Thursday, November 29, 2012

Incredible Shrinking Christmas

My kids don’t really need anything. I come to this conclusion every year when I contemplate Christmas gifts. I’m certain they would not agree with me here, but compared to the rest of the world, they want for nothing. And yet, Santa beckons. 

Every year I say I’m going to cut back. We aren’t going to give as much or spend as much or stress out as much. This is going to be the year. This year. Really. Of course, December hasn’t even begun so there is plenty of time to catch the frenzy. 

I floated the idea of a smaller Christmas with my ten-year-old. “What does that mean?” was his logical question. I explained it would be more about quality rather than quantity. Surprisingly, he embraced the idea. “I have too much stuff to carry up the stairs. So it would be good to get less of that.” (translation: I’m too lazy to carry the toys I cart downstairs from my room back up to my room each day, so logic follows that if he has less stuff, he has less stuff to carry.) He then went on to elaborate, “So that way I could get the really, really big nerf gun instead of bunch of little things.” Hmmm.  

I suppose I am just grateful that my child is in favor of less stuff, even if his motivation is saving his own sweat. I think he’s not alone in this desire for fewer belongings. I think all of us are weighted down by the things we own. I heard a sermon once about simplifying that went like this: “Every single thing you buy will require you to use it, clean it, find a place for it, repair it, maintain it, and eventually get rid of it. Better to not buy it in the first place.” The more stuff we accumulate, the more trips up the stairs, the less time for living our lives. 

I’ve fantasized about going on a cruise for Christmas or a vacation to the Islands. I know people who’ve done this. But somehow between finding a horse-sitter and suffering the expense and hassle of traveling at the holidays, the dream remains a fantasy.  

And, honestly, I love Christmas morning in my house. I love waking up and knowing how happy my children will be that day. I love baking cinnamon monkey bread, our once a year treat. I love piling in to the living room in my pjs with my kids and parents and watching the cat navigate the bodies and presents complaining that no one has remembered to feed her. I even love going out to the barn and wishing the horses a Merry Christmas. Mucking a stall on Christmas day seems better than on other days. 

Maybe what I love about Christmas the most though, is not the presents or stockings or sinfully yummy food. It’s the quiet on Christmas afternoon. Everyone is sated with happiness and food. There is nothing that must be done (except for my husband – he must decipher instruction manuals and find appropriate batteries). I can lounge all day with my cup of tea and whatever wonderful book I found under the tree. If I want to, I can play the games on my kindlefire that I loaded a year ago and have never had the time or the guilt-free zone to indulge in. I can even take a nap on the couch by the woodstove with the cat. It doesn’t get much better. 

Even when the kids were little, I remember Christmas afternoon as a time of truce. No one was fighting. Everyone was feeling grateful and happy. Or at least exhausted and willing to nap.  

As we march towards Christmas, this year I really am going to try to stay out of the fray. Oh, I’ll sing carols and badger my husband into hanging up lights. I’ll bake some holiday treats and take the kids Christmas shopping for their father. Always a fun adventure, we’ve graduated from “anything you want to get him from the Dollar Store” (which honestly thrilled them no end, but also resulted in some pretty funny and heartfelt gifts – bearclaw ice scraper anyone? Plastic screwdriver set made in China?) to a calculated assault on the Home Depot.  
2010 Christmas Bear
We’ll choose and cut our own tree from the shrinking farm near the high school and take pictures with the fake bear (see pics!) in the parking area. And even though they are almost all teens now, I am certain there will be a serious argument over who gets to put the star on the tree. Just like I know there will be endless negotiations over who gets to hang up the advent ornament on the advent calendar each day. 

2011 Christmas Bear
The traditions and memories of Christmas time are riches for the soul. But I think I’m also ready to step back some from the hysteria and overindulgence. I’d like to seek the quiet. I’m going to make room for the wonder. I won’t be so busy baking and scheming and cleaning that I miss out on the awe. On some of these charged December evenings, after everyone is in bed (or at least in their bedrooms with their headphones on), I plan to turn off all the lights except the Christmas tree lights. I’ll settle myself by the woodstove with my tea and bask in the multi-colored abundance that is my life.

My Favorite Blog Post full of Ideas for Simpler Christmas


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