Christmas Came

There are so many things about Christmas that I love. Making the Christmas cake. Twinkly lights. Christmas carols. The Kinder kids in their Nativity Play at school. I followed a small child in a three kings outfit through town this afternoon. He loved that purple cape so much. He kept swishing around in it like a superhero. The Christmas tree. Every year I throw everything we have at the tree - all the decorations made by the children since they were old enough to wield a glue stick and the glitter jar. It generally looks like a particularly cheerful explosion. This year, however, Posy put herself in charge of decorating. She chose a colour scheme of silver, red, white and blue. She took control of the Christmas decorations tub and edited. Rosy and I were only allowed to hang the ornaments that she selected. The tree does look extremely elegant this year, but I am kind of missing the yellow and red cardboard and cellophane star that The Boy made at the playgroup at the Baptist Church hall when he was two, and the Christmas seagull Posy made at Steiner playgroup when she was four (at least, I think it is a seagull).

More things I love about Christmas: home made shortbread from the neighbours. Our Christmas lunch with old friends, family, and lots of local food, including great big salads from the backyard. Having all the children come home and sleeping squeezed into corners of the house. Christmas camping with friends.

The one great big enormous thing I detest about Christmas: the buying of stuff. The part where poor people in far away places spend long hours in mines and factories making stuff that we feel obligated to buy and give to each other. Because it is Christmas. The season of good will towards all men.

As you know, I have spent a number of Christmases now reducing the gift-receiving burden. I realise that this sounds quite Grinch-ish but  I think I am in quite a good place with this. My brother and I have resolved to not give gifts at any celebration because we already have enough stuff. The exception to this is when we find excellent old vintage books in op-shops that we each know the other would love, then we buy and post them at any time of the year. I mostly give my parents food and garden-based gifts. I like gardening and my mum doesn't, so that works well :) I always ask for things like goats from my parents. Because who doesn't need another goat?

Everyone else gets jam, dried herbs or other comestibles. Except the children. I buy them one big thing that they 'need'. Concert tickets, plane tickets for the older ones, magazine subscriptions. This year Rosy got her Christmas present in June - a new down jacket to see her through winter. Then there are the Christmas stockings, filled with wee things from op shops and the Oxfam fair-trade shop. And food. What is Christmas morning without chocolate? Locally made, fair trade chocolate. Wicked expensive, but that is why Christmas has always traditionally been exciting. Because you get treats that you wait for all year. If you have cheap chocolate available all the time, you don't get to be excited about it at Easter and Christmas.

I was very proud of Posy. She wanted to go out and buy lots of new tree decorations to realise her grand decorating scheme. But instead she edited what we already had. She has made small tableaus with her own (quite extensive) collection of girl clutter. We bought candy canes and two candles. And glitter. Lots of glitter. Because no matter how much you simplify, glitter still means Christmas..

I would love to hear the practical details of how you are downsizing Christmas 'stuff'.. do you still do gifts, and how do you do them? I know this is not always an easy thing to negotiate..


Pam in Virginia said…
Hi, Jo!

What a beautiful and elegant tree you have. Good work, Posy!

We have always made giving to each person's favorite charity a large part of our Christmas gifts. That is almost all we do now, except for a book or DVD. Or maybe a gift card to a grocery store. I do miss the days when we pooled family resources and went shopping and bought gifts for all the foster kids in a local program. It was pretty expensive, though, and we can't do it to that extent any more.

Merry Christmas!

Hazel said…
The tree does look fab. I have an internal struggle every year between the sentimental things and keeping my colour scheme ;-)

I took the plunge and spoke to both my brothers a couple of months ago and we've decided to do family presents rather than trying to buy for teenagers who are very picky (not mine!) and have everything they need (all of them). So one is getting an insect house made by my son (one of the drilled wood ones) and some seed bombs made by me and the other is getting one of those DIY Sundae kits that are all over Pinterest with some bought wafers and sweets but I'll make some homemade 'Ice Magic' and some brandy snap baskets (his Godmother used to make us brandy snaps every Christmas and she died earlier this year).
simplelife said…
My 17yr old had the decorating rights in our home this year, out tree looks very similar to yours. I too love the whole, looks like the decoration box vomited on the tree look. Still it was lovely to see her enthusiasm and eagerness.
As for gifts arrrggghhhhh, it's hard.
Cheers Kate
jj said…
We are not a big Christmas family & haven't done a tree for years, though we regularly enter the recycled materials Christmas Tree competition at our local community centre, because that is so much fun! This year I've been hit with the urge to built a tree structure from 'Who Gives A Crap' loo paper, with the chrissy paper covers, & pop a rainbow flag on the top! I'll post a pic when it's up :)
Linda said…
I admire your resolve to pare down Christmas giving. Agree with everything you have achieved. Well done to you and your brother for the arrangement you have made. Perfect. My sisters and I agreed that we gave gifts at birthdays and Christmas to grandchildren until they reached 18. Then acknowledged the occasion with a card ( or emailed one). I have recently extended that to my best friend whose children I gave gifts to. But now they are parents, so give only to the children. I have tried to cut down on Christmas cards, many sent email but still have a ridiculous number of "real" ones. Our tree only holds decorations we have collected over 46 years, many given to our children when they were little. Love all the memories hanging there. My husband and I only exchange token gifts, things we know the other needs. I give money or vouchers to my daughter and her husband so they can buy what they need.
Jo said…
Pam, yes, I read your comment, and thought, yes, there's the thing I forgot to discuss, the season for giving. I love that you bought presents for local foster kids! That is so beautiful!

Hazel, it takes a bit of courage to have those kinds of conversations. Ok, I take it all back, I want a home made insect house. Although, now I come to think of it, my house is already an insect house. At the moment it is infested with adorable baby spiders!

Kate, I remember taking over the Christmas decorating from quite an early age. I was a very bossy child, but I loved it! So I can't really blame Posy. It's in the genes. It's so cute, too :)

jj, I really want to see that tree!

Linda, ah, Christmas cards. I think I have received one per year for the last several years, from my great aunt who is.. 85?? Other than that, Christmas cards don't seem to be a thing in my circle. I love that you have 46 year old Christmas decorations. Old, precious things are the best. My mum still has the cardboard angel I made when I was six. That's a 40 yo decoration right there..
Penelope P. said…
I love a tree that is tasteless!! We still seem to buy far too much, but from me it's mainly books , edibles and flowers delivered to aunties. I may have mentioned before, my mission this year has been to buy nothing made in China. It has saved me a fortune. Even most of our more upmarket yummy mummy labels here in the U.K. Have their goods made there. Some, like Laura Ashley tell you the province they are made in ( like that makes a difference?) and Cath Kidston labels hers as P R C. Anyway, I recommend it to anyone who wants to cut down buying stuff without stopping altogether! I am contemplating a buy nothing new year next year. Don't know if I can... PennyL xx
P.s a very merry Christmas to one and all xxx
Jo said…
Penny, that is an amazing achievement to not buy anything from China all year! I have bought.. not much from China. But a little. But the more I avoid it, the more painful it is to actually have to buy it, when there is no other option. So what are you doing for clothes then? I do find it very annoying that all these expensive labels get their stuff made in China and pay a pittance, despite charging a fortune..

I think books, edibles and flowers are brilliant presents!

And a Merry Christmas to you too :)
Anonymous said…
Your Christmas celebrations sound lovely.
The kids are 17 and 15 this year so no one wants any random stuff, yay! Daughter got a concert ticket and has presented me with a long list of books for her annual book stack. Some I have bought new, but am trying to source some 2nd hand. Son doesn't want a single book (I died a little when he said reading was 'boring', sob) but he is getting a custom Rubik's cube - they cost a fortune) and we are getting a family gift of a table tennis table (could not find one 2nd hand, I looked everywhere), and that is it. Husband and I don't exchange gifts as we have everything we could ever want or need. We had a mini family holiday on the beach last week; it is a tradition to go away early December to escape the craziness. The kids still want to me to make mini gingerbread houses that they decorate, and we always listen to Dylan Thomas' "A child's Christmas in Wales" which is just divine. Our tree goes up on 1 December and it is filled with Every Single Decoration (I have decluttered heaps over the years and we are left with only nice stuff, though nothing matches). I confess that my daughter talked me into a new string of LED lights for the tree at Aldi as the old ones died last year:-) Oh, and I just buy books for my niece; we stopped exchanging presents with my husband's nieces and nephews a few years ago and no one seems to feel the lack. My in-laws are in their 70s and still like presents, and they give their grandkids cash (which is very much appreciated, of course). Loretta

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