Christmas is a little bit like an all you can eat buffet. Everything looks so good and before you know it you said yes to far more things than your actual body can handle. Or you time can handle. Or your budget can handle. You get the gist...
The surprising blessing of having five kids in five years is that it constantly forces clarity. When you start knowing you are at capacity it brings sharp focus to what you can take on and actually handle. Which is, of course, almost nothing most of the time.
So we find ourselves with a full house and full hands at the fullest holiday of the year. So how do we do Christmas without going crazy? Well, here are a few yes's and a few no's.
Yes to Advent.
I've talked in length about how this practice saved Christmas for me. I was just a little bit of green fur away from actually being the Grinch. So as a family, we focus on this season as a place of spiritual expectation. Waiting. Hoping.
It sets the tone for a slower more special season. We do a daily practice that involves our head, heart, and hands. We read scripture, sing carols, light candles.
Actually, how about I tell you more about how we practically celebrate Advent as a family later this week?
No to Gifts.
I figured I'd better go ahead and get this one out of the way because it's the shocker. We don't do teacher, coach, extended family gifts. But also? We don't actually do gifts for our kids. (I'll just give you a minute to let that sink in.)
For one, it just doesn't fit our values. But really, the numbers just don't work out either. If each of our children gets only one gift from three sets of grandparents (and "just one" has never happened) we have fifteen new things for our kids to play with. No kid on earth can process 15 things in one month, much less far more than that.
We do fill their stockings with things that are both useful and delightful, but since we just don't have a culture of gifts being the endgame at Christmas, it just really isn't a big deal.
Yes to Gifts.
Wait? What? You just said...
Well, last year my sister-in-law had all the kids draw each others names to make a gift for the one person they drew. Without any prompting or conversation my kids decided to do that again this year. The rules? You must homemake (not buy) a gift for the person you drew, the gift must be about them and not yourself.
Listening to them talk and scheme and pull me aside to bounce ideas is one of my favorite things about the month. There is something beautiful about watching them put so much though and work into giving something to someone else.
No to Big Events.
It seems like there is some sort of parade, party, light show situation every day of the week in December. I'm not going to lie, they are so tempting for me. In our experience though, they end up being super stressful, a major letdown, or even if they live up to their billing, completely distracting from what we are trying to focus on in this season.
Saying no to things that aren't personal helps us have more time to say yes to things that are. We can help make costumes for the church Christmas show, we can go ahead and have our friends over for a gift exchange, movie night complete with pajamas, popcorn, and Elf? Absolutely.
Yes to Christmas everyday.
We do something Christmas-y everyday in December. Nothing big or over-the-top, most of it is stuff we do to practice advent. Maybe a mug of warm cinnamon milk and a christmas book, baking, tying a couple of sticks together to make a cross to hang on the tree. Once Russ is home in the evening we will pour our cider in to go cups and drive around and look at Christmas lights.
Super simple. Super special. It helps stretch the holiday out a little both so we don't get overwhelmed and go into meltdown mode and so we can savor it for a little longer.
No to traveling.
So we do travel during December, but only during the first half, and never when Russ is off of work. (Read: The weekends.) Those days when we can all be together and at home are off limits. We are happy to go visit relatives and friends other times of the year, in fact, I, personally, love to be on the go. But we decided when we had five kids that trying to hit all the hot spots in one week's time left us exhausted and frustrated.
So tell me, do you have a plan to stay sane during the holidays? How to you keep the crazy out of Christmas?