I was reflecting today on Christmas Past and what it has taught me. The more I thought about it, the more I wanted to share my musings with you.
1. Lean Christmases are okay. I never died from not getting 100% of what I wanted. While my brother nearly perished from a box of socks when he was 5 he was quickly revived and survived. It's okay to not be frivolous and crazy - especially when you cannot afford it. Your children would rather have a place to live in January than bills Mom and Dad can't afford for pretty things under the tree.
2. Biased gifting is not. Whatever your traditions, keep it fair. A child watching one sibling get all the "cool" gifts while they open a sweatshirt and water bottle is not the lesson you may think it is. Please don't put your children in a position that is teaching them bad things in their hearts.
3. Gifting useful things is not a crime. I received lots of practical gifts as a child. Some were extravagant like the set of ski gear the year I learned how to ski. Others were more frugal but still needed items. For the past 3 years we've done useful gifts for 50% of our Christmas presents to our oldest who is 10 this year. He's never once felt deprived. This year he's getting 100% practical things because that's what he's asking for. *pat on the back* Well done Mom. ;)
4. Homemade gifts are still the best in the long run. The quilt my grandmother made me right before I got married is still one of my most prized possessions - even after the dog tried to eat it. Handmade ornaments still go up on my tree every year that were made by my other grandmother. We use the blankets I made for my family 5 years ago when it was a "lean" year almost daily in the winter here. I still smile when I see the kids cuddled up in one because it reminds me of all the beauty something made by hand can hold.
5. Your time is a gift. Especially to the elderly or those who may not have much. Taking time to bake a batch of special cookies and bring them to a neighbor is never misplaced. Going to visit your grandmother in the nursing home is always a good idea. Donating your time to help wrap gifts for the angel tree is never something you will regret. Delivering presents to a veteran's home is a priceless memory you will have for a lifetime. Be as generous with your time as you are with your $$ and perhaps, even more so.
6. Your love is a gift. Don't waste it on someone who isn't worthy. This includes friends and how you distribute your generosity. My goddaughters mean the world to me and I do my best to make certain they know that when I am able to be with them. My friends are few but VERY dear and they give as heartily to me as I have been blessed to give to them. Share your love, but not with someone who is not going to return the gift.
7. Laughter is the most precious thing you can hear. There is nothing in this world that makes me happier than the sound of my children laughing, especially if it's joined by their father's hearty laughter. I've been a mother of 2 for only 19 months and it never ceases to make my heart race with joy to hear them together and playing. This year I engineered Christmas just to maximize the amount of giggles and smiles that would float to my ears.
8. Traditions are important. There is something to be said for "that cookie" and "those ornaments". "But Mom, we ALWAYS have ham on Christmas!!" Traditions, however small or however weird they began are there. Please don't disappoint yourself and your children trying to reinvent the wheel. A little new is good. A lot of new can be too much.
9. Family is important. I have had many "hard" Christmases over the years but one of the absolute worst was when I spent my first away from my family. My husband (fiance at the time) found me curled up on the Dec. 23rd bawling next to the tree because I missed them so much. Being the wise man that he is we wrapped up Christmas with his family and drove 700 miles on Christmas Eve through a blizzard to get back to mine just before midnight. I will never forget that gift of kindness from him and what it still means to me, even today.
10. Let kids be kids. Let adults be kids too. There is a special magic to Christmas that is just not available in the rest of the year. Let the kids be kids. Let them play and get messy and "help". Let you get messy and "help". My kids each get a new apron on the Feast of St. Nicholas so they're all good to go for the baking and holiday joy.