Monday, December 7, 2009
Don't hate Christmas!
In my office today the young receptionist was grumbling as she waded through the box of Christmas decorations. Eventually she exploded: "I hate Christmas!"
I went over to assist the unpacking of the tree, and talked about how, as a dedicated Church-goer and collector of Christmas decorations, I love Christmas.
I know what she means though. For many people Christmas is a rush from one end of year festive occasion, to another shopping trip, to another worry about how much this is all costing, to another panic over family expectations and so on.
Over the years I have tried to simplify our experience of Christmas and help us all enjoy it more. I want to share some of our practices with you.
1. Be upfront and let each other know what you want for Christmas
There is a funny sort of belief which is quite prevalent in our society, that if we really love each other we automatically know what the other would want for Christmas, and where we could get it, so that they can be surprised on the day with the perfect present. We feel as though this is totally unrealistic. People who love each other are quite often unaware of what the other wants. I believe that we need to be willing to help our loved ones out by giving a hint or two or a whole list of suggestions, so that they don't waste their money and time getting something which will not be appreciated.
In our house we give each other quite extensive lists of things -some quite expensive (in our standards) and some things quite inexpensive. We all choose something to purchase from the list of things we know our loved ones want. Often we add a small 'joke' present as well, but nothing elaborate.
This one practice takes a huge amount of stress out of the gift-giving.
2. Keep away from the shops
I mostly buy things on the internet. I love this way of purchasing because it is so convenient and I am not tempted to buy more things than I want, or to purchase coffee and cake to reward myself for venturing in overcrowded shops in the heat of summer.
This year my work party has suggested that our 'secret santa' gift to each other should cost less than $10 and come from an Op Shop. Easy!
3. Make up some family events or decorations
Putting meaning in Christmas is a matter of doing things which bring joy, rather than purchasing things. It can be anything from decorating the tree together to going to a
Carols by Candlelight' service on the school oval. Lots of families walk around the neighbourhood and look at the houses which have put up special lights displays.
I love to add a personal touch with the things I make to decorate the house. Each year the collection grows and I feel like I have found an old friend when I unpack these things each year. I made the tree quilt a few years ago now, and am currently working on a quilted Advent calendar.
4. Keep it simple
Years ago we made a budget for Christmas and it has hardly changed since. Our view was that this was a Christmas gift, not a birthday present. It would have a specified dollar value and that was how it would be.
Similarly we like to enjoy nice foods at Christmas, and in the past I often felt stressed about it. Now my family talks over the menu and encourages me to keep the plans tasty but easy. A stressed mother makes for a stressed day. A relaxed mother makes for a happy day.
We have a special breakfast -and this enables us to feel festive all day -and a light but tasty lunch (often served cold in Perth's hot weather) and we linger over it.
Dinner is often just lunch's leftovers.
As we often give each other DVDs at Christmas, there is usually some kind of new blockbuster to watch together and relax.
Our extended family meets up for a special celebration on Boxing Day. We all bring a contribution to the meal. At first some people were unsure about it not being on Christmas day, but now we realise how much less stressed and tired the children are if they can spread the family obligations over the two days, and we all can be much more relaxed and at ease.
5. Remember where it started
Christmas belonged to Jesus long before the stores took it over and turned it into a festival to greed. Sing a few Christmas carols, listen to Handel's "Messiah", read Charles Dicken's "A Christmas Carol", maybe even venture into a local Church. You need the context of the celebration to make it meaningful.
I wish you all a peaceful start to the Christmas time.