Sunday, December 7, 2008

Rethinking your Christmases

The room dims. A spotlight shines. And Linus, alone on a stage, recounts the true meaning of Christmas. It’s not about pink or aluminum trees or lots of presents. It’s about a family expecting the birth of a baby who would change the world.

“That, Charlie Brown, is what Christmas is all about,” Linus reminds us all.

It’s a lesson revisited each holiday season while watching this Christmas classic. But it’s one that we need to come to terms with.

More and more, I hear of people just feeling depressed this holiday season. I can’t run an errand without overhearing a parent have “the talk” with a child about how this Christmas, things will be lighter and less gifts will be under the tree. Or how people are down because they can’t buy the gifts or do the things they were used to in years past. Or how one super-creative friend confided to me, “I just don’t even feel like making Christmas cards this year.” Maybe that seems frivolous, but it was the one way she showed her friends she cared.

So here’s my challenge: This Christmas season, make new traditions. Call it being green. Call it being frugal. Or just call it getting back to the roots of the spirit of the holiday season.

I know a chaplain whose calling is to assist Hospice patients and their families. Each year, she offers a holiday grief program and insists that traditions can be changed. So maybe this year, you bake a homemade pizza instead of a ham, turkey and the fixings. Or you volunteer somewhere. Or you forgo gift swaps. Find something that works for you and your family this year.

Other ideas on altering your traditions:
  • Keep it light. You don’t have to buy gifts for everyone, or as many people. Enlist your kids help as well. Many kids understand that times are tougher and may offer to help make gifts or find more cost-effective ideas.
  • Watch how you stuff your stockings. They don’t have to be stuffed with gadgets or many trinkets. My mother-in-law introduced me to the tradition of a large apple, orange and candy cane in the stocking. (I will confess that the baby will get apple puffs to snack on instead!)
  • Get creative. Instead of trading gifts with neighbor friends, we invited them and their kids to make Christmas cookies this weekend. Messy, true, but far more memorable than another $5 or $10 toy.
  • Prioritize presents. Given our family’s financial situation, I requested specific types of gifts rather than more toys. Yes, I know the baby is getting a toddler bedding set and which one, but it will be needed (hopefully later than sooner.) And my sister will be buying shoes for Amelda Marcos, I mean, my daughter. Planning helps us fulfill our family’s needs but also lets people feel like they are making the most out of their limited dollars and resources.
  • Do rather than buy. I loved going to the Plaza and the Nutcracker at the Midland each Christmas in Kansas City. When we moved, we decided we’d rather our kids have fond memories instead of just opening up gifts. So this year, we attended a Cookies with Santa to benefit a hospital program. It was simple, but more memorable and less stressful than waiting in line at the mall. My daughter to this day still talks about “Miss Claus” visiting her daycare last Christmas.
  • Be scenic. Look at the lights while returning from work or from errands.
  • Live the moment. Listen to a Christmas CD. Attend Vespers. Play board games. Make popcorn and cocoa with your kids and read holiday books. But most of all, just enjoy the season.

1 comment:

Electronic Goose said...

I love the Christmas cookies/neighbor friends idea! Thanks for sharing.