I've actually been wanting to share a bit about how we celebrate our Christmas for a few years now. I always worry about stepping on toes and such. Because you know, the holiday season can be a very delicate subject in many ways. I don't think the way we do it is the only way, but I always think sharing can inspire others looking for a way to create their own traditions.
So with a bit of courage, I give you this… how we made peace with Santa.
I clearly remember our young family living on a very tiny salary trying to scrape pennies to make Christmas happen. The kids writing or drawing huge Christmas lists. The guilt involved in trying to live within our means and pull off what we thought Christmas should be. (aka, buy a bunch of crap). Joe & I hated it. It ruined the whole holiday season for us. The thing we loved most about the holidays was always time spent together, good food, slowing down, making simple gifts.
One year we watched the kids open their only gift "from us" and bit our tongues as good old St. Nick got all the credit (again). As much as we struggled with holiday gifting, we loved the magic of Santa. As we watched Rudolph the last time that season, a light bulb went on in my head. In all the old stories and movies, Santa filled stockings. Not with extravagant gifts either, simple thoughtful ones. Joe & I decided from then on, we'd ask Santa to do the same for our family.
The next year I worried so much that our seven & five year old would be disappointed with this simpler holiday, with less Santa craze. This might seem trivial to some, I know. But it's honest. It's difficult to change how things have always been, to change traditions. And you know? The kids didn't even notice. Over the years, the wish lists have sort of disappeared from our holiday. The kids know Santa won't be bringing them ponies or computers. After all, a pony won't fit in a stocking and Santa doesn't do electronics. We do our best to stick to a four gift rule. Something they want, something they need, something to wear, something to read. Much of this can be thrifted or made. Some of it is purchased. They always get a new book to celebrate solstice, most years they get pajamas too. There is always a bit of something they need in their stocking (art supplies, bath goodies, etc) along with some yummy treats. And they each get a simple "want" as their one Christmas gift from us. To some of you, this might still seem like a lot…. to others it might seem like not enough. For us, it's just right.
We try our best to balance our simple living, non-consumer holiday values with the celebrating. We try to focus on the gathering, giving, and spiritual parts of the holiday in a way that resonates with our family. I still wonder sometimes if we're doing it right. We kind of make things up and evolve as we go along. But when I doubt this different path we've chosen… I pause, and look at our kids. This simple holiday they've come to know is loved by each of them, it is most certainly enough. They're more excited about making peppermint bark and granola for friends than making wish lists. (ditching tv helps this immensely, but that's a whole other blog post) It doesn't mean that the little ones don't ask for something crazy now and then. They totally do. But we play up on the idea that we never know what Santa might bring, and that anything tucked into a stocking is something special. (and no, a go-cart will not fit in your stocking!)
The best part though, is being able to truly love that man in red again. Getting caught up in the mystery and magic…. and believing right along with the young people in my life.