Merry day after, my friends. How was your Christmas? We had a lovely, very quiet day. Grams and Gramps usually spend Christmas with us but this year, they were just here for a single night. They drove up from Yuma on the 23rd and hung out with us until they flew to my mom’s house in Denver on Christmas Eve.
Confession: I was nervous for Christmas because it looked a bit different at our house this year and I wasn’t sure how the kids would handle it. The whole thing started last year when–not long after Christmas–Jeff and I went for our regular 3.5 mile walk around our neighborhood. As we went, we talked about feeling burdened by the excess of it all. Our house overflowed with stacks of unwrapped gifts and wrapping paper, bags and bows and tissue paper. There was more food in our refrigerator and on our countertops than we could hope to eat before it spoiled. There were leftover Christmas paper plates and napkins and cups. So much excess that both Jeff and I were bogged down by it all, especially in comparison to the children and families in developing countries who don’t even have two shoes or a sink.
And so we vowed to make a change this year–starting at home.
For starters, our Christmas shopping looked different because we scaled way back on material gifts. Whereas the foot of our tree normally cannot contain the plethora of gifts, this year was noticeably different. As Christmas neared, I had to really fight the urge to buy more. And then when Christmas Eve finally I arrived, I became really uncomfortable with the decision to go simple this year. It just felt wrong after so many years of giving so much materially bigger. I went to bed on Christmas Eve feeling guilty and sad about what my kids would wake up to on Christmas morning.
The gifts we sent to extended family looked different, too. What normally happens in my family is that everyone sort of shops from a wish list. When you think about it, that is not at all what the spirit of gift giving is meant to be. The spirit of gift giving, rather, is to offer a gift that strikes the giver as especially appropriate or meaningful to the recipient. Shopping from a dictated wish list is nothing like that. And so instead of gifting wish listed items, we donated various items to children in the developing countries that Compassion serves in honor of our loved ones. We also gave a few handcrafted gifts. I can’t speak to how our gifts were received (because we weren’t present when they were opened), but they were given with the best of intentions.
As for our children, I’m happy to report that when they woke up and Christmas began, everything was…surprisingly merry. The focus was definitely not on gifts, but rather on the gift of family and–most importantly–the gift of Jesus. We drank homemade hot chocolate from the mugs that all of our loved ones signed last year when we were all together at Thanksgiving. We feasted on whole wheat cinnamon rolls and our traditional egg and potato casserole for breakfast and enchiladas for dinner. We even ventured out to the movies to see “Into the Woods” (which I really, really did not like, for the record).
The big question, of course, is: Would you do it again next year? The answer? Yes. Yes I would. Despite the cold feet I developed towards the end, I think we will adopt this approach in years to come. We might need a few tweaks here and there, but in the aftermath of Christmas 2014, I’m left feeling so much better about the lessons we modeled for our kids and how we stewarded the gifts we’ve been given. Growth is not always comfortable, but that doesn’t make it any less important, right?
Here are a few photos from Christmas at our house. I hope yours was equally merry and that your new year, too, will be blessed.
This one requires an explanation, doesn’t it? Jayce likes to tease Kennedy about her hair, referring to her as a “ginger” at every available opportunity. For Christmas, he wrote a twist on Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer. His first verse went something like “Kenny the red-haired woman, had some very shiny hair.” Despite the look she’s giving, she was actually quite amused by Jayce’s gift and gave him a great big hug later.