Note: What you are about to read may contain a few contrarian lessons to frugality, but are in line with how we celebrate Christmas. I look at these lessons through different glasses, aiming to balance modesty and expense, simplicity and gratification, and for the most part, believing I can stay the course with moderation. This is our happy medium; what is yours?
This year, we hosted our Christmas Eve celebrations for our extended family, and this year, the term “extended” surely was emphasized. We had two families over from abroad to celebrate Christmas with us and the number of kids promptly jumped up an additional four. So with 11 kids and roughly the same number of adults in our party, you can imagine the revelry and cheerful mayhem that transpired in our home yesterday.
So from this tidy picture of beauty and order, whilst we talked about how Christ Jesus was born on this special day, how we should be thankful for all the blessings we’ve received and how Santa gives out gifts when we’ve been good the whole year….
We ended up with this just four short hours later.
Well there went my plans to save and recycle the lovely Christmas wrappings that we so painstakingly attempted to preserve for at least one more use. You see, no matter what you do or say, little kids are apt to play the game of “whoever opens their gift with the least amount of mess is a total dweeb”.
So….if like me, you subscribe to the idea that Christmas is primarily for kids, then…
I’ve avoided interfering with the wrapper ripping tradition; frugality, peace and order and the story of Christmas get lost in all the carousing and fun of large crowded parties. I personally feel I just can’t skimp when it comes to these little enjoyable practices that make Christmas real to us: the holiday music piping through the house, the fire in the hearth, and yes… the gift giving aftermath. Today, I cherish similar childhood memories as I hope these children do when they’re older. Nevertheless, I’m sure if I hunt around long enough, I’ll find some nice paper to salvage!
Now after the gifts were opened, it appeared that the lion’s haul of the goodies ended up with the kids from our nuclear family. Everyone knows that in the face of a democratic family convention, something like that won’t fly with the extended family’s “new” kids. I overheard one child say “Hey, why did I only get one toy while Roscoe* got three (*names were changed to protect the innocent)!” My heart sank at that moment so I’m now to get four more belated presents for four children who were quite good all year round; so off I’ll go for a quickie visit to the stores for last minute items. Now before you think I’ve given in, these items and gifts we pass around are rather modest — we’re not talking about a fancy Wii or even a talking Elmo here. We’re talking about $5 dolls and $10 matchbox cars and the like.
Which brings us to…
Having one big gift for an entire family with younger children may not be as good an idea as I thought it was, especially if you’re having them over for that traditional gift exchange (Secret Santa was voted down for us this year)! Personal presents for each individual, even though simple, are necessary to keep some goodwill and restore the concept of fairness among anyone under the age of 15. Let them realize that life may not be fair another time during different circumstances and when they’re older and hopefully wiser.
I’m a meticulous planner, but something always comes up last minute during events like this.
No matter how much you plan, there will always be things that can come out of left field, like the Christmas string lights that will no longer light, or the additional but always very welcome guests who will drop by with their warm wishes, or the extra cards and gifts that come your way that you may feel just a little bit obligated to reciprocate. So prepare for those extras.
Expect the unexpected and only if you can, pad your Holiday budget according to your “unexpected” measure. I’ve taken all this into consideration in my budget which I continue to wrestle down to a reasonable amount way under the average American’s planned holiday expense of $1,200.
While I haven’t talked about materialism or how values are instilled into our children at this early age, I simply write about how it is for us, as I’d rather not overthink these celebrations — I simply want to enjoy it for what it’s worth. Some families may conduct themselves more simply, while others will no doubt handle themselves much more elaborately. What I do try to do is to make Christmas a special day for children hopefully without going overboard, and it’s really more about how we interact as a family and play together with our next of kin. For me, it’s all about the sharing of those many moments that proceed to create deep memories that I replay in my mind for as long as I’m alive, which I’m betting is what those in my circle are experiencing as well.
For Christmas Day, we heard Christmas Mass and also had dinner with my in-laws, which promised to be more subdued with the only children being ours in the midst of that reunion.
I hope your Holidays were full of joy and that you got whatever you wished for this year.
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