This is a conversation I am going to have with my family. We MUST reinvent Christmas. Is has GOT to be different. And as far as it goes, our family has always had a scaled back version of the holiday, but there in lies the problem: scaled back, whilst a good beginning, can cause its own sort of stress. The stress comes in, at least for me, in the mental "keeping up with the mythical Joneses" that occurs despite my best efforts. Christmas morning at DL always finds me feeling distincly shabby next to those who are glammed up in their new Christmas outfits.
Last year was a fiasco because it was scaled back but not scaled back. I've heard of families saying they are scaling back to a hundred bucks per kid, for instance....HA! That would be the ultimate luxury for us. So I say this realizing that this terminology is loose and it is all relative.
So, scaling back just has not worked for us. I've done the homemade gifts out the yin-yang. I've looked in toy catalogs and created by hand doll dancing stages, rag dolls, doll clothes, etc. I've given framed kid's art to grandparents, etc. etc. It's all been done, tried, worn thin.
I even tried creating for myself a maroon velour christams dress: nice idea in theory but somehow it came off looking like I was wearing pajamas to Church.
And then there's the dread b-word: Budget. Last year we had a budget, which was great, and kept our spending on a cash basis, no Christmas debt, etc. BUT then it became this big stressor: how much bang can I get for my Budget Buck? And it was all about creating a whiz-bang gift giving occasion times four. And what happened? I failed miserably. Most of the gifts I got for my kids fell flat, weren't that great or broke very quickly and were a disappointment. How crappy is THAT?
So, how do I reinvent Christmas? The reinvention started several years ago when Divine Liturgy became the start of our day, and not opening presents at the crack of dawn. A good change. The reinvention continued as we developed the tradition of having people over for Christmas dinner in the evening: people who perhaps don't have family, or who can't get "home to grandma's". So that is a good thing. Much cheer and fellowship.
Part of the reinvntion needs to involve a change in gift expecations, both giving and receiving: I would like for the feast of the Nativity to not be more than Pascha, somehow. We always get a basket full of goodies like good foods, perhaps an icon, gifts, etc. for the whole family to enjoy at Pascha. How can I use that as the base line, and re-invent the Nativity celebration to be similar, not more, still being its own thing?
Here's the brainstorm: at Pascha I do try to get each of us a new outfit (at least the kids, and a new shirt or something for dh). Perhaps one cozy clothing item each at Nativity: you know, P.J's or gloves or something.
At Pascha, besides the fast breaking foods, I try to include a gift for each that will somehow help their spiritual development. Perhaps for celebrating the incarnation of Christ, something personal and material would be appropriate: One toy, or for those beyond toys something to care for one's body...hmmmm, sounding like the traditional Christmas gift list already. But what if the volume were kept low, smaller?
And something for the family to enojoy together: a game, or a movie or a new CD? But what if the total volume was not to exceed what would fit in, say, a pic nic basket? What IF it did not have to be piles of stuff under the tree? Would the kids be OK with that?
Because I remember all the broken toys, all the attempts at fashionable clothes that have gone unworn, all the stuff that just does not get played with, and I just don't want that sort of thing mucking up the holiday anymore. I'm so done with it!
Making Christmas like a LITTLE Pascha....that would be a joy!