All I Want For Christmas Is . . . Not to do What We Normally Do

I swear, I have started writing that post about selective mutism.  Hopefully I’ll get it done this week.

But for now?   I have other, more pressing issues on my mind.  To be precise, I am dying to know what you all do for Christmas (or Hanukah).

You see, I’m in the mood to change the way we celebrate that holiday around here.  I want it to be less about me running around shopping for everyone (which, incidentally, I do enjoy), baking (which I used to enjoy, but not as much any more) and endless hours sequestered in my bedroom wrapping everything (which I do not enjoy at all), only to have it all eaten and ripped open in a matter of minutes so I can spend the rest of the day feeling all, “Hmm . . . that was anti-climactic,” and more about . . . meaningful stuff.  So, to summarize that insanely hard-to-follow sentence, I want Christmas to be less about material stuff and more about meaningful stuff.

Of course, when you’ve celebrated Christmas pretty much the same way for forever, you do tend to worry about how your kids are going to take to changing it all up, but still . . .

So here is how this post is going to work, assuming you all are in a helpful and cooperative type mood and I don’t bore you to sleep before you can comment:  I am going to tell you what my ideas are for celebrating this year, and then you can tell me what your ideas are (that don’t involve buying a million toys), and then maybe I’ll feel more excited about Christmas this year, and my children won’t weep and wail from being Horribly Let Down on the Big Day.  (Oh, how I love blogging and being able to make up my own rules for capitalization and, at times, punctuation!)

Idea One:  One nice, store-bought type present per child.  Midge wants an American Girl doll (she is the only one of the girls who doesn’t have one) that is being discontinued after Christmas, so this will probably be her gift.  Of course, we made the other two pay for half of their American Girl dolls (even though they were Christmas presents) and Midge currently does not have that kind of cash.  However, since this would be her only store-bought present . . . Quinn keeps stealing Midge’s and Tank Boy’s Leapsters, so that will probably be his gift.  Tank Boy wants a big pirate Lego set, so that would be his.  L~ is good with anything that has anything to do with horses, so she’d get something along those lines.  A~ . . . hmm . . . I don’t remember what we talked about getting her.

Anyway, aside from one store-bought gift each, I then want to make What We Love About You jars.  Let me explain:  two years ago for Mother’s Day, A~ took an empty baby food jar and made a label for it that said 12 Things I Love About You.  She then cut up 12 slips of paper and wrote something she loves about me on each one.  It was the sweetest gift ever!  So I’m thinking I’ll get some nicer jars, decorate one up for each child, and then McH and I will come up with some predetermined number of things we love about each one and put those little slips of paper in.  Additionally . . .

I’m thinking each jar will come with some little pad of paper whereon family members can write things they love about each person and put them into the corresponding jars.  Then . . .

At the end of the year I will take the slips of paper from each jar and make a scrap book for each child using photos and the What We Love About You statements for that child from that year.  See?  Planning ahead so this gift keeps on giving every Christmas.

Also, and I know this is culturally overdone, but we have never done it in our family, I’m thinking of making coupon books for each child.  You know, things like, “This coupon entitles you to one game of your choice with Mom.”  Or whatever.

Confession time:  I don’t spend enough time with my kids.  I know this probably sounds strange coming from somebody who home schools, but I fear it is true.  Sure, I spend a lot of time with them . . . overseeing their school work, telling them to put their laundry away, reminding them to take showers and brush their teeth, yelling at them because OH MY GOSH!  How many times do I have to tell you to [insert relatively simple task of your choice here]?  JUST DO WHAT YOU’RE TOLD WHEN YOU’RE TOLD!

So, combine all that with house keeping and making meals (my word, five children eat. a. lot.), trying to grow and preserve food every now and then, doing the grocery shopping, taking care of the animals, blah, blah, blah, and I spend the rest of my time just trying to find some peace and quiet.  Peace and quiet, in my mind, does not include playing Scrabble with a six-year-old boy who is the emotional equivalent of a 13-year-old girl; and, as we all know, we’ve got one of those sulking around, too (though, honestly, I think she’s a pretty darned easy 13-year-old girl) (much easier than the six-year-old boy, anyway).

Ummm . . . so, yeah, coupons.  I think the kids would love them, and they would be a good reminder to me that I need to spend more time having fun with my kids.

What other ideas do you have for meaningful gifts for your children (and feel free to chime in if you celebrate Hanukah rather than Christmas).

Then there is the actual Day.  Traditionally, we get up, open the presents (there go my hours and hours of wrapping everything), eat Christmas Morning Rolls (aka monkey bread) and then I fix scrambled eggs and bacon and all those other protein-type breakfast items that I usually don’t fix (because cereal is so much easier) (but when one has monkey bread for breakfast, there must be protein to help balance out the blood sugars) (if that is even possible, considering one is eating monkey bread).

We also always try to have the local missionaries from our church over for Christmas breakfast because, you know, they are 19 and 20-year-old boys away from home.  They need to open a present on Christmas morning and have a home-cooked breakfast as far as I’m concerned.

And then, the rest of the day?  The kids play, we play with them, the end.

I want to do something more, something meaningful.  Maybe take Christmas cookies to the local fire fighters and police officers who have to work and be away from their families on Christmas?  But what else?

What do you think?  What are your ideas? 

I want some presents in our Christmas, but I don’t want it to be all about the presents.  And? I don’t want to spend the entire day just hanging out in our house, selfishly enjoying whatever we do decide to do for presents.  McH is going to have something like two weeks off around the holiday.  I want to make those two weeks count.  I want to make them two weeks of creating memories and serving others.  But I don’t want to make them exhausting and overwhelming. 

Tewt the Newt says, “Discuss!”

15 thoughts on “All I Want For Christmas Is . . . Not to do What We Normally Do

  1. I think all of your ideas sound great! I take it that you don’t live close enough to family to go visiting? That is what our Christmas day usually consists of–after opening presents and a good breakfast. We see grandparents and whatever siblings/aunts/uncles/wayward and crazy relatives that happen to be there at the same time. A lot of times we bring along our new games so that we can play with all the crazy relatives.

    Maybe you could make sure to receive some “family” gifts of games and/or movies that you can then make sure to use during the day and the Christmas break.

    And I think any kind of service that you can do for others will brighten ANY holiday!


  2. I will be interested in what you come up with as this is pretty much a conversation that I have had many times over with my husband. Last year we had our parents and grandparents over Christmas morning and that helped. Prior to that, we rushed the kids opening their presents, ate breakfast on the fly, and hurried off to visit a varied amount of family. It was too much stress to run like that, so much better letting the grandparents watch the kids open gifts and share a meal with us. We’ve never had a huge pile of presents and my girls last year were ever so patient waiting for everyone to arrive before opening their gifts. I already prepare food for the six of us, might as well add 2 great grandmas, 2 grandmas, and a grandpa 🙂 What a blessing it is to have them all living in our same little town. A side benefit is that out of town family now doesn’t feel guilty about not being here on Christmas morning and are free to do the same with their families. My entire life up until last year was “be at grandma’s at the table by noon” regardless of how far away she lived (three hour drive when I was in grade school.)

    But none of that answers any of your questions, lol! Maybe it will help someone who reads comments. It is OKAY to buck tradition…I survived it 🙂

    Last year helped, this year is going to be better….just haven’t figured out how yet 🙂 I will be back to browse what comments you get.


  3. I do love this topic. We have always done a pretty scaled back Christmas. My kids get one big thing & then a book or two & a pair of pajamas. We usually give a couple of games as family gifts. I like to do underwear in their stockings, just for fun. All that to say, I like the idea of one big gift for each kid. On Christmas morning, we wait until after church to unwrap gifts & we do it one at a time so everyone can see what everyone else got. It drags the gift opening out & makes it feel a little less anticlimactic.

    As for beating the wrapping doldrums, have a wrapping party! My neighbor started this a few years ago. She invited a few friends & we all brought over our gifts, wrapped them up, had cheese cake & sangria & lots of conversation. It made wrapping presents fun.

    I like the idea of baking something for people who have to work on Christmas. That would definitely be more meaningful than how we spend Christmas afternoon, playing, napping, & if the weather is nice we might go for a walk.


  4. tksthoughts

    Christmas is my favorite holiday of all times and I love spending time doing things with family leading up towards the BIG DAY! Here are some things that my family does (some you already do) during the Christmas season.
    1) We decorate the house and the Christmas tree the weekend after Thanksgiving. Each kid (there are 3 of us) was also allowed to decorate their door (think wrapping paper and bows etc). We would also decorate stockings.
    2) Baking Day – One Saturday all got in the kitchen and baked till we dropped. Cookies, brownies, fudge, rice crispy treats, etc. We would then make platters and cover them with red and green saran wrap and deliver them to the police station, fire station, work on Monday, and neighbors. We would make smaller bags for the garbage men, mailman, etc. So much fun to make, eat, and give.
    3) Yearly ornament – each year we each get to add a special ornament to the tree. On a Sunday afternoon, we would leave church, have lunch somewhere and then go on the hunt for the “perfect” ornament. This would be a good craft to make individual ornaments also.
    4) Drive around and look at Christmas lights.
    5) Our church goes caroling at the local nursing homes and it is so much fun. They love it and we love it!
    6) Game night. We would have game nights where we would play board games and my mom would make hot chocolate and a special dessert.
    7) Gingerbread house. Each kid would get to make one. (Gets a little competitive)
    8) Movie Night. We watch cheesy Christmas movies and eat popcorn. Great for Sunday evenings and perfect for Christmas evening.
    9) When we got older, we did adopt a family and we would go shopping as a family for gifts and needed items for our adopted family. Amazing how fast kids are willing to give up allowance for others.
    10) We have a local program that does Santa’s workshop and we spent a Saturday morning handing out toys and helping children at Santa’s workshop.
    11) Christmas Eve dinner is fun finger food nights and the kids are responsible – kind of like a thank you to Mom for cooking so hard the next day. Breakfast Christmas morning is usually cinnamon rolls and OJ.
    12) Socks – Christmas Eve my mom gives out funny socks to everyone at the house that night. Nothing like fun socks and cheaper than pajamas.
    13) Gifts for the siblings: We would get $5.00 each and we could go to the dollar store, the thrift store, or the craft store to get the presents for each other. No one could spend more than $5.00 total. (Now that we are older the limit is $20.00 but creativity is the goal).
    Inexpensive Gift Idea: My mom gave the girls (not sure why not my brother) a journal each Christmas but the first few pages were always completed with a letter.
    Sorry for the long post!


  5. I love your idea! I’m not sure my teens would go for the jar thing…they are pretty much typical boys who shrug off compliments even though I try to lavish them with some at least a few times a week. That being said, I still think it’s a great idea!

    We always go as a family (sometimes with extended family) to a Christmas concert, either at a local church or sometimes it’s just the High School concert. Or, we will shell out tickets to see a Christian band doing a Christmas song thing, or a play like Scrooge, or even the Nutcracker.

    Saturdays are family Christmas movie nights starting the Sat. after Thanksgiving! Also I pretty much bake every Sat.

    We have a “charity” shopping day….. we do the Samaritan’s purse shoeboxes and something from the giving tree at our mall…that is always a fun shopping trip! I always do one for a girl so I can buy girly stuff! 🙂

    The teens get pj’s (on Christmas eve after church), a big gift, a book or two, and usually something to share like a movie or something for their room.

    I would like to add in more giving, like your idea to take something to local firefighters. LOVE that! We have a nursing home nearby too…hmmm…..


  6. WOW! You’re thinking is already waaay more evolved than mine, although I’ve been thinking along the same lines for quite some time now. So I doubt I can offer any helpful ideas, but I’m loving what you and the other commenters suggested and I love, LOVE the idea about the jars. I’m stealing that.

    I’m learning this year that one sure-fire way to make Christmas less about the material things is to be unemployed for a long period of time! We’re kind of being forced into scaling back this year, but you know what? It’s just what we needed. And the real bonus is: Because the kids are all aware of the financial situation, they’re already not expecting a huge Christmas, so I won’t have to be the bad guy, disappointing them and “making” them give up the “fun” part of Christmas (which is, of course, the gifts). I really think that this year they will be truly thankful and pleased with whatever they get (for once), because we’ve all had to readjust our ideas of needs and wants as a family this past year. It’s been kind of a nice change to hear my kids telling me, “You don’t have to get me anything this year, Mama. I don’t need it.” Wow! BUT- I doubt you or anyone else wants to go through financial hardship just to change your Christmas habits- lol! So, scratch that idea…

    One thing we’ve started doing the last few years is turning out the lights, lighting candles, and reading the Biblical account of Jesus’ birth, then following it up with watching “The Nativity Story” on Christmas Eve. This is my attempt to refocus their attention on why we, as Christians, are even celebrating this holiday in the first place.

    Our Christmas morning sounds pretty much identical to yours, except for the Mormon boys showing up for breakfast. lol. But I always bake homemade cinnamon rolls and make “real” hot chocolate (as opposed to Swiss Miss), which they all think is such a special treat.

    I think the biggest change I need to make regarding Christmas is to change mySELF. I always expect so much from myself. I stress. I want perfection. I stress more. I kill myself trying to create the Perfect Christmas for my family. And I end up ruining it for myself. By Christmas morning, I’m exhausted. I’m overwhelmed. Then I’m depressed by 11:00 a.m., because months of work went into that one day and… it’s over.

    Sorry to write a book on your blog.


  7. Two things I really enjoy doing with my family at Christmas time (which might help make those two weeks off count) are 1.) going to the Zoo Lights (and I happen to have it on good authority that there is a Zoo with Zoo lights in Canada South) ;-p

    2.) making a little journey to the [Insert name of Famous Canada South Based Engineer and Inventor] Museum and [Insert Color Name]Field Village – preferably during a weekday, fairly early in the day, because otherwise it is mobbed. Now, this is kind of a far trip for us, but it is worth the hour and a half drive for the feeling of old-timey Christmas. (They do have evening programs, and I hear they are lovely, but it is just too far for us to go in the evening).


  8. melissa

    Hmm, I have nothing but appreciate others’ thoughts. We’ll do Hannukah, not Christmas, but this will actually be the first year we do anything at all. Lucy’s never cared/been aware of holidays until this year and Matthew and I don’t care about them ourselves enough to do an official celebration. But this year I think she gets it. I think we’ll have to do a little something-something ever one of the 8 nights, but as I recall from my childhood, it was one or two “big” presents and then…socks and underwear.


  9. Hey, I was shopping at Deseret Book yesterday and picked up a copy of “A Christ-Centered Christmas–Seven Traditions to Lead Us Closer to the Savior” by Emily Freeman. I have only thumbed through it, but it might be just what you are looking for.


  10. I love lots of the other ideas. I was thinking of taking your kids to a nursing home on Christmas afternoon during the lull (we always have one that time of day) and let them greet people who don’t have loved ones to spend time with.
    I also think it would be fun to “give” the kids each a certain amount of money ($10, $20) and then let them research and find a charity to donate it to. It could be their choice, with your supervision. Then, for example, your daughter could donate hers to a place that houses homeless horses (say that 10 times fast) and your other kids could pick things they like/are interested in.


  11. LOVE the giving jar idea. Totally going to do that. Maybe I’ll turn it into an advent thing and make (ha) all the kids do everyone else’s jar every night of advent?

    One year when we celebrated Hanukah too (Tony’s kids are jewish) we did only homemade hanukah gifts. Each kid got a “night” and on that night, he gave homemade gifts to everyone else. It was cool and fun.

    I always go way overboard on gifts but one thing I do that always makes it seem less insane is to keep gift opening slow. We each take turns opening a gift and everyone else watches and enjoys the gift opening. That way we are more focused on the giving than the receiving. Kids grow into this since when they are tiny they could care less but I feel like my kids are really amazing givers now, as teens (sometimes a little inappropriately amazing, actually). And there are worse things than to be good at giving, right? So we do that. We also let anyone who wants to open and play with something go right ahead and do that. As long as they want. We don’t do the whole “later – finish opening your gifts first” thing. This makes for a LONG day (sometimes more than a day,honestly) but I can honestly say the kids really do enjoy every gift and savor each of them and find joy in watching others open gifts.

    Also last year I started wrapping gifts as I bought them. I’m going to do that this year too. I can’t even say what a remarkable thing it was to NOT have any work other than stockings to stuff on Christmas eve!

    I don’t know if you already do this but we hadn’t so I thought it is worth mentioning: we give the kids each a certain amount of money to buy gifts for everyone else. I usually cap it at $10 a gift but that way they are in charge of really thinking through and buying something for their siblings and their parents. And they have to wrap them. The gifts my kids have found for each other are often far more meaningful than anything I think to buy. We open these gifts on Christmas Eve but I may change that to Christmas day this year.

    We also do an ornament every year that symbolizes something special from that past year and we open /hang those on Christmas Eve.

    Um, we have a lot of rituals. My poor kids!


  12. Love the ideas – definitely going to take some of them! I have zero creativity and nothing to suggest. But I love that jar idea and I think I’m going to start it at home as just an ongoing thing, a way for me to make note of the good stuff happening with my kiddo when some days I lose track of that. It’s so easy to forget about the good, cute, little things, you know?

    This would definitely be a year for us to start new traditions, so I’m going to think about and incorporate some of these thoughts! I think you sound totally on track with your ideas, can’t wait to hear how it all plays out!


  13. Christina

    Ok now I’m feeling really lame. Because we do practically nothing compared to everyone here!! There never seems to be any time! (We drive and look at Christmas lights. Sometimes we make ONE gingerbread house, everyone working together. I have an advent wreath. Candles have not been located yet and week 2 starts tomorrow. The tree and decorations go up. Cookies may be baked, if I’m in the mood. Visiting people with cookies? Never happens. So so lame. Used to do the “adopt a family” thing but our current church would rather we give the families gift cards so the parents can shop for their kids themselves. Practical, but not nearly as fun.) (dude, that was a very long parenthetical aside. Sorry about that.)


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