Last year my cousin Sara started a new tradition in her family of significant charitable giving and reduced gift giving at Christmas. Then my mom decided to scale back the giving to children only (as in, people who are actually still children, as opposed to those people who are HER children), unless otherwise indicated.
I've always enjoyed Christmas, but never much enjoyed large amounts of shopping, spending money we don't have, or participating in the frantic Mall Activity of the entire month of December, so I was intrigued by this 'less is more' Christmas style. I had to be careful, though, since EVERY member of Brent's family save myself gives and recieves love through gift giving. I didn't want to become a scrooge, you know?
Brent's mom decided we should draw names this year for his side of the family, which is the PERFECT solution IMO because everyone still gets a little shopping, a nice gift (or three, knowing his family!), but less emphasis on a-gift-for-everyone-of-relatively-equal-value/size/quantity/etc.
I knew, however, that name drawing cannot result in the ignoring of the existance of other members of the family. Plus, I didn't want to scale back Christmas in order to Save Money, this being the quintessential definition of a scrooge, more or less. I wanted to save ourselves from going into massive debt like we have in the past, but I didn't want to cheap out either. Balance.
So, adopting Sara's charitable giving model and merging it with the name drawing and reduced consumption ideas, we purchased thoughtful and nice gifts for the people whose names we drew, purchased gifts for our three kids and our neice, and gave money to the orphanage which had responsibility for Matthew's well being while he was living in Thailand on behalf of our other family members. I gave each family member a Christmas card (purchased from Unicef, with an aboriginal artists' painting on the front...this is gettin so politically correct as to be absurd) with a certificate indicating our giving in their name.
A wonderful Christmas. We shopped a bit, thoughtfully, and in a focused manner. For me, this moved shopping from detested obligation to joyful giving. What a shift! Seriously, I did not anticipate so drastic a change in my own experience of Christmas. The few times we went to the mall during the Christmas season, I felt like an oasis of calm amidst a flurry of frantic activity. And then one of my kids would act like an orangutan [a large, long-armed anthropoid ape, Pongo pygmaeus, of arboreal habits, inhabiting Borneo and Sumatra: an endangered species] and I would snap out of my oasis fantasy to become the Referee-Cowboy-PoliceOfficer-UNPeacekeeper-NoYouCannotHaveAnyMoreCandy-NoYouCannotHaveAnyToysRightBeforeChristmas-BecauseISaidSo-DoAsISayBeforeISlaughterYouInFrontOfAllThesePeople mommy. But that's normalcy for me year round. So.
Anyways, to sum it up, we LOVED doing christmas this way and felt like we could absolutely enjoy the holidays, give a small amount of nice, thoughtful gifts, give to charity, eat good food, and spend time with family. Win-win-win. Like the idea of Jubilee [It was, then, part of the legislation of the Old Law, whether practically adhered to or not, that each fiftieth year was to be celebrated as a jubilee year, and that at this season every household should recover its absent members, the land return to its former owners, the Hebrew slaves be set free, and debts be remitted...which of course spawned the Jubilee 2000 Campaign]
, or Bono's Red campaign. Everyone wins.
Christmas eve Brent was supposed to work, but as you all know, he couldn't get out of our driveway on account of the excessive snowfall in our area. So we played in the snow. That evening since church was cancelled, Brent took a taxi (after an hour of all of us waiting in the snow at the bus stop, only to have 2 buses completely pass us by without stopping, and 10 minutes of fruitless wheel spinning of our car) to the grocery store and bought some crackers, wine, and cheese, and we put the kids to bed and watched The Lord of The Rings Part I and ate some good food. Of course, we stuffed some stockings and put some surprises under the tree as well.
The next morning everyone slept in, we opened our stockings, ate breakfast, and leisurely opened the gifts under the tree.
We watched Wall-E, which we had gotten for the boys, and spent a fabulous afternoon together.
For supper we managed to get the car moving, and we went to Brent's grandma's house for turkey and extended family time.
Yesterday we visited Brent's other grandma in Abbostford, and watched some more Lord Of The Rings and ate some more cheese/crackers/wine, plus the added bonus of some really good salami after the kids went to sleep.
A good time was had by all.
A wonderful Christmas!
Here are some photogs:
Now, this child took after this parent:
And this child took after this parent:
...I'll leave it up to you to figure out whose is whose...
At Great Grandma's, we got a family photo
And, after more than a few of these:
A brother photo. Gorgeous!