The first big realization I came to was that … I can’t control other people.  I can beg, plead and make all the overarching announcements I want, but I really can’t control what Henry’s grandparents, great grandparents, aunts and uncles get him or in what quantities.  We will always try to offer up suggestions like giving experiences and “Please for the love of all things good and holy, no talking books or “My Own Little Ipad”, but our influence on others stops there.

But, we can control what we do and bring into our own home through our own celebrations.  After much hemming and hawing we have arrived at a plan for Christmas.  While I don’t love copious amounts of unnecessary stuff, I do love the Holidays – I love stockings, Santa, presents and everything in between and for the last month I’ve been trying to figure out the correct balance for our family.

We could give into every whim and spend a couple K that we don’t have buying things that we’ll only have to upgrade in sixth months when the ghost of Steve-Jobs-Past issues out the next best do-hickie the world can’t live without.

Or we could forsake the holiday as an evil pagan tradition and shut up our home to the blinking lights and toss the plate of cookies out the front door, saying “Get behind me, Santa!”

Yeah… not so much.

We’ll do Advent (more so as the kids get older) and we’ll do charity.  We’ll do Midnight Mass and tons of secular holiday movies and music (yep, the Barenaked Ladies “Elf’s Lament plays along with “Silent Night” on this playlist!)  We’ll do Santa and family and way too much food and we’ll do presents.

We’ve got a plan for that last part and this is what it’s coming down to (some of it’s old traditions and some of it’s new)

  • Christmas Eve Pajamas – a new set of pj’s for each member of the family to be changed into after Christmas Eve service
  • Stocking – a couple small presents and treats, funny gifts (but not useless junk) acceptable, a book or movie is a possibility, and what homemade or knitted thing I’ve managed to finish that year (this year might be a bust)
  • Necessity Box – Parent’s favorite, kids will hate it.  A present with new supplies of underwear, socks and any other “basic” items needing for the next year including toiletries and maybe one or two larger clothing items if needed.
  • The 3 Gifts – Mom, Dad and each kid get three main presents (eventually we’ll use this to teach about the story of the Wise Men) off their Christmas list.  Kids (and adults!) can make a list of more than 3 items, but will understand that 3 is what they will get come Christmas Day

That’s it, that our plan for that holiday hurdle of presents.  Combined with a couple of gifts from each grandparent, aunts and uncles, etc. I have no fear that our “3 gift” limit will deprive our child of the holiday spirit while limiting the amount of things that we bring into the house.

This should also be a challenge for me.  I’m not one for mountains of gifts, but I do find myself picking up one extra thing on those last days before Christmas and I think a limit will help curb this well.

Tonight I went through Henry’s “Toy Box” aka the box of things I’ve picked up thrifting that I’m holding for holidays and birthdays.  I picked out three toys that he’s ready for – a string of wooden zoo animals, a set of puzzles and a big plastic, simple toy truck.  Done and done, not only are all of the gifts second-hand and in great shape, but I doubt I paid more than $15 for the lot of them and most likely I used my consignment credit and they were free.  I feel pretty good about not only living up to my “Make Do” standards, but am also knocking off a few “R”s of the good ol “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle”.

Are you guys setting limits on your budget or the number of things this year?  Do you think I’m horrible depriving my family and child or are you astonished in our lavish Christmas gifting plans?  It’s okay you can be honest, but no matter how you celebrate and how many gifts are under your tree, I hope we all take a moment to reflect on what a season of giving really means!

And does anyone else wish that they had Molly Weasley’s self propelled knitting needles to finish that list of homemade goodies you swore you were going to get to this year and then bought a house instead?

Just me?



7 responses »

  1. It’s absolutely *perfect*! A “simple” Christmas at its finest…. 🙂 My husband and I have greatly differing opinions on gift giving, so it’s hard to keep our Christmas “simple”, but year by year, I’m making progress! 😉

  2. I read recently about how one family does Christmas. Each child gets 4 presents from their parents: something they want, something they need, something to wear, something to read. I LOVE this idea and hope to implement something like this for our family next year. We tried putting the kibosh on the crazy amount of toys (for Christmas and birthdays) a few years back and we were deemed “mean parents” by my in-laws.

    I don’t have any knitting that needs to be done, but I do have tons of hours sitting at my desk worth of sewing left to do, if that makes you feel any better 🙂

    • I’ve heard of those gifting giving rules too and they’re something I’m trying to keep in mind.
      And you’re right it’s so hard to find a good way to tell other family that we’d love for them to spend their money in other ways! I’ve been trying to drop hints for months that we’d like passes to the children’s museum as our main gift.
      I think that most of my crafting is not going to make deadline this year =(

  3. I’m just jealous I didn’t think of this when I first started having kids…You are a smart cookie!

  4. I don’t think you’re depriving your family in any. I come from a family where, as a child, we received one gift during Christmas from our parents, and that’s it. Gifts from relatives and friends were scarce as well, even though they could afford it. I think it’s great that you’re setting limits for your family, teaching the children to appreciate the holiday and not the gifts without compromising on anything. Don’t worry, they’re not deprived!

  5. Sounds great! We’re doing very similar things, above all the 3 gift limit – good enough for Jesus, good enough for us. And I agree that the three gift limit is really good for me above anyone else, or like you I’d be running out to get just one more thing! We aren’t doing the Christmas pjs this year but likely will in the future. Our stockings are going to be your necessity boxes I think – my husband’s getting boxers, my brother-in-law’s getting socks, I’m getting camisoles, and Miriam’s getting hairties. I think you can make these things fun, too – like fun socks and character underwear and whatever else.

    Great work already having Henry’s gifts and not having to go out into the madness! Have you thought at all about saying certain gifts are from Santa and certain ones are from parents? I haven’t really, and just planned on having gifts appear, but wondered what other people’s takes on that were.

    • I’m not going to worry about Santa for a couple of years until Hanks a little bit more aware of the holidays, but I do plan on having Santa gifts and Mom/Dad gifts – Santa will be the stocking stuffers, Mom/Dad will be the 3 gifts.


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