Past Christmases in my family have always been about the kids, big haul or no. Much like my parents in their time, we continued the Santa myth with our own kids. It was a simple formula really, meant to keep the budget tight while maximizing count per kid, ‘the haul’ rated by the shear pile of boxes before the big opening. More was better.
Each year, I marked the Christmas shopping list for each of four kids, June through October:
Something to wear
Something to read
Maybe a ‘want’
Surely a ‘need’
(And a little something from Santa)
I don’t particularly remember details of my own Christmases. There was the year I got a skateboard. I remember it only because of the unseasonable warmth — it was one of the few Christmases we were wearing shorts outside. Forty years ago when boots were all the rage a need was apparently filled as my own mother checked items off her list.
Perhaps she stuck a comb in my stocking for good measure.
My parents always made sure we had a great Christmas, no matter what their financial situation. We were definitely not wealthy, and a few times, I’m told, my grandparents seeded the pressie fund. I can’t remember ever not loving what I got for Christmas, but needless to say it was lot of stuff I don’t have anymore.
A few years back when Scott got the pink slip in time for Thanksgiving — an impending lay-off for January — we did what we could to keep the magic alive for our kids without spending needlessly. Re-purposing some of my old toys from the attic and accepting hand-me-overs from friends was a cinch; these were new to my kids who had never seen them before. He wound up keeping his job (and we saved the money), but the kids were none the wiser.
It remains to-date one of our best Christmases ever.
Today, there is an internal struggle in me against consumerism (particularly as it pertains to the season’s shopping madness). It keeps me from compulsory gift-buying — especially ones that really aren’t needed by the recipient. I’d rather use my time and wits to create something more useful, more memorable. I have no religious affiliation with the holiday, and with four the kids now home for school, the Christmas That Wasn’t was a foregone conclusion by September.
My husband and I rehearsed The Santa Talk and waited for the right opportunity to break the news to the kids. The bunnies arrived as if on cue.
Expensive supplies like a hutch, fencing and household bunny-proofing combined with an enormous vet bill would all but eat up the untapped Christmas budget. (And we live by a budget; they know this too well.) They also know that Mom and Dad do all the shopping for Christmas. It came down to a democratic vote: rescue three little bunnies from certain doom or throw together Christmas instead.
(And, while we’re on the subject, there’s something you need to know about Santa…)
The vote was unanimous and swift: bunnies were coming home to stay.
The kids braced for the new tradition on Christmas morning, one of perhaps nothing under the tree to open up. For the first time ever, we successfully halted the habitual holiday consumption habit, but we might very well have elevated ourselves to the status of America’s sh*ttiest parents.
Only time will tell.
Cookie-decorating at Grandma’s has been an annual tradition since the older cousins started it more than a decade ago. On Christmas Eve (or even the week before) it’s this Christmas tradition my kids love the most. This year, it helped take the sting off The Christmas That Wasn’t, the one that hadn’t even happened yet. After a family dinner, the kids went straight to work exploring their decorating talents and eating themselves silly.
Life is just better with cookies, especially of your own design.
As we wrapped up the evening with those we love most in the world, we blazed a trail for possibly a new tradition of the season, one neither consumptive nor destructive, neither exploitative nor expensive. It might a difficult adjustment out of the old way and into the new, but as long as our experiences are secured through thoughtful and purposeful living, loving, and giving — not so much in having — I feel we simply cannot go wrong.
As for this Christmas That Wasn’t, it might not have been the most awesome ever, but it was definitely the most memorable.
Enjoy your holidays!