Christmastime can put huge stresses on family, both emotional and financial. Are you pressured to have a tablescape worthy of a magazine, floors so clean you can eat off of, and a tree overflowing with gifts? Christmas with no money is a stressor but you can take a different approach, like our family did.
Our family has decided to focus on family. Of course, most people say that family is important during the Holidays, but is it?
Focusing on our family, and starting traditions that we look forward to, has really reduced the pressure of the Holiday season, emotionally and financially. Here's what Christmas looks like for us.
My dad grew up with an abnormally close group of cousins, probably because my dad's aunt died when the kids were young so they spent the summers working at my grandparents' resort and became as close as siblings.
Each year they have a party that we are invited to. Of course my dad's cousins all have kids and grandkids, so it becomes a large party with food and gifts galore. For this party, we have decided to let our kids buy gifts for each other.
We head to our local Dollar Tree dollar store, and allow each kid to pick gifts for each of their siblings. They don't get to choose anything for themselves, just for their siblings. This is an inexpensive way for our kids to learn to give, and they get so excited when it's gift time!
It's almost more exciting for them to show their sibling what they picked out for them than it is to open their own gifts!
Between my husband and I we have 5 siblings; I am the oldest of 4 and he is the oldest of 3. It gets expensive to consider purchasing a gift for each of our siblings, even if we treat the coupled ones as one. A few years ago I started making handmade ornaments for each sibling.
My brother is in the army, so last year we hot glued some army men from the dollar store together and spray painted them gold, like this. I made a snow globe ornament for my sister like this (which was particularly fun since we did an Ugly Sweater Run together in the fall and there was actually a snow globe you could get inside and get your picture taken in). I sewed a quick felt bunny for my sister-in-law who had found a bunny on the side of the road and adopted it.
These ornaments were cheap, and I would suspect I didn't spend $20 total on all 5 of our siblings. But they were thoughtful, and therefore very well-received.
Last year a friend of mine gave me a huge box of Rescue Heroes that she wanted to get rid of. I stuck them in the basement for 4 months, and gave them to my kids at Christmas.
This year, another friend was getting rid of a small doll bed and chair, they are currently in my basement waiting for Christmas or my daughter's birthday.
I don't feel pressured to purchase a truckload of new gifts for our kids every year. We ask for memberships to the zoo or children's museum, or open-ended gifts like Legos and trains that fit into what we already have. I don't want Christmas to be about materialism, but about family, and more importantly, about Jesus.
A few years ago we were faced with coming up with new traditions as my grandparents felt unable to host gatherings anymore, so we started going to my parents' cabin. We cut and decorate a tree on Christmas eve. We ice skate if the lake is agreeable, my dad and husband spear fish. We make Jesus a birthday cake.
Yes, we open gifts, but the gift part takes a back seat for most of us (well, all of the adults, anyway). We enjoy being together. All 4 of us try to make sure we're there at the same time for at least a meal or two. We just want to be together and create memories.
Before you go off and say, “well, my family doesn't get along that well”, let me tell you, mine doesn't always either. In fact, a few of us can get into it pretty good. But we make an effort, and make sure to get some space when we need to (a dark house is pretty good for getting space!).
I feel like we are free to create beautiful memories because we protect our family's time and don't place pressure on ourselves for a magazine-worthy Christmas.
What will you do this year to make sure you don't overextend yourself, both financially and emotionally?