A Season Without all of the Gifts Brings us Just as Much Peace and Joy

Our driveway in the snow

Continuing with the theme of minimalist holiday decorating I wrote about on Tuesday, my blogger friend over at Little House on the Southern Prairie wrote last week on breaking from the shopping frenzy that always accompanies this time of year. Her post set me to thinking how our holidays have changed.

At one time in our married lives, Christmas meant a month full of shopping and running around, ending with two days of family merriment (note the sarcasm in that word) and invariably, my ending up down with a nasty cold that typically led into bronchitis.

Not only did we have the holiday shopping, wrapping and company parties, but my mother and I both celebrated birthdays in December, adding to the packed calendar.

On the 24th, we usually began the two-day extravaganza stressed. We typically were running late to get to my family’s gathering because Dale never worked for a company that gave him the day off or even let him off at noon.

When we arrived, everyone was on pins and needles.  One family member usually got mad because there was always something that didn’t measure up to their Norman Rockwell vision of the holiday, or they were already mad and they were ruthless in “pay back.”

We spent half the night there and came home to open packages with my mom and the night usually didn’t end until the wee hours of the morning.

On the 25th, it was early to his grandmother’s and after her death, his mother’s, my other family’s celebration in the afternoon and his dad’s at night.

No wonder I usually ended the month sick.

Our gift list was 30+ people long and we typically came home with boxes of stuff we had to find a use and space for in a house that was already overflowing.

I would like to think since we moved to Our Little House, we’ve found the peace and joy without the hubbub and all of the gifts. Sure, we still receive some gifts, but like the gifts we give now, I feel they are meaningful as they are for people who truly want to give to us and we choose a gift now because it does mean something, rather than having to buy or even receive because someone felt obligated.

Here are some of the traditions that make me happy each season:

  • Watching “Christmas Vacation” and then “It’s a Wonderful Life.”
  • Listening to Bing Crosby croon “White Christmas,” remembering my mother and how much she loved the season.
  • The white lights on our Christmas tree and our outdoor lights glowing in the total darkness of the woods.
  • If we’re lucky, like last year, a white Christmas of our own. The majesty of a snow white blanketed wooded landscape is the very definition of peace.
  • A day of relaxing with just a couple of good friends and good food on Christmas.
  • Eggnog
  • Christmas cards with notes from friends and family, some of whom I don’t hear from the rest of the year.

How have you redefined the holidays to not include the commercialism and stuff most of us do not need?

You may also like...

19 Responses

  1. Kim says:

    As a mom with toddlers, I have to admit that de-commercializing the holidays is a real struggle. We do want to play the Santa game for the few years that it’s magical for the kids, but it is so easy to make that the focus of Christmas– and I really don’t want that. I have no tips to share, just an admission that I’m struggling!

  2. S.A.B.L.E. says:

    I put most of holiday energy into making christmas cards and a letter about the year at the farm. I carve the block, hand print the cards, sign and number them, then handwrite a quote that I find inspiring. It’s not usually not a “Christmas” theme but it’s sharing a bit of myself. I have enjoyed seeing my carvings improve over the last 17 years I’ve made them. It’s a big job but I enjoy it and enjoy hearing from friends how much they like and treasure the cards and letters.

    One friend said she cried when I sent her replacements after she told me her collection of the cards were lost in Hurricane Katrina. That really touched me.

    So my holiday decor is really scaled down. This year I put 700 LED lights on a pine tree in the wildflower meadow that’s about 150 feet from the house. It adds a nice glow to the darkness of the surrounding country. Having this as my Christmas tree also helps keep the kitties out of mischief.

    Kerri, I hope you and Dale have a Merry “Little” Christmas.

    • kerri says:

      That’s wonderful about the carvings, SABLE, a really nice way to share yourself, I would say! I bet your tree glowing in the darkness is just magical. You have a Merry Christmas as well!

  3. Thanks so much for the link, Kerri!

    I agree with the folks who love the little family traditions around the holidays the best — even something as simple as being allowed to open one gift xmas eve, or always watching “Holiday Inn” on xmas day (we do!). I am having fun deciding what new traditions I’d like to create for my baby daughter.

    • kerri says:

      Oh, I bet you are, Emily! We just welcomed our granddaughter, Sophia. She lives in Germany, so we’re counting on her mother to begin the holiday traditions with her from her American grandparents!

  4. Alexandra says:

    I redefined the holidays in a different way when I moved to France 40 years ago. Often I felt like hiding at Christmas because I missed America. But I learned to look forward to the foie gras – yup, as in goose liver – that is traditional there. We trekked to my in-laws, where gifts were exchanged. I used to shudder at the thought, but now look back on those days for what they were, a pleasant time, surrounded by my French family.

    • kerri says:

      Yikes, Alexandra. Reminds me of our time spent in Germany, where we were served liver soup! We love our German daughter’s family, but we can’t do the liver thing. 🙂 Sounds like you have lovely memories of holidays in France.

  5. Sheryl says:

    Our kids have moved out, and we’ve already started the downsizing process (we’ll be moving to our 1000 sqft cabin in a year or so). Hubby and I have decided to have a downsized Christmas year. We’re still putting up a tree and decorations, but we’re not buying each other gifts (neither of us need more stuff); and for other family members, it will be a much smaller gift exchange.
    I’m really looking forward to spending time with the people I love.
    It seems that canceling the most of the Christmas shopping has already made the season so much more relaxing and fun. This may become our new tradition!

    • Kerri says:

      It becomes even more special when we buy and do for others during this season. Adopting a family, a senior and homeless shelter pets has also become a part of our tradition. For some, so little means so much! Your new tradition sounds like it has brought peace for you too, Sheryl!

  6. Because both my parents have passed, their extended family doesn’t contact me anymore and two of my husband’s siblings are at war,our gift list is quite sparse this year and to tell the truth, that works fine for me. I can concentrate on my kids and grandkids and there’s no hidden agendas.

    • Kerri says:

      I hate it when people use the holidays for their agendas, Heather. The holidays when I was growing up were magical, but the ones with my family after I got married just got worse with all of the bickering and those agendas. Glad to be rid of that part of it, though I do miss the ones I had as a kid. 🙂 My dad was the “enforcer” in the family. Not happy? Go home and be miserable by yourself, or stay and be happy. No one spoiled the holidays when he was alive.

  7. Husbands don’t like holidays. Mine never celebrates a holiday, annivesary, or birthday (only if it is his). I miss my old fashion handcrafted Christmas. It was like play time for me so many years ago.

    • Kerri says:

      My mom had a rule for people who didn’t celebrate holidays, birthdays and anniversaries for others: They don’t believe in giving, then they don’t get either. Believe me, it only takes 1 missed birthday of theirs before they get “it!” 😉

  8. We are currently making two house payments, moved to a new home and haven’t sold the old one yet. That economic reality has forced us to downsize our Christmas, at least in terms of gift giving and I don’t mind one bit.

    Like you Kerri, I am limiting my shopping list to a small group of people who have been there for us in good times and bad, friends who I know I can count on when I’m struggling or sad and who I can also count on to celebrate with me when things are good.

    We will get one nice gift for each of our two daughters. They understand our financial situation and probably would be fine if we didn’t give them gifts at all, but I just wouldn’t feel right about that. Our new house in the country is all that my husband and I need for ourselves this year. We’re so happy to be spending our first Christmas here and don’t feel the least deprived by not buying each other gifts.

    My favorite things about Christmas are the cheer of twinkling lights, singing in the church choir, baking cookies for friends and family and getting together with people for good food, music and lively conversation. I also like getting dressed up and putting on a little makeup for the few holiday parties we attend. My usual daily wardrobe consists of blue jeans and a sweatshirt, so it’s kind of fun to get a little bit fancy just once a year. Happy holidays to you, Kerri and your “Little House” readers!

  9. Merr says:

    The traditions sounds like the real gifts to me. I guess that’s because they are, and they can evolve with us, because we create them.

    • Kerri says:

      You’re right, Merr, the traditions are the gifts and they last forever, if not in reality, but in our hearts too. Happy Holidays to you!

  10. Olivia says:

    I don’t know that we redefined them so much as they just evolved into something smaller and less stressful as the children grew up. No grandkids yet so adult gatherings are calm, at least in my family. Since moving back home it’s just DH and I, 2 sons and one girlfriend. Married daughter and son-in-law live 2000 km away. We would love to all be together at Christmas and they hope to move here in about 3 years but, for now, with the expense of air travel at that time of year and the unpredictability of weather, they stay put. We get together with friends after Christmas.

    As for snow – I am quite happy to have a green Christmas. We get so much snow here in Atlantic Canada that any less of the white stuff is welcome. Also, and more importantly, I don’t have to worry about the kids out driving on the roads!

    I also love the Christmas tree, the cards and letters, Christmas Services at church, Christmas music on the radio – but traditional carols and music, not the jingle pop type.

    My dream is to see a really excellent choir perform Handel’s Messiah. As I type this, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir is singing the Hallelujah Chorus on XM satellite. It always makes my spine tingle.

    • Kerri says:

      One of the perks of my corporate job was traveling to NYC during the holidays. I had the opportunity to see the Rockett’s holiday show. I also miss seeing the Nutcracker in KC.