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!!!