The Meaning of My Christmas

This year things are tight. Pretty much for everyone I know.

I wish it weren't. But it is. The good news is I just filled up my tank for $35 bucks does that count? But when it comes to spending money on Christmas, we are one of those families who always goes overboard. It starts off all innocent. A present or two for each person, but then we see something else that's perfect and then something else, and then before you know it we're spending a couple of hundred on each person and the plastic starts coming out and then the debt starts building and then when all is said and done, Christmas has become some sort of spend-what-we-don't-have-extravaganza. Which I never really mind, actually, because I love giving presents, that's why I end up buying so much. But still. Why do we do it?

And every year, every single year, we say we're going to keep it simple. We say we're not going to spend a million bucks. But then all of a sudden someone gets someone else an electronic something or other and then the whispering starts and everyone starts trying to subconsciously match the cool gifts, and it spirals completely out of control.

This year we figured out how to put a cap on it. At least I think we have.

One day sometime in November I was washing dishes and I was thinking because we could all see this coming down the pike that money was going to be a little tight and everyone was going to be just a little unsure of the future and I had an aha! moment. And an idea was born.

The Christmas Bake-Off 2008.

And I called my mom and she loved it and I called my sister and she loved it (and so did our thrifty husbands) and so this is what we're going to try this year. Instead of buying each other presents, we're going to bake them. We're going to share our lovely bakingness and handmade confections with each other and wrap it up all pretty and that will be it. And here's the best part: we will hand deliver them to each other because this year, we will all be together! And that's really the best gift. The together part, I mean.

Not that we buy mindless gifts for each other each year, but I won't lie, I've bought a giftcard or two in my day and I would be lying if I said it's the most creative gift I've ever come up with. And there are a few people in our family who are the most difficult people slightly difficult to buy for because they either don't really want anything or claim they have everything they need (myself included). So to spare everyone the racking of the brains only to come up with another fish that hangs on the wall and sings or pair of slippers or beautiful Christmas tree tie, we really are going minimalist. We're all still going to buy gifts for the children (and by the way shopping for a 2 1/2 year old is sooooo much fun! He gets it this year! He knows about Santa and presents and Christmas!! And I went into the store (as Santa's helper) and thought, ooh! he'd love this! and he'd love this! and this too! ooh a digger truck! a firehelmet that talks!)

But aside from the children, that's it. Because really, and I'm not kidding, I really don't need anything. And by that, I too mean that my house can not contain another item. It is literally bulging from the seams. It overfloweth. It is small and cramped in here. But that's not even the point. The point is that my sister is down here right now with her brand new baby girl who I want to squish and squeeze and love. Her husband will be here in a few days. My mom has just gotten out of the hospital (again) along with my dad who's been right there by her side the whole time and it's been a very difficult few months. My uncle who I haven't seen in a year and a half is also coming down. On Christmas day, my family, my parents, my sister's family, my cousins aunts uncles mother-in-law and grandma (and Santa of course!) will all converge on my parents' house and that's when it will be Christmas. Truly Christmas.

There will be a feast and drinks and children running all over the place filling up the house with their squeals and screaming and there will be laughter and hugging and I am sure there will be tears (happy ones) because there always are when you get a big group together who hasn't seen
each other in a while. And we'll all talk like we haven't missed a day.

That's Christmas. Christmas to me is loud and obnoxious and crazy and messy and big and boisterous and fun. Because that's what my family is when you get us all together in one room and I love it. Every ridiculous-pee-in-my-pants-laughing-minute of it.

After all, it isn't about the money, right? Or being stressed out about presents or not having enough to buy them. Because at the end of the day, if I had the option for someone to ship me a really cool gift or show up on my doorstep, I'd pick the doorstep any day of the week.

It's about the fact that when one of us is missing from the table, there isn't just one big empty chair, there is a big empty space inside all of us. And this year, we're all going to be together. I couldn't ask for a better gift. I've got my family here. And that's what counts. That's what makes it Christmas. To me.
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  1. Yep, that is an awesome idea. Really. I scaled way back this year, too, and I also want not one more thing that I'd have to move when we get out of this apartment. Sounds like such a fun thing to do, too!

  2. Lovely post. That definitely is Christmas. That's a great idea you had.

  3. Girlfriend, you are going to LOVE this: I had just finished reading your post, when we got a phone call: my dad was in the FRONT YARD, totally surprising us. Why a surprise?He lives in Tucson, and we're in northern California! No wonder all the calls about the kids' presents arriving on Saturday, and would we be home? :-D

  4. I think that's a fantastic idea. One I'm going to suggest to my family next year. This year we're being totally unfestive and NOT GETTING EACH OTHER ANYTHING (except the kids). And that kills me. But things really are tight and my in-laws are a bit miserable around the holidays. I'd feel a lot better if I baked them things though. What type of things did you make? One big item? A lot of littler things? Did you wrap things in that fun cellophane stuff? What really are the limits?

  5. That is a wonderful idea! In our family we draw names. Couples and kids/singles. Some years (not this year) we do themes. One year it was homemade gifts. I think that was my favorite.


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