Simple Celebrations for Christmas Savings

Like the fictional Cratchit family in Charles Dickens “A Christmas Carol”, most of us realize that Christmas isn’t about the things that money can buy, yet even that family was excited to be able to have a big fat goose for Christmas dinner, courtesy of a reformed Scrooge.

Many children in North America experience a vastly different Christmas than the Cratchit family had, with brightly wrapped boxes filled with presents extending many yards out from under the tree into the living room; special Christmas outfits; and large store bought stockings filled with candy and toys. It seems that parents feel pressure to make Christmas present unwrapping last, even though the children rip and tear the paper off one present after another, not stopping to play with or thank the giver for the gift.

However, those probably won’t be the memories that come to mind when they are grown and parents themselves. Instead, they are more likely to think back fondly on the simple family celebrations and traditions your family has. Celebrations and traditions that don’t require massive outlays of money or stacks of presents under the tree.

What are some of these simple celebrations?

Decorate the house as a family.

Why decorate? Decorating sets the season apart for you and your family, letting you know with every glance that it is a special time of year.

Most of us put up at least some changes in decor (in addition to our Christmas tree), but you don’t need boxes of shiny ornaments or lighted moving yard scenes to make your home memorable at Christmas.

Whatever you do to decorate, whether it is to clip evergreen boughs and arrange them or have the kids draw Christmas trees on paper then cut them out and hang them around, whatever you do, make it a special event, a family event. Put on some Christmas music. Carry forward an old family tradition, telling the family story as your new family replicates it, or create a new tradition together as a family.

Celebrate your gratitude through giving.

It has been scientifically proven that folks who give get an endorphin spike, making them fell happy. Help your kids pick out toys they no longer want, to give to a local charity. Do a special giving project together and let the kids play a big part – whether it be trying to get on a list to serve together at the local soup kitchen or making and delivering cookies for an elder in a nursing home.

Establish a tradition to get the tree.

What you do each year to get and decorate that tree will be remembered! My family used to wait until late Christmas Eve, then hop in the car and find a tree lot still open. We would select the best tree, drag it home in the trunk and begin decorating together right away.

Perhaps you have an artificial tree, you can still make a tradition and a memory by getting it out together and decorating it. Or maybe, you have a family outing to go to a Christmas tree farm to cut your own.

Sing!

When the family gathers, sing Christmas songs together. When I was young, neighbors still went around in groups caroling in the neighborhood. Afterwards we would gather at one of the homes for cookies and hot chocolate. At family gatherings, we were each expected to prepare a performance of some sort to share with the family – whether it be to tell a story, read a bible verse, play an instrument or sing a song.

Attend a seasonal event together.

Almost all areas on the continent have special recurring Christmas events. Pick one and make it parr of your family holiday celebration.

For example, when I was little, our city still had huge downtown department stores – like Macy’s and Famous-Barr. These department stores decorated their windows to draw in the shoppers. The decorations included movable figures, model trains which passer bys could start and stop by pressing a special section of the glass and of course, music. Each year my aunts gave Mom and Dad a break and took us downtown to view the window magic. This was over 50 years ago and I still have those warm memories.

Tell readers what you remember most fondly from your Christmas past.

Why Must We Give New?

2009_given_present_4I’ve been invited to a bridal shower for the brother of my daughter-in-law. All well and good. My daughter-in-law and granddaughter will be going so it will be a nice way to visit. The bride and groom, like many, have set up a wedding registry to help guests select a useful gift.

So far so good, why give something the bride or groom won’t use.

I get it that helping out the formation of a new household is helpful. There are so many things needed to run a home that it is overwhelming to have to go out and buy everything to start. It is great for a bunch of people to chip in and help out the formation of the new domain, but don’t most people marry after they already have their own household these days, and don’t most couples live together prior to marriage and must it all be new?

And why is it OK for us to ask for things? Begging is not condoned, yet isn’t a registry just a formalized begging mechanism? I’ve even seen one registry that asked for monetary donations so the couple could go on an exotic vacation!

Why is it gauche to give used gifts that are in new condition?

Thoughtful gifting involves considering the needs and desires of the person(s) receiving the gift. Do they need it? Is it something they want? Will they use it? Is the gift in great working order and of good quality?

None of the above has the word ‘new’ in it. So why do most of us feel compelled to go out and buy a new thing-a-ma-jig for a gift when we have that same thing-a-ma-jig in like new condition sitting around unused?

If you’ve had a household (married or not) for any length of time, you know that some of these types of items just miraculously grow in the deep cluttered depths of your closets over the years. Sure, maybe you pulled them out once or twice and tried them out, but that was it. There they sit, gathering dust, still in their original box, unloved and unused. If you don’t have nearly new small appliances or household goods, perhaps you have quality art work or appreciating collectibles which the couple would enjoy or maybe a family heirloom which they have admired for years, or a piece of fine furniture you no longer have room to house.

Does the bride want crystal goblets and champagne glasses? Got’em years ago and they sit in my china cabinet, unused, now that family dinners no longer happen here at our house.

Do they want an apple peeler? Saw one in the box, brand new at a garage sale the other day for $5.

How about deceased Aunt M’s restored antique oak rocker – you’ve enjoyed it for years, let them enjoy it for awhile.

Let’s establish a new tradition.

Lots of brides and grooms have multiple showers – some for friends and peers and others for relatives.

For those family showers, why not have each shower guest bring several nearly new items, items from their collections or family heirlooms that would be useful or interesting for the couple. The shower host could set up an area for guests to put their items, then on the day of the shower, the couple could shop the area – picking those items they wanted and leaving the rest (which could then be donated to charity or the shower guest could take it back home).

Instead of stupid shower games, host a potluck lunch, letting guests bring food and drink.

This would have several benefits:

Saves money for the beleaguered family members who often get hit up multiple times. Those aunties would probably applaud and enjoy going to this kind of a shower! No silly games, great savings on gifts AND they get the opportunity to pass along that unneeded second electric can opener!

The host would also enjoy NOT having to provide fancy food, party favors and etc. The entertainment would be good food, good company and watching to see what the couple selects.

Helps the environment because we would be salvaging an already produced item.

Reuse, according to the EPA has the below benefits

  • Prevents pollution caused by reducing the need to harvest new raw materials;
  • Saves energy;
  • Reduces greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to global climate change;
  • Helps sustain the environment for future generations;
  • Saves money;
  • Reduces the amount of waste that will need to be recycled or sent to landfills and incinerators;
  • Allows products to be used to their fullest extent.

What? You aren’t comfortable giving non-new?

Take a look at these two posts, asking for user comments on giving used gifts. It seems most of the commenters are OK with it.

Get Rich Slowly – Ask the Readers: Is It Okay to Buy a Christmas Gift from a Thrift Store?

Life Hacker – When Is It Okay to Give a Used Gift?

Really, I think it is a personal issue – do you as the giver feel OK giving slightly used gifts and do you think the recipient would be OK with getting something that is not brand new?

What’s your take?

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