I have very fond memories from the Christmas times of my childhood. Some of the moments were about gifts, but I would love to share with you a slightly different story. I am 35 years old and I can't remember most of the tangible gifts I was given. I do, however, have deeply seared in my heart, the following memories:
I had a little brown cassette player I carried around and I jammed to Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton's 'Kentucky Homemade Christmas'. It was about a poor family who loved their children so, but could not afford even a single toy. It melted my heart every time. I would read the special Christmas book that came out of the attic at this time every year: The Polar Express. Writing those words still gives me chills, that's how good the story is. Please stop reading this blog right now and go read it for heavens sake!
On Christmas Eve My dad would gently show me how to set up the wood in the fireplace. Our golden retriever would park her fuzzy blonde body right next to the blazing blue and orange flames, and my younger brother and I lovingly laid next to her. Worlds Best Dog. My mom cooked up a feast of prosciutto wrapped asparagus, stuffed mushrooms, refreshingly cold veggies with dill dip, pulled pork, homemade mac n cheese, the list goes on. It was out of this world! The best part was that she did this all ahead of time so that she had time to sit and enjoy our company all evening. Our closest friends the Folks family came over after we all went to mass and brought the most delicious creamy crab dip you've ever had. We'd partake in the feast then indulge in my mom's homemade snickerdoodles, homemade Johnstown chocolate, and the most delicious chocolate chip cookies made with ground oats as the flour. The evening glowed with candles around the room and a magnificent tree. All senses were effected as we even had live entertainment when Annie felt like singing a special Christmas carol for us. Little girls dressed in red velvet dresses. Homemade sangria flowed sweetly for the adults. The children played together (or sometimes argued) and vied for the attention of our merrily chatting parents.
Fast forward 25 years. This year my husband and I have asked our family and friends to give our children gifts of experience instead of tangible gifts. Please don't misunderstand, we DO give the boys toys. This past August Ronin started talking a lot about trains. Throughout September he would create pretend train tracks out of blocks and other little things around the house. In October we decided, why wait! We loved his creativity and wanted him to take it even further in building tracks with tunnels, bridges, etc. We bought him a wooden track set with 4 little trains. and he's played with it every day since then. Baby Everett has a few baby toys but he mostly likes to play godzilla and destroy Ronin's tracks. Its truly fun for the whole family :) They don't have many toys and we like to keep it that way for our sanity as parents who have lives of our own outside of picking up toys, and for the sake of raising them to be creative in designing their own fun. We get out of the house daily and explore the natural world with them, so when we are home they often spend time reading, or "helping" with cooking or cleaning (especially sweeping, lol). We also spend an enormous amount of time wrestling.
This is what works for us. We are far from perfect but we are a happy little family. Though our Christmas times will also never be the same after losing my older brother Justin in November 2014. We do still gather on Christmas eve at my parents and give one another lots of laughter.
These are my Christmas time memories and I hope to give our children the same sweet memories. Some years they may receive a few gifts, but it will be minimal. They will come to expect the minimal and I truly believe it wont matter to them, because they will be focused on all of the other magical Christmas things: playing with their 2 favorite cousins and Uncle Brett and Aubrey, and getting smothered with love and good food from everyone, and learning about Jesus. Also, taking the ornaments off the tree ;)
If something about this resonates with you, I invite you to take even a small step toward minimizing and see how it feels. I'd love to hear from you.