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I love Christmas time. I love the music, the food, the feelings of anticipation. Time with family and time to reflect on all we are grateful for. Time to remember the birth of Christ and His gift to us.
In our family, we don’t put up a Christmas tree or exchange gifts. When Chuck and I were first married we discovered we both had a deep love for the Laura Ingalls books. We both had a strong sense of adventure and were drawn to the simplicity and hard work of pioneer life. One scene in particular that struck us both was the Christmas described by Laura in Little House on the Prairie:
“Something was shining bright in the top of Laura’s stocking. She squealed and jumped out of bed. So did Mary, but Laura beat her to the fireplace. And the shining thing was a glittering new tin cup.
Mary had one exactly like it.
These new tin cups were their very own. Now they each had a cup to drink out of….They had never even thought of such a thing as having a penny. Think of having a whole penny for your very own. Think of having a cup and a cake and a stick of candy and a penny.
There never had been such a Christmas.”
It was almost too much to have your very own tin cup, a peppermint stick, a tiny cake and shiny penny? Laura and Mary with thrilled with their gifts. I’m guessing Ma Ingalls never had to declutter her house or yell at the girls to clean up their rooms.
Chuck and I really wanted to raise grateful and respectful kids. Even back then when it was all just a theory, we knew that raising grateful kids would mean keeping expectations in check. Giving our kids mountains of gifts that needed to be topped every year would never make them grateful. In addition, we didn’t want our kids spending the month of December making wish lists and anticipating gifts. So we decided to do things differently.
We agreed we would celebrate Christmas with enthusiasm, but without gifts. A funny thing happens when you announce you aren’t going to give your children Christmas gifts. People freak out.
It’s not that we didn’t want to celebrate Christmas itself. For us, Christmas is both filled with rich tradition and is central to our faith. We just didn’t want to make it about the gifts. Over the years we have come up with something that works for our family. We try to spend the time between Thanksgiving and Christmas enjoying the season, anticipating the birth of Christ and enjoying friends and family. Some of our favorite traditions include our Christmas Movie Night with a Hot Chocolate Bar and Cookie Decorating. We read an advent book together. This year I think we will also read The Greatest Christmas Pageant Ever, a story my kids have never heard.
On Christmas morning itself, our children each receive a stocking, filled with humble gifts (think tin cup and peppermint stick). Our morning includes a breakfast of sweet rolls, biscuits and gravy and hot chocolate. Then it’s puzzles and games together as well as a big Christmas dinner.
I love Christmas. It is probably my favorite day of the year. And you know what? So do my kids.
What are your favorite Christmas traditions? Have you ever had no gift Christmas?