The Price Of Christmas Memories

As we count down the last few days until Christmas, the world around us seems a flurry of holiday activity.  Everyone is finalizing preparations and checking things off their family to-do lists. We’re looking forward to a break from school and work that will start on Friday, but the hustle and bustle of Christmas has been going on for weeks now.  Holiday spending isn’t limited to presents under the tree, but festive activities as well.  Parents are filling every possible moment with holiday cheer for their children.  Instead of feeling guilty for not buying fifty dollar, First Class tickets for the Polar Express, I’ve been thinking about what Christmas memories will actually stay with my kids for years to come.



How much fun should we try to pack into our celebration of Christmas?  I decided to answer that question by getting some input from my friends about their favorite Christmas memories.


My bloggy buddy Maggie, from Northern Expenditure, directed me to her post about an experience-based Christmas.  It’s a great story that you should read in its entirety.  But to summarize: as a child, one thing that they did was to choose three local excursions to go on as a family.  They did all of their shopping during these trips and usually enjoyed a meal or other treat together.


Taylor, who blogs at Freedom From Money, tweeted about waking up to a snow-covered trampoline on Christmas morning when she was six years old.  She played on that trampoline with her sisters for the next ten years.


Ty from Get Rich Quickish remembers Christmas Eve parties with his extended family at Grandma and Grandpa’s house.  Emily from John & Jane Doe Guide To Money & Investing replied to my inquiry with a similar memory.  On Christmas night, she would go to her grandparent’s house for a giant sleepover with all of her cousins.  There were eight of them camped out in sleeping bags on the living room floor.


Penny from She Picks Up Pennies shared a couple of her favorite Christmas memories.  First, she thought back to Christmas cookies with her Nana and then to enjoying Marshall Fields windows and the Walnut Room in Chicago with her mom.  Penny chimed in later to add that she loved “sitting on my other grandma’s lap learning to play songs on her piano.”  Even though she has passed away now, Penny still has the Christmas songbooks and plays them every Christmas.


Finally, while the blogger behind Luxuriously Thrifty only twice celebrated Christmas commercially as a child, he was “ecstatic” to receive coloring pencils as a surprise one year.  Yes, a simple gift was that memorable.


Mr. Smith’s favorite memory is of going to a lights display with his father and grandmother (if you’re new around here, his mom passed away when he was five years old).  Mr. Smith and his little brother would run around all night admiring the lights and then enjoy some hot chocolate.


As for myself, I had some trouble coming up with many good Christmas memories.  My childhood seems overshadowed by the frequent moves and a very contentious divorce.  But there were a few things that stood out in my memory.  There was a play kitchen my sister and I received as a gift from my Grandpa.  We really loved that set and it kept us busy for a long, long time.  Yes, a gift bought with money made a lasting impression, but the meaning isn’t all bad because it was just ONE gift.  I don’t have warm and fuzzy memories of opening countless packages.  No, it was one special item that was a lot of fun.

Another one of my memories is of a Christmas when we were living in a motel in Florida, during one of the moves.  My parents were still together at that point.  They found a small Christmas tree for us and decorated it with things from the beach.  It was unique and fun, with shells and sand dollars.  It’s possible that they spent a decent amount of money to get that small tree, but I think it had more meaning because of the effort involved.  They did their best to give us a nice Christmas, despite the less-than-ideal circumstances.


With presents or experiences, it is not the quantity that makes Christmas memorable.  We’ve watched all of the classic movies.  Our family will visit Santa tonight and we’re going to make a whole bunch of cookies on Friday.  We’ve been doing an advent reading calendar during December.  I grab books from the library and place them in a big bag.  Every night Tornado and Goofball take turns picking a book out, with their eyes closed.  They have loved it!  Christmas Eve and Christmas Day will be spent visiting with relatives.  There will be some presents to open, but I’m hoping that the time together will also be a memorable part of the holiday for them.

My conclusion: we should strive to make those meaningful, yet simple memories with friends and family.  Don’t stress about doing “all the things.”  Instead, just relax, celebrate, and enjoy time with each other.


Merry Christmas everyone!!!




  1. I hope you had a wonderful Christmas, Harmony. And a happy new year to you and your family!

    I can practically smell the salt in the air just thinking about your Christmas tree, decorated with beach ornaments. That’s a memory to last a lifetime. Mr. Groovy wrote about how when he was a child, his parents promised him and his siblings each the gift of a BBC. They spent months trying to figure out what the heck a BBC was. It turned out to be bean bag chairs that they adored for years.
    Mrs Groovy recently posted…Groovy Blog Stuff from Our Groovy Year 2016My Profile

  2. My wife and I would like to do a vacation during Christmas one year. Instead of presents we’d all go on vacation and just relax and spend time with family which is what we really care about instead of rushing around looking for presents.

    Although I must admit there’s something fun to opening presents on Christmas day 🙂

    I hope you had a great Christmas and even better 2017!!!
    Mustard Seed Money recently posted…Ten Items to Buy After Christmas ReturnsMy Profile

    1. We’ve always just stayed close to home for Christmas, but it might be a nice change to take a little vacation one of these years.

      Thank you – 2017 is definitely going to be an awesome year!!!

    1. We had a very nice Christmas and an uneventful New Year (in a good way). I hope the holidays were good to you too!! Thanks for being such a good bloggy friend <3

      I'm looking forward to an awesome year for all of us.

  3. I wish I could figure out how to tell friends and family not to buy my child a bunch of presents for Christmas. We only bought 3 presents and stocking stuffers, but the whole tree was full of presents for my 4 year old and he won’t use half of them because he’s an only child who refuses to play alone and is in daycare full time. It would be so much more useful to put the $ in his savings account. I know you can’t/shouldn’t tell people what to do with their money, but when my child doesn’t appreciate or play with most of his toys because he has too many it’s frustrating.

    For his birthday we bought him the 3 or 4 small things he asked for and had party attendees bring food for the food pantry. It was awesome! Now that I’m brainstorming as typing this I think maybe next year for Christmas I’m going to tell people to please forgo gifts and instead give us winter gloves/scarves/hats for donation to a shelter.

    1. I hear you – it is tough to deal with consumerist friends and family sometimes. One trick we’ve used is to ask for “experience” gifts instead of toys. We ask for passes/memberships to the zoo, aquarium, and museum. One friend got the kids a gift certificate to the ice cream stand for their birthday. It was a great present, because we wouldn’t normally pay that much money to go out for ice cream.

      When people insist on buying “stuff,” I try to encourage them to go with things like books, board games, or art supplies.

      I love how you used the party to collect food to donate. That really is awesome!

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