We've always been as purposeful and personal as possible in gift giving, so our transition to a different way of celebrating Christmas won't be super difficult. I like how McKibben, in Hundred Dollar Holiday, points out that this change can be gradual. It does not have to happen overnight, especially if your kids are older and accustomed to a very commercial holiday. For us, we have the advantage that Chiquita is so young (15 months) and we are therefore just getting starting in creating our own Family Traditions.
We still want gift-giving to be a part of our Christmas celebration, but we don't want it to be the main focus anymore. Whether we wanted it to be like that or not, that's often how it turned out. I remember the awe and excitement of coming out to a tree filled with presents underneath. I'm going to be honest and say that presents have been a, if not the, highlight for me at Christmas, and that's something I feel that needed to change in my heart. It was fun, but I feel like we can make Christmas just as fun without quite that much.
Just like I feel that giving and getting goodie bags is fun at a birthday party, giving and getting a few simple gifts at Jesus' birthday party will be fun too. But hopefully this way, it won't overshadow really celebrating Him.
Here are a few of the way that we plan to celebrate Christmas from now on-- ideas we've talked about implementing or continuing. I'd love to hear your ideas too.
Spend time together making/preparing our gifts to be given, rather than shopping
Give simple, ideally homemade or sustainable (presents we do buy should also be handmade or support an organization) gifts to our family and close friends, spending a minimal, set-amount on all total presents
Continue the stocking tradition from my family (fun, funny and often practical little gifts in a cute, homemade stocking, and always with an orange at the bottom!)
Give gifts to others outside our circle like a family/child in need (like the "Angel Tree" ornaments my brother and I did growing up), or Operation Christmas Child boxes
Spend less time on Christmas morning opening gifts (since there will be less of them); the focus will be on time spent together instead: play games, watch a movie, sing some worship songs together, etc
Celebrate Advent (I did this growing up and I'd like to continue it) as a way to look forward to Christmas with a wreath, a calendar and special activities on the Sundays before Christmas
Decorate our Christmas tree (and maybe make it a living one!)
Go to church on Christmas Eve
Food will (continue to) be a big focus! One family tradition we do is make Lefsa, a Norweigan food similar to a tortilla made from day-old mashed potatoes on Christmas morning
Have everyone contribute to the big Christmas lunch/dinner/dunch/linner -- chaos could ensue with this many cooks in the kitchen, but it will I'm sure be fun too!
Spend time outside, even if it's cold
We already do a lot of these things, but adding in some new traditions and modifying how we celebrate a little will be helpful in refocusing our Christmas and alleviating some of the stress mentioned in Part 1 of this series. With less time spent shopping and stressing out on gifts, more time will be left to spending with people. Time is essentially our culture's most valuable commodity these days; it seems we never have enough of it. So why not make that more of a focus during the most special time of year?
Do you have any other suggestions for simplifying Christmas?