I have thought about how to begin this post for hours. My heart is broken for the families and friends in Connecticut. I've read just enough about the situation to pray but not enough to lose myself in the tragedy. I am deeply moved by the heroism of the teachers and deeply saddened by the violence. All those that were affected by this terrible act of violence, I am praying for you. My heart breaks for you. I'm hugging my boy tighter for you.
When I shared my Christmas traditions last year, I told y'all that Christmas is a difficult time of year for me. I told Jarrod several weeks ago that I am confident that this is going to be my best Christmas yet. Seeing the magic of Christmas through the eyes of Wesley is awesome. It's only going to get better!
Because so much has changed since last year, I thought I would share some of our Christmas traditions for this year. I love love love this post. I'm struck with the consumerism in our culture this year more than ever before. I am praying that we can raise Wesley with a deep understanding of the true meaning of Christmas. Christmas exists because of the incarnation. The advent season is very important to us as it is the preparation for the incarnation. We prepare to experience God coming to earth. What a celebration!
It's easy to become caught up in the commercialism of the Christmas season. I can see that it's even easier when you have a child. Even though Wesley is still too little to make requests, there is pressure to buy him everything. I cannot watch TV, get the mail, or run errands without being inundated with stuff my kid "needs." It's hard to stay grounded in simplicity.
I love the traditions popping up on blogs and pinterest about getting children 3-4 gifts under the categories want, need, wear, and read. Wesley is still a little too young to really follow those categories, but I love them and we hope to do that more when he gets a little older. What we decided to do is set a budget of $50/person. So we'll spend $50 on Wesley, I'll spend $50 on Jarrod, and he'll spend $50 on me. We fill stockings for each other and buy very practical gifts. Having such a small budget forces us to really examine what we're purchasing. We buy things that are meaningful, make gifts, and buy things secondhand. Our home is decorated, but modestly. We bake, cook, and eat food, but not to extravagance. This keeps us from going crazy around the Christmas season. :-)
In order to give thoughtful and cost-effective gifts, we opt to make a lot of gifts. This year Jarrod made chocolate peanut butter for friends and family. Wesley crafted some beautiful canvases for his friends also. These gifts were not only inexpensive, but also infused with a lot of love. The people in our lives are just as blessed as we are - we have food, shelter, clothing, and abundance. What do you get the person who has everything? Something handmade and crafted with love.
One thing we started several years ago during Advent was writing one thing we're thankful for on a slip of paper each night at dinner. We don't share what we wrote, we fold it in half and put it in a vase until Christmas morning. Sometime on Christmas day we read each slip of paper. This is our 3rd year with this tradition, so we will have 3 years of thanksgiving saved. It's a beautiful and completely free tradition. I love that we can continue this and add Wesley's blessings to the mix. We even encourage our guests to share their blessings with us. If you eat dinner at our house during Advent, you'll share something you're thankful for!
Sharing the Blessing
We have been incredibly blessed. We have far more than we could ever need. If Wesley needs something, we purchase it. For Christmas, after setting our budget for our friends and family, we spend that same amount on others. This year we spent $300 on gifts for friends and family, so we gave $150 locally and $150 to storm relief recovery. Doing this helped us to focus on others, share our blessing, and also keep our budget in check. This is a fantastic way to bless others during this holiday season. I insisted on spending half the money locally - giving a face to our gift. I pray that we continue this each year and can infuse the importance of giving in our son.
I know many are hurting this Christmas. Our dear friend will spend this Christmas without her best friend, many (far too many) families will experience Christmas without their loved ones, and hundreds of people are financially unable to provide the Christmas experience they desire. I am constantly reminded how incredibly blessed I am. I give God thanks for my sweet family, a roof over my head, and a job I adore each day - multiple times a day! For me, part of understanding the incarnation is sharing love with others. God came to earth to be with us - that's the celebration of Christmas.
How do you keep things simple during the Christmas season? What are important traditions at your house?