Making Christmas more like Thanksgiving

Our Thanksgiving Bowl

I have always loved Thanksgiving. It's the one holiday that is about food and family and giving thanks for all we have. That's it. No religious squabbles. (Though I imagine it's only a matter of time before we'll see billboards exhorting vegetarians to "Keep the Turkey in Thanksgiving".) No presents to buy and stress over. Nothing you're supposed to do other than eat and be with friends and family. The to-do list is short: Buy good food and spend some time making it. Sit. Eat it. Eat some more. Talk about what you are thankful for (with the help of our Thanksgiving Bowl). Clean up while chatting. Unbutton top button of pants. DONE.

Every year, it seems like it's easy to make Thanksgiving meaningful and simple.

Christmas is a different story.

Every year I wrestle with how to make Christmas as delicious and precious as Thanksgiving. How to keep it focused on our blessings and our abundance. I want our children to have warm memories of this time and yet I want to stay sane and keep it simple.

Between the nonstop wants that emanate from my oldest child, the internal pressure to get it all "right", the desire and guilt about wanting to spend time with EVERYONE, it feels like an uphill battle.

Unfortunately, many of the things that feel like they would make Christmas meaningful are most decidedly NOT simple. "I know! This year I'll MAKE everyone a present!" (Because I have so much free time?!) "I know! This year we'll make multiple batches of several Christmas cookies from both sides of the family! It's our heritage!" (And our heritage will take all my time and patience and leave the girls hopped up on sugar and us needing a whole new wardrobe to accommodate our new bellies). "I know! Let's forget presents this year and hide under the covers!"


("Yes! Let's!")

So we're doing what we always do: we're taking baby steps in the right direction, hoping that as we get closer, we'll get faster and the way will get clearer.

This year, we found a little farm right outside of town and cut down our own tree. They had horses and hot chocolate and we froze our tails off. It was a far cry from getting our tree from a vacant lot in LA and it felt like we were getting a little closer.

We walked into our little downtown on Saturday and watched the holiday parade. Cub scouts handed out candy canes and shivering beauty queens waved and Z and E danced to the marching band playing Feliz Navidad and we felt a lot closer to what we wanted for our girls around Christmas.

CG's family is only doing stocking stuffers for the adults so that we can all pitch in and donate a lump sum to a charity that was close to my father-in-law's heart. That feels clear and right.

We will sit down with Z this weekend and let her chose which charity to donate the money that has been accruing every week in her "charity" piggy bank. She will also pick out and buy a present for her sister from her "gifts" piggy bank. That's getting closer and closer.

What about you? What brings you closer to the kind of Christmas you want for your family?


Hillary said...

We have an annual cookie day with friends. We make an ornament for the tree every year. Now that Christmas also is The Lad's birthday, we're making an equally big deal about that.

But I do worry that it's all about THE STUFF. I've given up trying to rein in the grandparents, but I am trying to rein in myself.

miyoko said...

we are a LOT closer. even though much of it involves freezing our butts off.

yes, even going tree buying at our local crazy "farm-ish" supermarket and FREEZING is nicer than buying a tree from the LA drug store parking lot during 70 degree weather.

it seems all xmas experiences are nicer if you have to freeze, wear mittens and a hat while doing them.

hot cocoa is yummier, fires are warmer and cozier, xmas trees make sense. no need for fake cotton snow.

i LOVE the stocking stuffers for adults idea and charity donation.

Marie Green said...

We try to keep it meaningful too, to keep some integrity in all the gift-giving, but it's hard. I want to just slow down and enjoy it.. and sometimes I feel like we are doing that and other times we are not.

GratefulTwinMom said...

Definitely closer as the kids get older. Sometimes I think they need to have a sense of themselves in the world among others. This year, they picked out gifts for the Toys for Tots drive and they are finally conscious of what it means to give of themselves to the family and each other. The bonus? They're both a little more cuddly these days.

Sarah said...

I worked really hard this year to make Christmas about the SEASON of fun and family rather than the big! day! of! stuff! at the end. We made lots of cookies, yes we did (with the exact results you predicted, btw) we strung up lights outside together, we went to a Christmas Tree festival at our museum, we made ornaments with our friends, we handmade gifts for the kids' cousins, they both took part in a kids' program at our church, then we went to the Christmas Eve candlelight service. We had a Christmas Eve family party with homemade soup and no presents, just talk and games and as many relatives as our house can hold. We read some special Christmas books and watched the Christmas movies that I've been hiding back in the holiday closet. It was all fun and special, if exhausting.
I think in the end the presents were my LEAST FAVORITE part of it all. I wish I'd stuck to a "three gifts per kid" kind of rule, and worked harder to make THOSE gifts really special, rather than succumbing to the lure of seeing a tree overflowing with packages on Christmas morning.

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