Sunday, December 26, 2010

Post Christmas Musings

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.


  1. We travel to and fro- it is fine for us. It is the only time of year to see the entire extended family in one place.
    Fun to chat with family- even more so.
    This year we were in Phoenix Christmas eve and flew home to meet with our kids (Washington St and Washington DC) on Christmas night. After the rousing game of bananas- it was all worth it!

  2. Our Son's married ladies who's families do Christmas up really big. It is important to them. We used to go to my MIL's or sometimes or I would host Christmas Eve at my house when the boys were small. Now that the boys are grown we don't fuss about them spending Christmas mostly with the wives families. We would love to spend more time time with them at Christmas but it is not top priority for us. We know we will see them another day. So my husband and I have tried to develop small traditions for just the two of us. Life is way too short to fuss about things.

  3. Janette, we enjoy seeing family as well. I just need more than a few hours. Therefore we see one family at Christmas ande another family at Thanksgiving and travel during the summer if needs be. This way we have a few days to spend with each groupand more time to connect.......

  4. Sue, it seems top me that often happens-the wifes family is often first because she wants to see her mom. LIke you, Im happy to have any of the other holidays as long as we have one on one time.For example, I generally travel to my family for new years eve.

  5. Your list is a real keeper, Barb. Every one of your points resonates with me.

    The one that always seems to be a sticking point is the belief that the number of presents must be equal. To me, that puts the emphasis back on what I am trying to move away from: gifts instead of family time.

    There can always be more gifts but we have no guarantee how long we'll have all our family.

  6. I had fun this year giving recyled gifts. It started when youngest daughter mentioned that she was thinking of buying a fedora. my closet was a Liz Claiborne hat (with tags) that I bought umpteen years (or more) ago and never wore. Ah-ha moment: perfect gift. From there it moved to the other kids: a wide patent belt from many sizes ago to another daughter. Opened the storage box and there was also a wide black velvet belt for daughter-in-law and a pair of fluffy earmuffs w/headphone jack for grandaughter! They loved them--had to take a picture as they put them on to model. My son got 58 Agatha Christie books that I had collected over the years--another hit! Sister got like new purse of a particular style she uses that I don't anymore. Books were selected for son-in-law, bro-in-law, & youngest daughter's boyfriend. Don't know that I could do it again, cuz I didn't save everything, but it was great!!!


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