The first year my husband and I were together, I remember going shopping for Christmas presents for just about everybody we knew. Family, friends, coworkers… we did some serious shopping. We did most of it at outlet stores and off-retail places, but we did a lot of shopping. A few years later we hosted my husband’s parents for Christmas, and we had just bought our first home earlier that year. So we put up a tree and strung lights all over our house, and bought lots of presents. My husband told me later that he nearly fell off the two-story roof onto the picket fence below, so the next year we just put lights on our porch railing. We’ve gradually been scaling down Christmas around here for the last several years, and it just keeps getting better and better.
This year, I made ornaments for our nieces (something I do every year, and our nieces really like their homemade ornaments). I also made some blocks for a friend’s daughter, and a small scrapbook for my mother in law. The week before Christmas we went to visit an elderly friend who is in a rehab facility following a broken hip. We spend some time just sitting and talking with him, and it seemed to bring him a lot of happiness. We put together a basket of food for him, including some homemade soup that we took to his house and stashed in the freezer so it would be there when he got out of the rehab facility. On Christmas day, we went to my parents’ house for dinner with the whole family, and took along some homemade treats.
That’s all that we did for Christmas, and it was wonderful. No decorations, no shopping, no hoping that UPS would get a last-minute gift somewhere on time. No holiday craziness at all. We opened our gifts from my husband’s parents on December 23rd (my brother and sister visited on the 24th, and we were at my parents’ on the 25th, so the 23rd made sense). In true toddler fashion, our son enjoyed the wrapping paper most of all, and a pair of dad-sized gloves.
I know a lot of people get a bit bummed after Christmas is over. It makes sense if you think about it… there’s so much build up and anticipation surrounding the holiday. People shop for weeks (and months!), make all sorts of plans, wrap presents, count down the days of December… and then it’s over. Advent calendars always seem a bit odd to me – aren’t the first 24 days of December just as good as the 25th? Why would we want to bypass them and count them down? It’s like wishing your life away with a fancy, decorated calendar. And of course there’s the financial stress that so often comes after Christmas is over, when all the credit card bills roll in.
For us, Christmas was just like any other day, except we got to go have dinner with my parents and siblings. We didn’t spend any more money in December than we do in any other month, and we didn’t have any holiday stress. If you truly love the commercial celebration of Christmas, then by all means, have at it. But so often I hear people talking about how much they hate the commercialization and stress that go along with Christmas. If that’s the case, you don’t have to keep doing it the same way you’ve done it in the past. Make the holidays a time to relax and enjoy your friends and family instead of a time to spend money and stress yourself out. It can be done, and my own experience is that it’s a whole lot better this way.
I hope you’re all having a great holiday season, and that the things you do to celebrate truly bring you peace and joy.