Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Creating Holiday Traditions

It's hard to believe that Christmas is less than a week away! Where did the last several weeks go? It seems like we were just celebrating Thanksgiving!

Now that we have a child, I'm thinking more about the traditions we want to establish going forward. I've been thinking back on what I remember from my Christmases as a child. While I do remember the feeling of anticipation of seeing all those prettily-wrapped presents under the tree, I don't really remember the gifts. I know I was excited to unwrap Christmas presents - Christmas Eve dinner was probably the only night of the year that us kids jumped up to help with dishes without being asked so we could get going with the gift unwrapping portion of the evening. (Christmas Eve is the bigger day of celebration in our family, as is customary in families of German decent). But I don't have many memories of the actual gifts I received - although I know I appreciated them at the time.

What stands out more are things like helping my mom wrap caramels or decorate sugar cookies; gathering as a family to light the candles of the advent wreath and sing Christmas carols while my mom accompanied us on piano; our special Christmas Eve meal that has changed as we've gotten older and added more people into the mix (my mom used to make oyster stew and we'd have some other appetizers - now it's usually things like shrimp scampi, crab legs, and lasagna for the kids/people who don't like seafood); attending Christmas Eve mass as a family and enjoying homemade ice cream afterwards with Christmas cookies; Santa magically dropping off a bag of gifts on our deck while we unwrapped presents - without any of us hearing him on the deck (my parents had an elaborate plan - my dad would go into their bedroom to try on something he received and he could ring the doorbell from upstairs. We'd hear the doorbell ring and would run downstairs to the front door and my parents would discover that Santa had left the gifts on the deck! We never caught on that they put the presents there before we started opening gifts!)

As I've reflected back on Christmases past, I have felt a little bit, well, disenchanted by the consumerism that reigns during this time of year. I don't want to come off as judgmental as I know that many people enjoy gift-giving and it's an important part of holiday traditions. But I think there is a way to include gift-giving without it becoming the be-all end-all of the Christmas season. 

Paul will certainly receive gifts during this holiday season - especially from his grandparents (he's my MIL's first grandchild so I think she'll go a little bit crazy). But we decided to just get him one gift and it's something we were planning to buy for him anyways (this sit-to-stand activity walker). He's too young to understand Christmas anyways and he's too young to unwrap gifts so we'll just put it together and show it to him the weekend before Christmas.

But in the Christmases to come, I don't want gifts to be the focus of our celebration. I want him to look back on his Christmases and value what I valued as a child - the food, the time with family, and the meaningful traditions. We're still figuring out what those traditions will be, but I've started playing Christmas music on the piano with him on my lap, which he seems to really enjoy. And he'll participate in my annual Christmas cookie decorating party with my college friends and their kids. I like this idea of Paul waking up to a wrapped book on Christmas morning that we will then read together. More traditions will develop in the years to come. Presents will have a place, of course, but I don't want him to grow up with a sense of extravagance and entitlement.

Maybe I sound like a curmudgeon or the Grinch, but Paul has 2 practical, frugal parents who lean toward minimalism so I'm sure my sentiment about this season is not surprising to those who know me well!

Lest you think I am a complete Grinch, here are some pictures of our sweet little elf in one of his many pairs of Christmas jammies!

What do you remember from your childhood Christmases? What traditions are you trying to establish now as an adult? 


Charbelle said...

I don't think you sound like a grinch at all! You know I love presents and giving gifts but I also understand that there is an excessive amount of consumerism. The commercials for jewelry and cars are ridiculous! One of my all-time favorite Christmas commercials is the Folgers commercials where the family member surprises everyone on Christmas morning (and it makes me teary typing this). One of the huge downsides of working in insurance, and particularly my current job, December is the BUSIEST time of year to the point where you don't really ever get to leave work. This makes it difficult to bake and for me that is a huge part of Christmas. I am thankful we did have that snow day and I was able to make cinnamon rolls for our neighbors. I would love to do a little more with Charlotte than I do but because of work it hasn't happened. Growing up my Grandmommy would take my brother and I shopping to buy presents for our mom. I would make things (hello rag loom potholders) that I would give to family members. My memories of Christmas are the times we were all together and we celebrated both Christmas Eve and Christmas day all together and it was amazing!!! Christmas Eve we opened presents and each person took a turn so everyone could see what they got, I LOVE this and didn't realize that not everyone's family did this until I got married the first time. I love the traditions that you are creating for Paul!!!

missris said...

I think this is a wonderful idea, and a great way to raise a child! When I was little, we got something to wear (usually matching pajamas), something to read (both my parents are English professors so that was a given), something to eat (usually candy), and something to do (a game) and that was it. And it was always, always more than enough.

Marlys said...

It pleases me that you fondly remember the Advent & Christmas seasons as a child! I think my favorite memories was shutting of all the lights except the Christmas lights and singing Carols around the piano in the evenings before Christmas. It was magical!
When I was a child, we celebrated on Christmas Eve, by having oyster stew, opening presents only after reciting the rosary{!}, and we only received one present as there were 8 of us children. But I remember my Dad would go shopping and bring home a big bag of Christmas candy and nuts, and I didn't like the candy, but that was his thing so remains a very dear memory. We went to Midnight Mass and then always had company over for Christmas Dinner so Christmas was a big event.
I'm looking forward to Christmas as I always do, and am so happy that 3 of our 5 children will be together to celebrate.

Unknown said...

I'm not frugal or a minimalist and we still aren't buying presents for Henrik. He has no idea what is going on, isn't going to know whether we bought him something or not, and wouldn't know how to open the gift anyway, so why bother? We will probably start buying him stuff to open next year or the year after, but until then, it's essentially buying myself presents to open and I don't need a holiday to do that! ;-)

Stephany said...

I don't think you sound like a Grinch at all. Being a Grinch would be someone who doesn't want anything to do with the holiday season, but that's not what you're doing. You're showing Paul the more important reasons for the season: family, togetherness, and love. Christmas can be so consumer-focused and all about the presents (how about how Black Friday essentially starts on Thanksgiving now...), but the more magical memories I have of Christmas is the little things: decorating our tree, baking Christmas cookies, and watching our beloved Christmas movies over and over again.

katielookingforward said...

I certainly remember the presents i got as a kid (mainly because we have photos of it that my brother still looks through) I think unwrapping a book is a great tradition to start! Also, I think there have a been a lot of cultural changes in gifts since we were kids, and I think its good to find the happy medium. Its not about depriving, its just not about having a lot of junk.

Amber said...

I love this! I also have lots of memories that don't center around gifts. I do remember really anticipating Santa for a number of years there though. We used to go to an extended family gathering every Christmas Eve and when we drove home my brother and I would be staring out the window at the sky trying to spot santa and then I could always hardly sleep that night because I was so excited to see what santa had brought me as our santa gift was always unwrapped and forward from the tree. While I think in today's society it can be hard to not do gifts to some degree I definitely don't want those to be the sole focus either. I like the idea of using santa as a way to make the season magical and stretch my kids imagination, NOT about them getting lots and lots of things!! I also really hope to use Christmas as a time to set an example of giving back. I like the idea of when my kids are old enough doing some sort of volunteer activity around Christmas and then also donating some toys together to make room for any new toys. I also hope to always incorporate books. I LOVE the idea you shared of waking up to a wrapped books! That is something Olivia will always always get as part of her gift for sure!

Jeanie said...

You don't sound like a curmudgeon. You sound VERY, VERY smart and I hope our gang is smart like you.

I remember family Christmases. The gathering at my aunt's on Christmas Eve, presents in the morning. And later when we were older, the arrival of the cousins and games and fun and just being together.

No matter what, there will always be books. Lots and lots of books!

I love meeting parents who have their heads screwed on straight!

Jolene - EverydayFoodie said...

I remember the excitement of Christmas morning, and the mystery and magic that came with it. I most fondly remember the time with all my aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents, the visiting, the food, and the playing. As we got older there were just too many people to all get together for dinner, but I sure did love the years when we did that.

Christopher and I have formed our own holiday traditions, which we enjoy each year. On Christmas Eve I make my mom's cinnamon buns, and in the evening we snack, have a couple festive cocktails, and watch movies.

San said...

I love that you're giving some thoughts to new holiday traditions now that Paul is in the picture.

I can attest that it's totally possibly to have gifts for Christmas and still focus on the special time with family, food and connecting with others. Even though we always had presents growing up, both my sister and I, as well as my cousin (who is now 27) value coming back home for Christmas to connect with family and share a nice meal and just BE together.