Anyone remember that cheesy Christmas saying? If you grew up in a mainline protestant church I'm pretty sure you do. While it is extremely cheesy, I feel that it is a good reminder. Christmas is a special, wonderful time. It's my favorite holiday :) If you are a Christian, Christmas is the time when we celebrate the birth of our Savior with our families. If you aren't, you still make an effort to spend quality time with your loved ones.
Lately, I have been so frustrated with the consumerism surrounding Christmas. When I look back on my childhood Christmas memories, I don't remember what gifts I received each year. If I think really hard, I only remember the times I really hoped for something but didn't get it (sorry, Mom....I was kind of selfish!) When I was growing up my mom was the only one caring for my siblings and me. I have two brothers and two sisters. As you can imagine, money was tight. I remember my mom frequently stressing about not having enough money to buy us presents each year. I always told her that we didn't need them, but as a parent I can totally understand that need to be able to provide a gift for each one of your children. And the feeling of failure when you are unable to.
My family was on the receiving end of a lot of generous giving. Those families whose names you pick off of Christmas trees hanging up at the mall or in your local bookstore? We were that family. This was slightly embarrassing for me growing up. I remember being ashamed that one year our school principal brought us a bag of gifts that had been donated to the school for poor families. Now, however, I am able to see how much my family received and I am forever grateful. I saw first hand the generosity and kindness of others. That generosity is what I remember most about our Christmas presents.
What I also remember from our Christmas celebrations are the traditions that we celebrated. Each year we would go out to a local tree farm and pick out a real, live Christmas tree. This tradition is so strong that when Joe and I were engaged and we began discussing different traditions we may have in our family I jokingly told him that a real tree at Christmas was part of the marriage. You get me and a real Christmas tree every year :) When I was a kid, my siblings and I would take turns picking out the tree each year. I was notorious for picking out monstrous trees. Trees that wouldn't fit through the front door. Trees that fell over when ornaments were placed on them. Trees that required being tied to the window frame with bungee cords just so they could stand straight. My Christmas trees are the stuff of legends and my siblings and I tell the stories of these trees every year. It's so fun to hear everyone's perspective on the event and laugh together.
These are the things I remember most about Christmas growing up. Naturally, these are the things I hope our children will remember. I don't want the focus to be so much on the presents that they forget the traditions and time we spend together as a family. I don't want them to be so intent on what they receive as a gift that they forget to give to others. I want them to experience as much (if not more) joy giving gifts to others as they do getting gifts.
So beginning this year, we are no longer going to buy presents for our family.
Yes, you read that right. We are not going to buy presents. We are going to give gifts that are homemade, creative and are more about the time spent together rather than the physical gift. There are lots of ideas on the internet about alternative Christmas gifts. Buy Nothing Christmas has some great ideas. This year I think we are going to give our girls some pajamas (hopefully second-hand) and a night at a hotel together as a family. I have some really great ideas for my husband that I will share after Christmas. We will also make giving to others (other than family) a big part of our Christmas traditions as well. The gifts for those in need will probably be brand new, but we will make sure to buy from locally owned, independent businesses rather than corporations.
What are you holiday traditions? What alternative gifts will you be giving this year?