keep up with anyone in particular in our Christmas celebrations. Thus, it's been easier (I think) for me to keep Christmas simple with a family of my own now.
Here's a few of the things we've done in the past or are doing this year:
Gifts We've only ever bought one gift per person. Each child gets one thing, each name we draw in the extended family gets one thing. Our extended family observes price limits -- $5 on one side and $15 on the other. This year, we're forgoing gifts within our immediate family so as not to be so overwhelmed with new stuff all at once.
We've tried to make a habit of having the kids participate in giving gifts. Last year, they each chose a gift that they thought Jesus would like to have (i.e., something they really liked), and we donated them to a gifts-for-the-needy program. This year, they are each picking a gift for Jesus out of the Samaritan's Purse gifts catalog. They'll do extra chores to pay for their chosen gift. They also draw names with their cousins for a gift exchange, and we moms have an agreement that they just swap their own toys rather than buying new ones all the time.
Decor We have a 4 foot tree this year (last year, we had a 2 foot tall one). And everything that we get out is safe for the kids to play with. Our favorite is the Veggie Tales nativity. I don't have to worry about breakables or precious decorations. We tack our Christmas cards to a bar that's hung on our kitchen wall -- most of the year it displays current kid art. But at Christmas, it displays cards and Christmas letters.
Shopping I do all my shopping for gifts during the summer garage sale season, or I handmake them. This allows me to get really nice gifts while still observing the price limits. It's usually my goal to be done with the shopping by September, allowing a few months for the things I have yet to make. This year, I'm done shopping, but still have lots to make, so it's a bit busier than it has been in the past. I also make lots of jelly in the summer, and use it as gifts for families at church and co-workers.
Cards I've always written a Christmas letter. A couple of years ago, I decided that a letter with pictures was fine without a card -- just by itself. Then I noticed that if my Christmas letter arrived at the same time as everyone else's, it didn't get read. So now I send out either a "Thanksgiving letter", or a "Happy New Year" letter in mid-January. It takes the stress out during Christmas, and gets a bit more attention from the recipients too.
Activities Just like all year long, we minimize our activities. We like to be at home, together in the evenings. We like to have friends over to our house too, but December is usually so busy for others that we get to enjoy more evenings at home by ourselves. We generally try for one extra activity a week (or less), and it usually works. (This week we built Graham Cracker houses -- so much fun! Look for pictures on Monday). I think life in general is calmer and more centered when we minimize our outside activities.
This year, we're doing the Jesse tree for the first time. I thought we'd make ornaments each day, and put them on our little tree. But it's worked out to doing some related activity each day instead. Here's what we've done so far:
- November 30th: Got out the Christmas tree, talked about it being a Jesse tree.
- December 1st: Made snowflakes out of pipe cleaners and beads, Thanked God for His creation (it's a stretch, I know, but we got our first snow that day).
- December 2nd: Got out all of our snake toys and talked about making the right choice when we want to be naughty.
- December 3rd: Cut a cereal box in to the shape of an ark and played with animals in it.
- December 4th: Made Abraham's traveling tent out of a blanket and chairs in the living room, played "Abraham and Sarah" all evening.
- December 5th: Played with baby dolls, named them all "Isaac".
- December 6th: Climbed a couch cushion "mountain", and "sacrificed" a stuffed lamb on the top (after carrying up a baby doll named Isaac, of course).
That's it for now -- especially since I can't access my pictures to add some and break up this post. Maybe later today. For other's Simple Christmas ideas, go on over to Keeper of the Home.