Coping

Ready or Not, Here it Comes

christmas treeNo matter how much I dread it, Christmas comes every year, like it or not. For years as a child, I was sick every Christmas. I recall coughing all night every night for weeks before the holiday and a while after. My asthma made me cough continuously, and no one got much sleep. Eventually, we got an artificial Christmas tree, and the coughing ceased. Come to find out, I was allergic to the real Christmas tree, and it triggered my asthma. As I watch Christmas movies where everyone waxes poetic about the idyllic Christmases with their extended families, with special cookies, beautiful decorations, and feeling special, I wonder who wrote those movies and where they got their ideas of Christmas. I’m not convinced that anyone has a holiday like that.

Christmas catAs an adult, Christmas was fun when the children were little. I enjoyed being generous, and they were so easy to please. Now my four children are adults, however, it’s not as much fun. Everyone complains about putting up the tree and criticize the decorations. The things my children want and need are too big for me to afford. And now that they’ve left home, I’m no longer sure what gifts they would appreciate. They all like gift cards which are fun to receive, but seem impersonal and no fun to give. I’ve asked about gifts I’ve given in the past only to realize they were returned to the store or were never used. I obviously can’t choose well for my children any more, and I don’t see much point in giving gifts that I agonize over and then they don’t want. I want to be happy and generous, but it’s feeling forced this year. I approach the holiday again this year with anxiety and trepidation.

tree topperI’ve discussed the conflict before, inWhen Past and Present Collide, Generosity of Spirit, and even earlier in Struggling with the Holidays.  Since I rather dislike tradition, each year is a clean slate and a chance to find a pleasurable way to handle the holiday. This year we’ll have the kids over for a large meal and then play family games – that part is always fun. But for the gift-giving session this year, I want to try something new. I’ve suggested that each child buy a game for the family to share instead of personal gifts. Once a month, we’ll have family game night, rotating out the different games. What I want more than anything, is to continue to laugh together and enjoy each other’s company. I love spending time with my adult children more than any of my other friends. We always laugh a lot and feel at ease together. I see a new side of them as adults that I appreciate. At a fundamental level, we already know each other; there are no pretenses. We have an off-beat creativity together that makes our time a lot of fun when we hit our groove.

Christmas dog

My middle daughter’s dog, Allie, joins in the festivities.

I thought this solution was perfect. The financial hardship is almost nil. Instead, we give the gift of time together. Perfect, right? I’m tired of the peer pressure to do Christmas like everyone else. I don’t feel like the Hallmark crowd; I’m not into decorations and pretentious trees. I just want to fill my Christmas tree with ornaments that are rarely fancy, but are personal and meaningful to us. No house lights; they are a waste of the planet’s resources. I don’t feel like I should get shamed into the American way of spending more than I can afford and giving gifts that get returned. I want Christmas to be authentic, personal, and tailored to our family. My husband and three out of four of my children are on board. What do I do with the one who won’t go along? If you have some advice, I’d love to hear it. Please leave a comment!

Christmas tree; Christmas presents

Waiting for the Children to arrive

 

 

33 replies »

  1. To give The Presents of Presence is precious and wonderful! I love your thinking! So it’s passed Christmas and I’d love to know what you did with the one who didn’t want to celebrate in such an authentic way! Financially we don’t overspend here and it was sparse under the tree, but that’s due to the new circumstances (divorce). But my kids and I rolled with it and enjoyed the time together as even more special than before because we filled the house with love and that was enough for me. Perhaps not exactly enough for them, but they understand. I always put lights outside, but not this year. Battery operated white twinkly lights on the mantle did the trick for me. I hope you got through Christmas with lots of love and light xoxo

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  2. I totally loved this post! I opted out of the whole “Christmas thing’ 4 years ago. I am disabled & travelling 350 miles with 72 hours to visit family who complain the entire time altho we are supposed to be the ‘ideal family’ wore me out in more ways then one!!
    Now the family ignore me which suits me fine. Funny thing is I’m Jewish. My Sister chose to walk away which is fine & she took the kids & they took their kids & I’m OK with it. I used to bring my Menorah & dreidls & chocolate & prayer book & we used to have a combo celebration…..that I miss. The rest not so much….
    My advice would have been the majority rules so the one who does not agree with your idea either goes along or not Karel.
    Keep It Simple Sister!!!
    Merry Christmas & Happy Mew Year from Sherri-Ellen & Siddhartha Henry =^,.^=

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  3. We only buy for the little kids and then do a less than $20.00 “white elephant” gift exchange where we all buy a fun gift, draw numbers and then pick, steal, and bargain to trade these gifts among us adults. We always have fun because everyone gets creative with what they bring and then we always play games and enjoy each other’s company. Much less stress!

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  4. Yup – I can totally relate! This year for the first time we’ve agreed to dispense with gift-giving, and we can’t do decorations (since my childhood home where my parents still live was flooded during Harvey and all of our seasonal stuff is in storage) so it promises to be the easiest and most peaceful holiday ever! AND, for the first time EVER (knocking on virtual wood here), I’m not hacking up a lung! Ah….may we all find the peace this season of the year is so famous for. 😉

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  5. Personally I think everyone should do Christmas how they want to do Christmas. It’s important to not get stuck in what we think is right or wrong or how someone else does it. The very spirit of Christmas is in our hearts. The spirit of Christmas is in your desire to spend time with family and to give to others. That IS after all what Christmas is about BUT it’s also important to respect and honor that not every one will want to do it the way you do. They may find meaning in something you don’t…they may connect deeply with the traditions they grew up with. The warm fuzzy feeling of waking up Christmas morning. How special they felt opening gifts with the rest of the family….they may even be missing the closeness of family and they WANT to give.

    They don’t have the same memories of coughing all night because no one was aware enough to recognize your asthma was triggered by the tree. For your hold out I would allow them to be where they are. Explain this is what (the rest of) you are doing (and why) but that you will honor and respect if they would like to do it differently.

    Welcome their presence (and possibly presents) with open arms and hearts. The hold out may find great meaning in giving YOU gifts. I would receive with grace and love. You are doing something wonderful based on what has meaning to YOU. I would not shame or guilt them or force them to do it your way…. for sure that’s not what Christmas is about. At some point, I would make a point to allow everyone space to talk about what Christmas means to them. You bravely shared your experience adding to why you feel the way you do AND what it means to you. What a wonderful moment if you asked everyone about their Christmas memories and what it means to them. Go one step farther and ask them what they bought the particular gift (to give away) and what it means to them. You may find out a thing or two about your family and there will for sure be an even deeper connection. Anyway, that’s my two cents. 🙂 Merry Christmas! xo ❤

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  6. I love the idea of a family game night. There always has to be one that doesn’t cooperate. Maybe if the other kids tell him or her how much fun they end up having, that kid will give in.

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  7. See I knew you were a soul sister… LOL This is almost exactly what we are doing this year. I love how elegantly you typed this out. It expresses more of what I mean when I tell folks we are not giving gifts this year. They tend to look at my bewildered… Our gifts to each other is time spent talking and visiting being a family. I love my adult daughters, their kids and husbands. Gift giving had gotten very mentally exhausting and draining. Watching my eldest daughter every year struggle with trying to get gifts for the kids, and for others, was just heartbreaking. This was not CHRISTMAS! Or was it..? Perhaps it was Christmas as we’d been taught.

    This year we had a family meeting and discussed it. We all agreed on NOT buying gifts for anyone except the children.They had a limit and could ask for one big thing. Then a few smaller things would be added. Nothing elaborate. If they wanted to give a gift, it had to be baked goods.
    They are old enough to bake. As for adults, we will trade baked good gifts also. We will have family lunch as usual on Christmas, but not the cooking type Christmas meals you’d see on Normal Rockwell’s paintings. That night we will have a big Bonfire and cook marshmallows and hot-dogs, if it’s not raining.

    Our lunch will consist of home baked Hoagie Rolls, (A hoagie roll is a type of long flat roll used to prepare sandwiches) stuffed with delightful meats and fixings. We’ll have some sort of desert which has yet to be decided (likely banana pudding). Then we’ll sit around and drink hot chocolate or eggnog, and pull out the board games. The younger kids get to pick games as well as the older folks. After the smaller kids scoot off to play with their stuff, Even ‘Cards Against Humanity’, has made its appearance. It is not a kid game (nope). Then other games, like old card games, make a showing. I’m amazed at how much I forget every year… The rules have to be relearned. Monopoly has made it into the list as well. During game time if anyone wants more food, it’s all in the kitchen. Help Yourself!!

    Our real gifts are each others company and sharing knowledge and recipes! I’m even teaching my girls how to make fruitcakes like my Great Grandmother and Grandmother did. A new “to die for” fudge recipe is floating around, and now “gluten free” cakes…… Whew, that bends all the rules on baking! (laughing). However, being as my Grandson has recently been diagnosed with celiac disease, this new baking way, will be a part of our regime.

    We all truly love each others company and visiting at Christmas is not a struggle. Now that the ‘gift conundrum’ is eliminated we can truly just enjoy Christmas.

    This year we are Making Memories… It’s a good life.

    Now, I am sitting here wondering… When this trend catches on, what will the outcome be for Retailers? I care if they crash, yes, but maybe they need to find a bail-out plan now for saving the income Christmas generates. I’m not biting their shiny bobbles anymore.

    I loved your post. Thank you for being brave enough to share it.

    xoxo
    Gin

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    • Thank you Gin. I’ve been thinking of you lately; I’ll contact you soon. It’s good to know a kindred soul out there somewhere. Our call for new games this year is due to a revolt against Cards Against Humanity by one of the kids. Since we’re all adults, we have a lot of latitude. I’ve found some interesting games and am looking forward to trying something new. The youngest wants to bring college friends to game night throughout the year, which sounds good too!

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      • C.A.H. game goes a bit rough on me too.. I told the younger crowd, they have to give us something more G’ish rated this year and we can use that game for nights where they get together over their respective houses. – (After talking with them last night). –

        We are doing something new… Each person is asked to bring their favorite song on whatever device they have, and we’ll play it. The catch is, we all have to dance! Im trying to get my family to loosen up some.. geez.. Also discussed, is favorite Christmas Movie, put in a hat and we draw ONE. We all watch it and eat popcorn and junk food like chips and salsa and queso… Regular Chips and dip for my husband. LOL This should prove a glorious memory making night!.

        Talk to you soon… 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  8. A donation to your favorite charity, in that child’s name. He/she will look like scrooge complaining about that! Actually, I started doing that a few years ago, for the same reasons you listed. Everyone, even the 10 year old, was delighted and grateful. Some charities send ornaments, others just cards of thanks to the ones named on the donation. Anyhow, no one got stuff they didn’t want, and everyone got that warm feeling of having done something good.

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