Wednesday, 23 November 2011

I'm dreaming of a stressless Christmas

At this time of year there are visions of sugar plums dancing through my head. And I start to get a bit antsy. And headache-y.

I long for a stressless Christmas - of a time of warmth and joy and giving and love. But the whole living in excess thing rears its ugly head around this time too, and I have to consciously think through my purchases. I want it to be a special time together as a family, but not a time that's focused on accumulating more stuff.

I've mentioned here my grandpa and his excitement over a plate filled with nuts, candy, and one orange. I long for this simplicity - this simple joy. But I get caught up in the trappings.

A friend of mine tries to have all of her holiday shopping done by the start of Advent. I think this is a great goal, but now that 1st day of Advent is only 6 days away. Is your holiday blood pressure rising just reading that? I love the idea of having the month of December for enjoying, soaking up all of the Christmas goodness - making food, but not rushing around the mall for gifts people don't need.

Another friend lets her boys - now 5, 8, and 10 - decide between a family experience or gifts. For the past several years, they've all agreed on a family experience, and no gifts. I love this idea too. They've gone to a special hotel that has an indoor waterpark.

Last year we went with our kids to see a production of Peter Pan and gave them a trunk filled with thrift store treasures to dress up and play Peter Pan at home. That trunk still gets pulled out, and the girls reminisce about the play.

I've really tried in past years to simplify for the holidays - expectations as well as gifts. I've tried to be done by the beginning of Advent, but I manage to sneak in more shopping during December because I don't think I've bought "enough". Because here's the thing: I do love to give. Whether it's bought stuff or handmade stuff, it is fun to give. But how much is too much, and how much is enough?

Here's my shopping plan for this Christmas. And I'll try to stick to it.

Derek and I are still deciding on a family experience for this year. Hopefully we'll know by December 24th. Besides that experience, this is the plan for our immediate family:

December: we plan to pack in lots of little things that have become traditions, like the outdoor Christmas pageant complete with real camel and donkey, our church's Christmas program, seeing the lights in Waterloo Park, putting out cookies for Santa and oats with glitter for the flying reindeer, reading little messages from our Advent calendar each day, and watching some holiday movies together.

December 24th: Open new pjs that are wrapped under tree. This has become somewhat of a tradition. New pjs for Christmas Eve.

December 25th: Open Christmas stocking, filled with some small gifts and goodies.

My shopping for our extended families will involve packing little hampers of comfort and joy. One year we had my siblings and parents over for meals - each couple for one meal. We let each couple choose Italian or Asian. The girls had prepared a dance routine for them as after-meal entertainment which was very entertaining. It was nice to visit with each family

SIBLINGS AND PARENTS: DO NOT READ ANY FURTHER PLEASE, OR RISK RUINING THE SURPRISE (which may turn out to be a surprise anyway if the elves don't get everything I dream of here finished in time for Christmas.)

Included in these happy hampers will be:

* homemade peppermint lip balm

* lavender wheat heating bags (I like the instructions here, but I'm not sewing a gecko shape - I'll just make big rectangles.)

* family photos that we had taken by my friend at Open Shutters Photography

* Fun Dip

* probably some good dark chocolate, possibly with sea salt or hot chili pepper

* homemade Bailey's Irish Cream

* and maybe some shortbread or jam-jam cookies if I'm so inspired

We'll plan a dance that the girls can perform, along with some songs on instruments or voices. And a homemade card for each.

I'd love to hear about your plans, if they can be shared. How do you enter this season?


  1. I love the idea of hosting a meal as a gift! And the hamper of comfort and joy is a wonderful idea too. I'm definitely already a little bit stressed about Christmas and the expectations ... and the fact that I'm responsible for pulling off a lot of the Christmas rituals that everyone counts on. I want to think of gifts that will be thoughtful and homemade, but I've been lacking inspiration.

    My own personal Christmas tradition is fantasizing about spending the holiday somewhere completely different, far far away -- in 2006 we went to Nicaragua over Christmas and it was the definition of low-key. But it's an esacpe fantasy. Hardly realistic.

  2. This was such a great reflection for me to read today. I was out getting gifts for a niece (left my credit card at the store Aarg!) and helping Jesse choose a present for his brother. I do try to be finished shopping early. But I always get caught feeling I need to have something under the tree that made in on my children's wish list. That usually means heading out into the craziness of holiday shopping.
    And I too try and keep things simple. But finding things I know my kids will love can get out of hand. I am happy that many of these gifts have been bought second hand (books, games) but it still sets the expectations too high for my children.
    I also have to add that I am honoured that you have placed my photography services on your list of surprise gifts. I would love for this to work out. I have a very special giveaway for December that I will be announcing very soon.

  3. I like your hamper idea. Nice.

    We decided when we first had Oliver that we would give him three gifts because Jesus received three gifts from the wisemen. This has really helped to keep our gift giving low key because once we have three gifts there isn't the temptation to buy "just one more thing". Every year around Christmas we happen to win a toy or find a treasure in someone elses garbage heap, so really we haven't had to buy much of anything for the kids! (This year we one Tinker Toys at Dairy Queen!) Oliver's favourite toy to this day is a little ride on truck we found at the side of the road two years ago that we gave him for Christmas!

    I like the idea of having all of my gifts bought - or found - by the beginning of advent, allowing myself to enjoy the lead-up to Christmas. Thank you for that idea. I guess I have a few days!

  4. Carrie: Some of my favourite Christmases so far were spent away somewhere - memorable and simple (but somewhat expensive!) (but memorable!). Here's a homemade gift idea possibility that I've been toying with for my kids (we'll see if I take the time to pull it off): photo albums made online with I've used this several times - it's easy and fun. We have so many digital photos on my computer that rarely get looked at - so I thought of making a 20-30 page photo book for each kid. Sounds more onerous than it is, and I enjoy it too - a little trip down memory lane. I find that making an online photo book usually takes me about 4 hours. Anyway - for whatever it's worth!

    Catherine: I know what you mean about meeting your kid's wishes, but I've been really trying to talk those wishes down - to set the bar lower, while still having fun traditions as part of the Christmas season. Maybe they'll be seeing a therapist when they get older because of it, but that's what I'm encouraging: simple wishes.

    Kristen: All morning I've been thinking about this 3 gift idea. I love it! I can't believe you've won stuff for gifts - how lucky is that? And I love your scavenging for gifts too.