Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Changing Traditions

This time of year can be hectic and fraught with angst. Even more so if the budget is tighter. We put so much pressure on ourselves to have the "perfect" holiday that we lose sight of those values we want to be perfect: time spent with family, the act of giving, charity, observance of traditions. A perfect holiday does not need to be bought with a credit card. The perfect holiday does not need to look like it came from a Lifestyle of the Rich and Famous magazine.

I have been guilty of the pursuing the "perfect" holiday. When I was a single mother, the month of December was a very busy month for me. Usually, I had a second job to pay for the holiday and coming winter expenses. The result of this was time not spent with my older son. There was no time to enjoy a Christmas tree lighting or a Christmas Concert. The result was that by Christmas day I was exhausted. The result was that there was no time to cook a nice meal; instead, it was mostly store bought. That moment at the Christmas tree ,unwrapping presents, was so fleeting and always left me with an anti-climatic sense of the holiday.

As I began to simplify my life and slow down I learned to replace those traditions that required spending money with traditions that engaged the participation of everyone in our home. We spend the beginning of the December focusing on the coming winter season. We begin by making cut paper snowflakes Cost of this craft: FREE. You don't need to buy a fancy book to tell you how to make something you made as a child. We use scrap paper instead of buying white paper. I usually keep the snowflakes up until March when thoughts turn to Spring and gardening

We also make Pinecone Bird Feeders. This activity gets everyone involved. On Sundays in November it is safe to walk in the woods; so we take family walks and hunt for the pinecones we will use for feeders. We use natural feed for our sheep (native oats and corn) and used some cracked corn this year. We hang them outside our windows so that we can watch the bird channel. Lily Cat is very fond of this tradition. We have had downy woodpeckers, chickadees, juncos, vireos , tufted titmouse and one day we had 8 bluejays in the yard. We are also planning to string popcorn and cranberries to hang on a hawthorn tree in our yard to feed the birds. Cost of this activity: well, you might have to buy some cheap peanut butter(2.00) and some bird seed but we can get a small bag of bird feed for 2.00. Total 4.00. For the garland, popcorn is still a cheap snack so you can eat it while you are stringing and cranberries are on sale right now for the holidays. So maybe 5.00.

Another activity that we do around here is origami. The other day we made these doves. Some of them are nesting in house plants and a few of them hanging from hooks in windows. You don't need to have special origami paper to do this activity. We used paper with printing on one side and just folded the print side inside. Cost of this activity:Free

Another activity we like to do around here is read all the great Christmas/ winter Christmas books that are available. My favorite is The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey.The Crafty Crow is doing a book a day with activity for advent this year. There are some great books on her list. Most of our local libraries carry many of these books. Cost of this activity: FREE.

We will be giving some baked goodness to friends and families at the holidays and the kids are always willing to help with this.

I used to put the tree up and get all the decorations up right away. But I found that this just feeds the Christmas machine. As soon as presents appeared under the tree there was an inventory taken. So we wait till the week before the holiday to put our tree up. I used to put all the presents under the tree but when I met my husband ,we melded our traditions. In his family, all the presents would magically appear on Christmas morning. This year we have been talking about whether to have a big "Santa gift" under the tree. We will still do stockings. Our reasoning is that the teen is old enough to know that there are a few specific, practical items he will receive. We just think maybe, while the wee one is young, we can shift the focus from all the Big Things Santa Gives to all the things we can do for each other. We don't visit Santa at the mall. He is aware of Santa. But when there is something he sees that he desires; we don't say, "Wait for Santa", but, "Put it on you wish list." Usually the desire is fleeting, but we don't want any expectation that the big guy is gonna provide.

If there have been expectations of what a holiday should look like it can be hard to shift the focus. But less can be more during the holidays; leaving more time to share memories. During these tough economic times we shouldn't feel shame that we can't do what we did before. What was done before was not sustainable and left many of us in debt. With a little creativity, little or no money new traditions can be brought into your home that truly can provide those perfect moments we strive for this time of year.


Pat aka Posh said...

I'll never forget the year we charged all the gifts and were still paying for them the next Christmas.. that was a changing factor in our lives.. never again did we let the commercial guys control our pockets and buy and buy their expensive gifts for our children... after they got one nice gift and the rest was mostly homemade and the funny thing was, they even seemed happier and more appreciative of what they did receive.

Wendy said...

I love simplifying this holiday. It can be so very difficult this time of year, even if times weren't what they are, and that feeding frenzy under the tree - just awful. Like you, we try to bring a little something special to the everyday and try to take the focus off the "gifts." Last year, my girls asked relatives to send donations for the animal shelter in lieu of gifts, and the day after, we delivered our donations in person. It was very special for my girls.

For a lot of years, we did the snowflake thing, too. I don't know why we stopped, but it sounds like a good project for tomorrow morning ;).

Cynthia said...

I've been reading your blog for awhile now, though this is my first time to comment, and my thought to this is EXACTLY! We got into lots of debt a few years ago and since then I have moved our focus at Christmas time.

Since moving to the UK over a year ago I have been learning more and more about the Victorian Era and how cool it was back then around Christmas time. People were so frugal then but they still managed to create a lovely Christmas holiday for their family by making things themselves.

Wonderful post, it's nice to read about people with similar ideals.

ChristyG said...

Thank you for this - very inspiring reading at this sometimes-harried time of year. I'm reminded to slow down and smell the Christmas trees!

Kathy said...

Wonderful post and insights Karin. Many years of living teaches us much if we only open our minds and eyes.

I like the simple craft activities and this year we are decorating more than we have in a few years. The reason for that is we enjoy the activity of working together to make Christmas magic in the house. (now, no one said anything about putting it all away)

There will be less expensive items and less items overall under the tree this year and that's perfectly okay with all of us.

We are trying to enjoy more, spend less. :)