Saturday, November 21, 2009

What would you do/not do this Christmas?

     I was reading a post over at frugal upstate, where 2 questions were posed:
  1. What one thing you would eliminate from your holiday schedule if you could?
  2. What tradition or event would you add if you could?
     Interesting questions.  Years ago I eliminated quite a bit of decorating and switched to a small tree.  I didn't enjoy getting it all out, having hopes that somehow everyone would gather like a who down in whoville to joyously help me put it up, much less take it down.  I decided to only put up what made me feel happy.  No one complained or cared, so I continued with the lessened decorations, but filled my home with great holiday music and delicious smells of cookies baking.  That was easy!
      If I had to pick a new thing to change, it would probably be less gift giving to adults.  Doing less of that would allow me the money to give gifts to more of the children in my extended family.  Overall, we give less gifts than we used to.  We set up a budget and try to stick to it.  We only give our kids a few presents, plus a few hand-made presents.  They don't care.  They seem satisfied.  It will be interesting to see if that changes when they go to school and find out what other kids get.
     If I was to add another tradition, it would be to get a bunch of fun, cool fam/friends to hang out and bake or package previously baked cookies and take them to the nursing home I work at to pass out together, maybe host a game (like bingo, or a wii bowling contest) for the residents with awesome prizes.  The home I work at is an inner city home with a large number of young (20-60 yrs old) patients, many with mental illness or severe addictions that have brought on catastrophic medical situations.  Many have limited access to family.  They could use some fun and homemade goodies.  I adopt a resident and give them presents from Santa each year.  Some family members have chipped in during the past few years, which has allowed me to adopt extra residents and give better gifts. That has been a highlight for me personally, as I see them enjoy some of the gifts all year, like one lady that would sit out in the sunshine listening to the transistor radio she got.  Or the man that wears size5XL and loved getting a warm jacket he could actually zip up and a purple (his fave color) shirt to wear to the facility church service on Sunday, so he feels good about himself.
     I love all the traditions we have, and all the new traditions that are evolving as people are starting new careers, families, etc...  This year my brother is hosting Christmas Eve for my family get-together.  It will be exciting to celebrate in his new place.  My husband's side will celebrate faux-Christmas, meaning it will occur a few days after Christmas when everyone can be in town together, which will make it even more relaxed and fun.  This will be my first Christmas without my Grandmother, which is hard because we were very close (even lived together), but her cookie tradition will continue as I bake her favorite recipes.  I will shed a tear as I sing along with Star Wars' Christmas in the Stars, remembering my Dad doing so when I was young.
     Although I had answers for the 2 questions posed, I am quite content with the way things are.  It was interesting taking a look at what we do as a family.  I am glad we keep it to a minimum and don't get stressed out over the holidays.  But what I am truly thankful for is that my huge family is so loving and welcoming to all the amazing new additions to our family. I love that my family, my husband's family, my sisters' fiancees families, my brothers' sweetie's families all can get together, anytime of the year, without drama or ill-will, but with acceptance and friendship.  What a great gift that is to me!
     So, do you have any answers to the 2 questions? 


  1. Shannon,

    Interesting to think about how to actually make your holidays more fun and less stressful by obligating yourself to doing less. This economy is a good excuse for us to 'get real' about our actual incomes and right-size our spending. I've actually been feeling the economic pinch for about a decade now. Things are worse now than ever...but I have been slowly and surely reducing over the past several years.

    My solution has been to only do gifts for children. My parents are retired and on a budget. My sister is always working hard to make ends meet as a single woman with school loans to pay off. We had a frank discussion a few years ago and came to the realization that we would ALL be happier without the stress related to finding gifts for one another. Instead, we are all under strict orders to go out AFTER the holidays (when they have the 80% discount sales) and find a treat for ourselves that we actually want.

    This is nice because everyone gets what they really want. And everyone gets a day out to look. A solo trip to the mall happens maybe twice a year for me. The outing is more exciting to me than anything I buy. I'd have a blast just window shopping. George also enjoys a leisurely trip (alone) to Best Buy or whatever so he can take the time to really look around.

    Instead of focusing of gift giving, I focus on food! We do eat very well. I also make a big deal out of rituals like having an annual cookie exchange...decorating (on a sane and limited way)...getting a tree, playing the holiday tunes and the like. Kylie thinks our way is 'normal' because she does not know better! She is not a kid who is very into 'stuff'. She thinks getting 5 or 6 modest things is a huge deal.

    I am thinking about having a holiday get together this year on top of the cookie exchange. I'd like to add a holiday open house to our annual traditions. Seeing friends and enjoying some goodies makes this my favorite time of year after summer. (I also love it when my out-of-town friends visit as it is a rare treat to see them in person.)

  2. Great post, Shannon! Nothing but a tree - except for stuff that the kids (well, now just Daniel) have made at school & love to see up for all to admire. Cookies! Even though it's the slice-n-bake way, the kids & I will make the house smell fabulous for one fun afternoon around Christmas, and go crazy with sprinkles. Love your suggestion of the yearly visit to the nursing home. Having done a lot of work with seniors at two different libraries, I know everything you say in your post is absolutely true: those visits - however brief - are so valuable. When we delivered books to homebound seniors, we grew to realize that our monthly visit was really a special occasion for some of them. The gift of time is the most appreciated. And yes, small but thoughtful gifts that make a world of difference to someone: I know my kids would have fun picking out and giving small items (radios, puzzles, small throw/blanket, packets of cocoa or tea, etc.) and maybe even reading some books aloud with them. We're in!

  3. Aurora, I absolutely love slice and bake cookies! I think putting the focus on something specific, like the tree, or some other special decoration is less overwhelming and allows you to enjoy it more. Nothing like laying on the floor, eating cookies while everything is lit up by the lights from the tree. If I do get around to organizing a nursing home day, I hope you all can come! I do know that if I do, it won't be during the holiday season! Maybe at Valentine's time or something, when things are slower and it's a time when people are feeling cooped up and need a little cheering.
    Lori, I love the idea of giving each other the gift of treating yourself! That's something I don't do as often as I should. Great idea! An open house sounds fun! Your home is so lovely, I can't imagine how nice all that hard work you put in this summer looks!