Yesterday was a lovely (albeit busier than usual) Christmas. I only host the family of thirteen every so often. While it was enjoyable and festive, I’ve taken advantage of today and remained semi horizontal and blanket wrapped much of the day. This has given me time to think a little bit over the pre-Christmas season as well as yesterday. A few musings on Christmas celebrations in general and “Frugal” Christmas specifically:
• Good gifts do not need to be expensive. Even if your family only does store bought gifts, it is possible to find reasonably priced gifts that can appreciated. Gifts DO need to be something that will be used and/or needed. They don’t even need to be a surprise. If more people would realize that, instead of buying “something to wrap”, life would be so much easier. I’ve said before that my family shares gift lists. But if we didn’t I would get together with someone who had a good idea and get a feel for what was needed and used. My best Christmas gift was a small tabletop tea kettle in a color that matches my kitchen-a gift from both children.
• Gifts do not have to be “equal” among friends and family (I will leave others to comment on the workplace). It is not a requirement that children or family members have the same amount of gifts, or that the same amount of money be spent per person.
• It’s the family get together that counts, not necessarily the amount of time, effort or money spent on food. I say this as a woman who is part of a cooking family and who made prime rib and spiral ham yesterday. I have also had years when lasagna has been appropriate for the gathering. A store bought pumpkin pie is not an abomination.
• Family togetherness is improved when everyone takes part in contributing to the meal. Sometimes those of us in the parental generation need to remember that. My children cooked a vegetable and potatoes. One relative brought another veggie, one a pumpkin pie, and two others appetizers. I only baked some cookies, shopped and cooked the beef.
• It’s good to be open to a few new traditions. Greeting every idea with “but that’s not how we do it in this family”, is not helpful. There is a way to continue family traditions while welcoming new ones. None of my Texas in-laws had ever had Yorkshire pudding before, or green beans cooked al dente. Both were received well and devoured. On the other hand, I had never had sautéed spinach until my mother in law introduced me. For years, when my children were young, we had Italian food on Christmas Eve, and opened a gift when we got home. Now, we have appetizers and eggnog. We sleep as late as we want on Christmas. On the other hand, we also always have scrambled eggs and cookies every single Christmas morning.
• Planning reduces stress. A little thinking about Christmas year around (a gift here, a craft made there) makes the month before Christmas much more enjoyable. Admittedly, gift buying in advance for everyone is not reasonable (especially with young children). But I knew my son wore a certain size of Rugby shirt for a full year, and buying them in April did not diminish the value.
• Christmas should not be spent traveling to and fro. Most of our marriage we lived in Washington DC or Germany. One set of in-laws lived in Texas and the other in South Carolina or London. Christmases were either spent in a small fashion (just the four of us) or they were spent at one family or the other. Running between families was not an option, and if we were close enough to do so, I still would not have chosen that option. I tell myself regularly that I will never expect that kind of obligation from my kids when they have their own families.
• Lastly, Christmas did not end yesterday, it just began. Extending the holiday to its proper end eliminates the sudden post-Christmas depression that many people feel, and is a natural lead in to January. My tree and village with all its lights will stay cheerfully in the living room until January 6.
I’m sure more holiday and post-holiday musings will come to me later. I hope your holiday was as relaxed and enjoyable as mine. Happy Christmas to all.