It’s that time of year again. I really don’t like December much. Too much busyness, stress, consumerism and waste. The shops and supermarkets are far more crowded than usual, it seems like everyone goes on shopping overdrive for an entire month. Every year after Christmas, Colin and I have seriously considered not celebrating it at all the next year! So far we haven’t found a way to do that without offending friends and family, but we’ve been making a conscious effort to cut back over the last few years. I hope we are getting closer to our desire for a simple December and Christmas.
I’ve written before about why we don’t do Santa. It works well for our family, but oh my, some people get so worked up about it! I’ve recently seen/heard several heated discussions with words like “abuse”, “destroying childhood” and “tragic”, being thrown around! Tabitha is very excited about Father Christmas this year despite knowing that he is not real, she is keen to play along and was thrilled when Santa’s sleigh drove past our front door this evening. Aaron is less bothered about it but he did shush me in the supermarket for saying too loudly that Santa wasn’t real!
We don’t make a huge deal over the religious side of Christmas either. The Bible doesn’t say when Jesus was born and there are no instructions to celebrate His birth, so our church doesn’t have any special Christmas services. On the other hand, it is of course an opportunity to focus on the good news of gospel rather than materialism and worldly things. We do read the nativity story and enjoy singing carols and hymns.
This year I bought “Unwrapping the Greatest Gift: A Family Celebration of Christmas” with the intention of using the daily readings alongside the free printable Jesse tree ornaments available online. I have a weakness for beautiful books, and the illustrations in this one are lovely. I read lots of glowing reviews about it before I ordered. However, I have to admit I am disappointed with the content. The author’s writing style is convoluted, flowery and verbose. Aaron and Tabitha have struggled to understand the readings and even I get really frustrated trying to read them aloud! Some of the readings are clearer than others, but I would recommend reading the author’s blog to get an idea of her writing style before purchasing this book. There are also a few doctrinal issues that personally I would disagree with.
We have celebrated St Nicholas Day for several years now, but we did it a bit differently this year because I wanted the focus to be on giving rather than receiving. After reading “Saint Nicholas: The Real Story of the Christmas Legend” on St Nicholas Eve, I pulled out a bag of chocolate coins and asked the children what we could do with them. Their first suggestion was “eat them”, quickly followed by “give them to people”.
After dark, we wrapped up warm and went out to secretly post the coins and a little card explaining the history of St Nicholas through letter boxes. It was so much fun, tiptoeing to the front doors of our neighbours, friends and family and then scurrying away quickly, trying not to giggle! It felt a bit like a reverse version of Halloween. We all agreed that we want to make this a yearly tradition!
When I was a child, my great granny would give me and my brother an advent calendar every year. We loved hunting for the right number each day and opening the little cardboard doors to see the picture underneath. Nowadays the shops are full of advent calendars containing chocolates or toys, but I prefer the simplicity of our fabric one. As the children get older I may put activity cards in the pockets as well, but for now they just enjoy adding the figures to the scene and talking about the nativity story.
Yesterday we fetched our little potted Christmas tree in from the balcony. It has grown quite a bit since last year. Aaron didn’t want to help decorate it because he wanted to be surprised by the finished tree, so Tabitha did it by herself.
We will be keeping gift giving as simple as possible. I’ve spent a grand total of £13 (no, that wasn’t a typo) each on Aaron and Tabitha’s presents, plus a couple more pounds for little stocking fillers. They get far too much from friends and family anyway, so they really don’t need more from us. We are only buying for children this year, adult relatives will be getting a little selection of hand-made and home-cooked gifts. Opting out of extravagant gift-giving has probably been the hardest part of simplifying Christmas.
We have been invited to spend Christmas Day with Colin’s parents, and Boxing Day with my parents, granny, brother and sister-in-law, so I will have a year off from cooking. We will also be visiting or being visited by other friends and relatives. After all, spending time with loved ones is the very best way to celebrate!
Wishing you all a very happy Christmas, however you choose to celebrate it!