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Tuesday, November 16, 2010

To Scrooge or Not to Scrooge... that is the question!

My denial is officially over.  After spending the first part of the month soaking up the sun, followed directly by a long weekend with my husband home, things are back to 'normal' around here.  And by normal I mean that it is a blustery freezing cold day outside (probably somewhere around -20 or -25 with the windchill) and the roads are icy and dangerous all over again... YAY WINTER! 

Actually, it's not so bad.  I am sitting in front of a warm fire, editing pictures from our trip and drinking a nice warm cup of tea while Chephren naps.  So, I guess winter isn't the worst thing in the world.  If I am being honest, the real reason that I am feeling jaded today has to do with Christmas... the holiday that started it all (no pun intended). 

If you recall (you probably don't so I will remind you), last Christmas was a crisis-like experience for me... one that drove me to starting this project actually.  For years now I have struggled with the extreme excess that is often associated with this holiday and of course, all of the WASTE that it generates.  Plus, it is often back-breakingly expensive.  Anyway, I won't rant about it too much here (I don't want to seem too scroogy), but I will tell you that my family has come up with a solution that pretty much no one except my dad and I are happy with (I think that this means that we are taking some serious liberties by calling it a 'solution', but anyway, it's what we're doing!)
Not me by the way, but she is accurately depicting my previous Christmas emotions!

Our previous tradition involved opening stockings (often filled with a heck of a lot more than toothpaste and mandarin oranges), followed by a huge breakfast, followed by you guessed it, more presents.  The whole ordeal would take us all morning and often into the early afternoon.  The end result was bags and bags (and bags) of garbage and each of us leaving with a clothesbasket (or bigger) filled with new things.  Now, I don't want to sound ungrateful, but don't you think that this is a bit excessive?  My husband and I are independent adults (I was going to say mature, but who am I kidding?), who really don't NEED anything anymore.  In fact, everyone in my family is an adult now (except for Chephren, but he doesn't need that much stuff either), and I would venture to say that not one of us needs that much new stuff.
Not our presents really, but you get the idea

So, this year we are holding it to stockings alone, with a spending limit of $50 on each person.  My own personal rule is no new stuff, but handmade stuff is okay (but I guess you saw that one coming didn't you). 

So, while it is not the perfect solution for me, nor is everyone else particularly fond of the new rules, it is what we are going with for now.  I get that change is hard, but I am convinced that this one is a change for the better.  I just hope that my family can ride this one out with/for me and stick to the rules!  And people wonder why I like Halloween so much better...

This was this past Halloween: Momma and Baby Dragon/Dinosaurs

Here is to the start of a new (and reformed) holiday season!


(PS: If you have similar stories/suggestions/strategies to share, I'd love to hear them!)


  1. Hi Maren,
    Saw your Dad today at the Math workshop (which was great, btw) so I thought of you and decided to check what was new on your blog. Ahhhh Christmas. I remember a time not too long ago when it was capital 'c' crazy! I have to say my family is really great about the whole thing now. We have a brunch followed by one gift for each kiddo (not the big kids, just the little ones). We do the drawing names thing with their cousins. Each child picks one song for all of us to sing together, has a beautiful photo op in front of the tree and then receives his/her gift directly from the giver. As for us big kids, no presents, nada. Mom and Dad slip us a little something, something in a card and that's about it! Between the gift from the cousin, one from each Grandparent (still trying to get the in-laws to adhere to that!) and one from the big guy in the red suit, I think we have got to a good place. They seem really fine with it and actually enjoy what they get and the day is so much more than that. As they all get older, I hope we start some other more active traditions (as opposed to holding down the couch for 8 hours!) The kids have also enjoyed some tradition of giving (shoe boxes, food bank etc), which we have them spend part of their own money. The kids have started lots of little projects to give Grandparents etc. Might as well start 'em when they are young! The girls in our family make a personal calendar for Mom and Grammas. Our biggest expense that I can't seem to let go of is Christmas Cards. I know there are probably some thoughts on that and it's environmental impact. But I truly enjoy it and feel it is the one time a year we connect with some people that we never get to see. So I will continue to indulge!
    Stay warm!

  2. I feel your pain Maren!

    My side of the family has drawn names for the last two years and it works out great. Everyone still gets a present to open plus the surprise of who got our name!

    But the in law side is a whole other ball game. We all drew names last year and two weeks before Christmas it was revealed that they all decided to buy for everyone regardless. This left me with two weeks before Christmas on a mad dash to find meaningful gifts with a heart full of disappointment and anger. Not cool.
    And they are not at all interested in change so this year I am enforcing a strict price limit on the gifts we are giving. And if they don't like that, then I guess we can draw names next year?!? =)

    Regardless of the gift gong show, I still enjoy the glow of a lit Christmas tree, making the first (and forty first) snow angel of the season and belting out carols like I can carry a tune!
    Merry (almost) Christmas!

  3. Hey Marebear!

    Love this post, really love this post! Christmas has always been the hardest holiday for me. I feel the same way about the gifts, consumerism and the extreme weight of debt that accumulates during the approaching months to this particular holiday.

    Years ago, I decided to go the homemade route, and felt more joy making the gifts as well as giving them. Everyone also seemed happy with gifts, as it came from the heart, not a store. There are hundreds of ideas out there that can keep your supplies to a minimum of $5 per person, not including your time (but, time shouldn't matter in the real scheme of gift giving...) Examples of such gifts were: Beeswax candles (pillars, tappers, votives, ect), decortated frames with pictures, baking, and knitted touques (34 touques for one Xmas, Yikes!). This year, I hope to give the gift of photography, in some way shape or form.

    Either way, you get the picture (no pun intended!) Super easy, fun and more in the spirit of gift giving that can be unique to you and the people you provide the gift for.

    Happy Holidays everyone!

    PS: I love halloween too!

  4. @Cindy - see the next post to see what kind of turmoil your Christmas card reminder threw me into! HA! Sounds like your family is well on its way to finding the real meaning of the holidays. Thanks for sharing (and for reminding me of how silly I am!)

    @Rebecca - I feel your pain! I love the 'other things' about Christmas too, in fact we are going to see the 'Christmas light up' in our small town tonight. New tradition perhaps? Enjoy the snow and the season. All the best!

    @Jody - as the recepient of one of your homemade gifts in the past, I can honestly say that I value your efforts more than I can tell you. Keep up the great work!

  5. I wish you the best of luck in re-creating the holidays. A number of years ago, after my grandmother passed away, my father announced that he and his wife would no longer be celebrating Christmas... it was just something he "put up with" for his mother's sake. So... no presents, no big gathering, no consumerism, no BS. I met this change with open arms and deep gratitude.

    Fast forward a few years... they're now celebrating winter solstice. The un-wanted and guilt provoking gifts are back, as are the mandatory family gatherings. I guess old habits die hard. But they did move it all back by 4 days, so they still get to feel like rebels.

    May you have better luck than my parents did!