"Best Christmas ever." Isn't that what everyone aims to achieve every year? We pull out decorations, and re-live traditions, and buy more gifts and bake more cookies and attend more parties, all in an attempt to top the year before.
I am one who truly lives for Christmas. Every year I try to bring back the holiday feelings I had when I was young. The joy. The anticipation. The smells. The massive gifts.
Brian too. He is conditioned to think that more is always better. It doesn't really matter what you get, as long as there are LOTS of gifts under the tree.
These are traps. And they're easy traps to get into.
After the last two years of Christmas mornings (I say "morning", but truthfully it took us all day to get the gifts opened) left us overwhelmed and undersatisfied, we vowed to make things different this year.
Here are three major changes we made this year, which helped make this the Best Christmas Ever.
1. Fewer gifts.
We thought we had done this last year, but as the day wore on and the gifts were still mostly unopened, and we were drowning in paper remnants, we realized we had failed. This year we implemented a strict 3-gifts rule. Each of our kids got something to wear, something to read, and something to play with. Brian and I also stuck to that for each other. Of course with grandparents, and cousins, and aunts and uncles, there were many more gifts than just the three from us.
2. Less traditions.
There are so many things that we would like to do, such as drive around and look at all the lights, decorate gingerbread houses, attend all the parties, bake cookies for the neighbors, ride the "polar express train", visit Santa, attend the city tree lighting, and so many more. Fitting it all in can get overwhelming and stressful, and strip the very joy we are trying to achieve.
So this year we picked the things that were most important to us. We attended one or two parties. We visited Santa and took pictures, since we love comparing the pictures each year. We baked cookies, but only a few, and we used store-bought dough at that! It was more important to me to get to decorate the cookies with my kids than to slave away in the kitchen all day. And we skipped driving all over the valley to see the "best" house lights, and instead enjoyed the ones right in our neighborhood.
3. More handmade.
Many of our gifts this year were handmade. In fact, all of what the kids gave out was handmade (see previous post). I loved the joy the kids had in making gifts for each other. Everything was so much more personal and thoughtful. Plus they had fun making everything. And frankly, with four kids needing to shop for each other, it would be a logistical nightmare trying to get each of them to the store without the other ones seeing. Next year I will just do a better job of tracking what each of them has made, to make sure they have everyone covered and aren't left scrambling at the last minute.
Overall, these things that simplified our holiday also made it that much more enjoyable. We had more time for games, family movies, and reflecting on the Real Reason for the season!