While I realize that Christmas is still 5 ½ weeks away, my husband and I finished our Christmas shopping 6 weeks early!
Before anyone thinks we’re so amazing, I will confess that our shopping list is not long for Christmas. We have no children and, between us, we have fourteen nephews and nieces, eleven of whom we still buy for. Our rule of thumb is, after 21, they’re adults and, while we still love them very much, Christmas is for kids.
Another thing we do to simplify Christmas is give gift cards. Our reason for this is two fold. Most of the kids we buy for don’t live in the area (in fact, only one does) so postage on a gift can sometimes cost about as much as the gift or take away from a nicer gift to afford the postage.
Secondly, I, frankly, am out of touch with kids. I always have been. I was never a typical kid so it’s hard for me to buy for kids. I’ve always preferred quiet music, a tidy atmosphere and my favorite gift for years was the annual diary my mom gave me. I couldn’t wait to open it up because she always wrote something special on May 20th – my birthday. How many kids these days would really get excited about something like that? I can think of one…just one.
I was talking with someone the other day about the pressure and expectations that Christmas time brings and it’s such an irony, isn’t it? It’s suppose to be this wonderful, joyous season but it’s become stressful and disappointing. Grown ups working their rears off to try to cross every ‘want’ off a child’s list, planning the perfect Christmas dinner or Christmas get together. People not getting along, people grunting and running around in stores, parking lots fuller than usual so you have to park in another lot to run into places like Fred Meyer just to buy some yogurt.
Okay, and what is it with so many people feeling the need to wolf down their Thanksgiving dinner so they can rush the stores on a day that, traditionally, has been set aside to reconnect with family? I even have close Christian friends who participate in this pathetic new ritual. Not that Christians are somehow superior to everyone else. It’s just, you’d think we’d be more ‘spiritually connected’ or something that we could take one day to not consume. Please don’t feed me the line that it’s such a great deal, you can’t pass it up. Has anyone ever heard the saying ‘There’s no such thing as a free lunch?’ Trust me, time will reveal we’re giving up more than we realize by succumbing to this new ‘tradition’.
I applaud the stores who haven’t bought into (pardon the pun) being open on Thanksgiving and the states that still live under the Blue Laws. Interesting that, when polled, those states have no desire to repeal those laws. Hey, if you have to buy on Thanksgiving, go on line and let more retail workers stay home with their families.
Here’s another year to simplify, to finally invoke a new tradition of sitting by the fire with hot cocoa and playing board games together in the days that lead up to Christmas. I read about a family who takes pine cones, dips them in peanut butter, adds seeds and goes on a forest walk on Christmas morning to hang the pine cones from trees for the birds. I love that! String popcorn and decorate an outdoor tree for the birds to enjoy.
Baking cookies together and passing them out to neighbors is always a good one. Make the dough one night and the cookies the next night to make it last longer and be a more enjoyable tradition.
Take a day to drive to the mountain and play in the snow together. It doesn’t have to be expensive. Go to a cross country skiing area and just play off the trails, throw snow balls. Find a park with a warming hut and you can take a picnic and a thermos of hot cocoa.
Watch old animated Christmas programs and movies together. My husband and I literally move our furniture in front of the t.v. to watch movies pretty routinely. We have a big screen but it just feels quirky and fun to do it. In fact, when our closest-living niece and nephew come over, they just know to do it instinctively and usually have the living room set up while we’re putting munchies together in the kitchen.
I really think Christmas and the holidays, in general, have exploded because of unconscious choices. I believe kids crave the traditions, the let-down-your-hair time only family offers. Have the nerve to buck the system and try some more simple things this year. Those are the memories kids will take with them as they grow up; not what electronics they received or what designer clothes. You want proof? What gifts do you remember receiving when you were young? What traditions or family memories do you remember?