The last several years I've been paring down the expense of Christmas and that has helped. This year I decided ease up the schedule, too. As I took so many things away I've been able to look at what I do want Christmas to be for us. What traditions do I want to create for my kids? What do I love about Christmas and how can I do those things well?
We're keeping the gingerbread house tradition. You know I've never decorated my own house, I've only ever done these with the kids. I like that the kids work together and getting to see what they come up with. I hope through the years our creations get more beautiful but for now we're doing fine with the $10 store bought kit and tons of candy piled on.
I also decided that I want to be a Christmas baker. I had a neighbor once that always made bread and jam and that was what she gave out each year. First of all it was yummy. But also, her delivery meant we had a little time to chat and connect. I love it! I want to give gifts of myself to people like she did. So this year we made cinnamon spice nuts, a very special dark chocolate fudge, and some Christmas monster cookies. It's been fun deliverying these to neighbors, old and current, and to Andrew's employees. Next year I plan to get a jump on things and stock up the freezer. I only need to figure out how to have an annual baking day with family or friends. I love the idea of doing all this together. What fun!!
This year we started something new. The kids saved money for several months and were able to bless families in need by purchasing a goat and a chicken through World Vision. I haven't given them the thoughtful thank you card that they sent us, it will be a part of their Christmas presents. It was thrilling to see how much these guys could pull together in only a few short months and I hope that this coming year we're able to be even more creative in finding ways to raise more money for this annual gift.
In lieu of an all out gift buying burnout season, we decided to have the kids buy for each other this year. That was fun. I thought they did a good job picking appropriate gifts for each other. We've done little gift exchanges in the past but this year that's all they're getting, so they got a little more to spend. We also got them a few little stocking stuffers and some clothes. I think Andrew's got something for Josiah that's more of a "right of passage" type gift. The goal of all this is to shift the focus from presents to memories. What can we do together that we'll always remember when the things have long since worn out.
One tradition I remember growing up was the St. Lucia Bride, a Swedish practice where the oldest daughter prepares breakfast for the family wearing the Christmas wreath with candles on her head. Having three girls I'm having to modify a bit but I still have special Lucia Bride memories from my own childhood so we will keep this alive!
I've also decided our Christmas dinner tradition will be the Swedish meatballs. My grandmother told me once that this was an old family tradition from way back and since IKEA came into my life and introduced me to those yummy meatballs it was an easy tradition to re-adopt.
Next year I'd like to look deeper at Advent. We've dabbled in it in the past but I'd like to really embrace it. I also think exploring more of Hanukkah would be very educational. The Women's Holiday Dinner really wet my appetite for it this year but I wasn't prepared enough to pull anything together.
I love being with family and if I could have everybody together every year with time to cook age old recipes, take long walks all bundled up, play Scrabble games until we can't think, do craft projects with the kids, sing together and no video games or constant movies being played.... ahhh, I would love it!
I suppose this post is mostly for myself, to help me remember where I'm at and where I'm going. But what are some of your traditions? What matters to you this time of year? How do you balance your own Christmas intentions with all the outside demands? What gifts do you like to give? Inspire me people! :)