The topic with other Moms that has been canvassed often during playdates and time at the park these past few weeks is Christmas. How we will budget gifts into our already stretched finances? How will we manage the sheer number of gifts for our growing families? What will we buy for those we love? And lastly, how will we instill in our children a love of Christmas, and all it stands for, instead of a love for material items and indulgence in selfish wants? I recently read an excellent Gift Guide blog post on Raising Olives that inspired me! So here I am to write my own post about the impending hurry and bustle of Christmas!
How will we budget gifts?
We are planning on home made gift baskets this year. It is so easy for me to fall into the trap of out gifting the rest of the family, but frankly we can’t afford to, and it is a hollow victory if you do. Expensive doesn’t = good gift. For extended family members etc, we are planning on home made items to cut down cost. Here are some ideas for things you can make yourself for a fraction of the cost of bought items, and then use in a gift basket:
Apple Spice Oatmeal Bread
Homemade Soaps and Scrubs
Candles: Can be bought inexpensively, if you look in the right places
The Baskets, Ribbons, etc to decorate the gift packages can be bought very cheaply at a secondhand store.
We have a lot of children, and they have a LOT of toys, how do we handle the sheer amount of gifts they bring home?
Firstly, we start by limiting the number of gifts we buy our children. 1 gift per child is plenty, and they enjoy the gift, but still appreciate it, as it doesn’t get lost in a pile of materialism. We also are looking into a great idea that I found on one of my favorite blogs: Large Families on Purpose in her Christmas Uncluttered post: One big gift for the family, such as a zoo membership. I think for us a block set, a family board game or something school related, like a DVD science set would be great, but each family is different!
Secondly, we have many extended family events that we attend and that means more gifts for our children. In some cases, where possible, and when the relationship allows, we have asked family members to try and limit the number of frivolous gifts (such as toys) and to focus on things the girls need, such as clothing, shoes, outerwear, and school items (such as sewing kits, science kits, books, DVDs etc.) We have asked them to limit it to at least 1 toy or piece of jewelry. We ascribe to the view that Christmas is about Jesus, and we often try very hard to limit the number of gifts we *must* buy, as well as the number of gifts we receive. It sounds harsh, and unfeeling, but frankly, in this materialistic society, even if you tell your children what Christmas is truly about, it is easy for a young one to be lost in the flurry of gifts. We feel to raise them in a tradition that appreciates the few material things we have, rather than being buried in a pile of meaningless stuff, is consistent with Christ’s words in the Bible regarding wealth and material possessions. In the end, they are only things, and we can’t take those to heaven with us!
Thirdly, we try to clean out the toy room, their bedroom, etc prior to Christmas to make room for their new things. Also, *blush* I’m letting out a big secret, if we have multiples of the same toys given to them, we keep them on hand for later, not to be opened immediately. If the child does not want the duplicate, and no return is possible, we put it in our ’emergency gift stash’ to be kept for an event later in which we are either tight on money or time to buy a gift. I know this is a ‘taboo’ idea, and probably very offensive, but with a tight budget, and an overabundance of material items we don’t need, why not? If they don’t get used, or the children prefer, the gift stash gets donated to something like toys for tots or a local children’s home.
What will we buy for our children?
Technically this is answered above, but I’ll reiterate simply: 1 gift per child, and 1 large family gift. We tend to focus on things the girls like AND need. One year it was new dress shoes. Another year it was clothing, another year we gave them DVDs of an educational nature. We try to avoid toys, because they have/receive plenty of those from family members. But we do take pains to buy something that is pleasing to them, as well as useful. We want them to be grateful for what they do have.
Last year we got the children a few DVDs each, and then I made them rag dolls (like in their favorite Little House Book) and Allen built them all a log cabin for the dolls. In the piles and piles of newer better toys, the cabin was lost, and became a very interesting looking toy box. The dolls are still cherished though, when they aren’t being tossed in the bottom of the pile. This has pretty much solidified the belief that it isn’t about competing and “who can get the girls the best gift.” but about what they need, and teaching them that the material doesn’t matter in the light of eternity, which brings us to…
Lastly, how will we instill in our children a love of Christmas, and all it stands for, instead of a love for material items and indulgence in selfish wants?
We try to do this, although it is very hard. We are grateful for all the gifts the girls receive, but the sheer volume of them is overwhelming, and makes it difficult to instill this lesson. Within our home we choose to not focus on the gifts. The girls are encouraged to answer with a request if someone asks them what they would like, but we do discuss this before hand in terms of “what do you need?” vs. “What do you want?” The girls are encouraged to focus on needs, not wants, when making requests to interested parties.
During the Christmas season we spend a lot of time doing things like making food, baking cookies, and we try to participate in a few charitable acts for others. We talk about Saint Nicholas, and how he honored Jesus Birthday by helping those in need. Santa Claus does not come to our house, but Daddy does his job instead, as we remember Saint Nicholas’ wish to honor Jesus birthday with gifts to those who need them. We tie this into our needs vs. wants discussions. We also encourage the children to watch movies and listen to music that honor Jesus’ birthday, as opposed to the romance, magic, and materialism of a commercial Christmas. We do generic winter decorations, and nativity decorations. Other than that, we try to avoid Santa.
Christmas Eve, we attend church, this is a big deal for our family, and we use it as a springboard for Christ as the center of Christmas. Christmas morning we read Luke 2 and act it out with the nativity set, which the children are forbidden to touch any other time! This makes it extra special. Gifts cannot be opened until breakfast is done, we’ve read Luke 2, and cleaned up after Breakfast. Once all of those Christmas morning activities are completed, we open gifts. And that starts a day of running from place to place to open more gifts. Something which we struggle with how to handle, as it only reinforces the idea of Christmas as a material holiday. This is the one thing in which we feel we cannot ‘counteract’ or change. I’d love to spend a quiet Christmas at home, and open gifts with family later, but everyone wants to open gifts with the girls “On Christmas Day” and I haven’t the heart to say no to that. So in this matter, I will gladly take reader advice!
And that is how we handle Christmas. How do you handle Christmas?