Redefining Christmas

By , December 22, 2008 8:51 pm

As a child, I remember Christmas being so exciting that I could hardly sleep the night before. We’d have a tree, Christmas stockings and yummy turkey.  My Dad would always design a “trail” for me –  a treasure hunt with clues – to lead me to my biggest present.  Dessert was always my mother’s homemade Christmas pudding with lots of thick cream, almond paste cloaked Christmas cake, and tiny, flaky mince pies (my parents were from England).

As an adult, I managed to spend most of my Christmases at home with my mother and sister (my parents were divorced by then) where it would always be the same as I remembered (minus the trail).

This will be the fourth Christmas since the death of my mother.  Each year, my sister and I have struggled with how to make Christmas like we remembered.  For a variety of reasons, the first two years were fairly miserable.  Last year, I just ran away from it all and ignored Christmas as much as I could.

This year, I feel brave enough to try it again.  It will be different.  My sister and I have decided that we can’t recreate the same thing without my mother.  Those days are gone.  I need to do something new (but with a few old elements?).

Those of you who have been reading this blog for a long time (at least a year) may remember last year’s  Christmas/Holidays Unplugged series, so perhaps you know of my internal struggles.  I want to create lovely memories and traditions for my children, but hate the commercialism and lack of any meaning.

I think that writing that series of posts really helped me prioritize and come up with a plan.  A “year off” from Christmas helped a lot too.


The plan this year is as follows:

– Tree: Thin tree that needed to be cut from our property anyway – read more: An Ugly Christmas Tree.

– Child Presents: Christmas stockings plus one gift each for the kids from Santa, and a few from us.

NOTE:  Without TV, my kids don’t really have specifics on what they want…which is wonderful and difficult at the same time.  They sat on Santa’s lap at our town Christmas tree lighting and both asked for “a surprise.”  I wonder how many kids do that?

– Adult Presents: Christmas stockings all around.  I do the children, my sister and my husband.  My sister does her significant other and me.  I love the challenge of finding cool little things that they might like that would fit in the tiny space of a stocking.  It seems fun and not commercially excessive.

Otherwise, we are not doing adult gifts this year.  We are all in the very fortunate position (especially fortunate in light of this year’s economy) of being able to buy whatever we need, and I hate shopping out of a “need to buy something” mentality.

In lieu of gifts, each adult will do a donation to charity for each other adult (to that other adult’s favorite charity).  I have even gotten a few other relatives on board with this (even for the kids) which certainly lightens the gift receiving (and giving) burden, is much more in the spirit of the season, and makes me feel that we are actually doing good for the world rather than doing good for Walmart.

– Food: I think I’ll get a small, fresh turkey from our local market (but I’d better get on that right away, especially since the weather is forecast to be lousy).  I’ll try to keep it somewhat simple because I want to enjoy the day and not spend it mostly in the kitchen as I remember my mother doing.

Of course, if I can’t get to the store for food, we’ll be having leftovers for Christmas.  But snowed-in with leftover pasta might actually make for a completely fun and memorable Christmas!


This is my overall plan.  It may need refining next year…or maybe I’ll just want to run away again.  I don’t know.  I’ll tell you all how it goes.

Good luck defining (or redefining) your celebration.  Happy holidays to all!

14 Responses to “Redefining Christmas”

  1. Tamara says:

    I enjoyed reading this post. Your Christmas sounds lovely. I intended to read “Unplug the Christmas machine” again this year but never got to it. I have not been as intentional this year as a result.

    Tamaras last blog post..Playing with Word Families

  2. Gina says:

    I just wanted to thank you for sharing your story! My mother passed away two and a half years ago and this is also the first year we have tried to let go of making things the way we used to have them. It is “our” family now and we must be responsible for making the wonderful memories that our children will cherish when they are older. It can be one of those “Aha” moments when it hits you, almost like they were trying to get the message through to you the whole time!!!
    Whatever you do over the holidays I wish you the best and a joyful holiday season!

    Ginas last blog post..A Wonderful Solistice…

  3. Candy Cook says:

    “Surprise!” is what I ask for every year. LOL I want a surprise!! It’s funny, you like the non-specific gift requests. My sons are pretty non-specific and my dad had SOOO much trouble with that. He was practically begging me to tell him exactly what to buy. But, I couldn’t… I had no idea. Everything I got for the boys or made this year was a complete surprise to me, as well it will be for my boys. LOL :D Here’s to surprises and hoping you also get a nice “surprise,” sometimes, you have to look very carefully to discover it… kind of like following a trail.

    Candy Cooks last blog post..Daily Deschool: Do you do tests?

  4. liz says:

    I think you have gotten everything just right! One of the pleasures I have discovered in adulthod is in creating my own traditions. I had wonderful Christmases with my family as a child, but I have had wonderful Christmases as an adult with my love, too.

    I think your ideas for gift giving, both for the children and the adults, are spot on. I may copy you next year– as much as I try to cut back it generally doesn’t happen like I plan. :)

    lizs last blog to teach children anyone why we have seasons

  5. Jenny says:

    I can’t imagine not having my mom nearby at Christmas, so I can understand how hard it’s been for you to re-define the holidays. I think your plan sounds wonderful, esp. the part about limiting gifts. I resolve to do that every year and always manage to fall short. I hope you and your family have a wonderful, meaningful Christmas!

    Jennys last blog post..At Last…Books!

  6. KateinNJ says:

    It has been 21 years since my Mother died,
    and I still can’t get beyond missing her at Christmas.
    Making P my focus has helped, but it is hard.
    I tried to do it her way at first, but realized,
    it was stressful to do things I didn’t like..just because
    Mom did it that way. I am almost hoping for bad weather
    so we can stay home this year. I hate traveling this time of year. We do one gift for P from us and one from the cats,
    Santa brings her one gift and a stocking.
    We don’t put a lot of emphasis on the gifts, it is about spending the day having fun together..with or without extended family.

  7. Nancy says:

    My sister and I left a butterfly award over at our blog for you. We’ve been packing boxes for a shelter this year and have felt it’s time to redefine Christmas too. Enjoy the season!

    Nancys last blog post..Creche and Blog Award

  8. Mama Bear says:

    Great ideas!! I love the tree and child present ideas. For us, it’s one present from Santa and one from Mom and Dad. And, of course, a small stocking with a few things we need (like a toothbrush, a pair of socks, etc.). The other thing I hope to do as soon as Little Bear is older is to go as a family to buy someone for someone else in need.

    Mama Bears last blog post..Montessori Vs Waldorf

  9. Tracie says:

    Sounds like a simply beautiful Christmas! Our children also have very little commercialism and have no idea what is “out there”. Girly stuff is all my 8yo could think of asking Santa for.
    I know with death in our family it took awhile to creat a new normal and make Christmas our own. Blessings to your family!

    Tracies last blog post..Merry Christmas to All!

  10. swimmer mom says:

    I stumbled onto your website today looking for messy projects to do for a homeschooling conference. As I read your post it sure seems like you must be a homeschooler yourself or your on your way. I have dreamed of throwing out our t.v. but my husband needs it for his few football games and a few political shows. As for myself I watch nothing and the kids watch at tops 2 or 3 hours a week with my husband. I know where you are coming from when your kids say to santa suprise me. My 4 year old daughter didn’t “want” anything until she opened her first present and decided a puppy in her pocket would be great. I look forward to reading your posts for more ideas.

  11. Just wanted to let you know about the Christmas Tree Option that we choose…we have an artificial antique tree! This was probably purchased in the 1950s, and would have been in a landfill years ago if my husband hadn’t “adopted” it from his parents. It’s wood, and you have to match the colored tips of the branches with colored holes on the trunk. And guess what…you can SEE the ornaments! You can also see out the window behind it. :)

    Meg (So SMRT)s last blog post..Unplugged – Wrapping Paper

  12. Alicia says:

    I hope you had a Merry Christmas. It sounds like you are creating wonderful memories for your kids, and hopefully are working towards a new sort of holiday happiness without your mother.

    I have no family left on my side except an estranged grandmother and a couple of distant aunts. I suppose I am lucky because I didn’t have good holiday memories to try to live up to. Holidays were pretty wretched when I was growing up! LOL This has left life wide open for creating brand new, fabulous traditions with my own family (along with sliding into my husband’s).

    It does get easier.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts here and making the world a little better for so many, all year round. :)

    Alicias last blog post..How to do 9 Weeks of Spelling in 20 Minutes

  13. Lori says:

    we did a handmade (by ourselves!) gift exchange with extended family this year, and it truly made this the most spirit-filled, best Christmas in years and years .. possibly ever. not the exchanging of gifts (we haven’t even done that yet, due to family illness!) but the thinking, the planning, and the cozy afternoons of making together. really couldn’t have been better.

    Loris last blog post..How to Make a Mini Nature Journal

  14. Jenn says:

    i am just finding your blog (somehow) and i love it. we have been a natural family for many years and try though i did, i could not convince hubby to let go of the t.v. finally, last year, we did it! it was the absolute best thing we have ever done for our family. we love being without it!

    anyway, i could really relate to this post in particular…though my mom did not die, her and my dad divorced after 34 years of marriage, she moved far away and our Christmas traditions (as well as every other holiday and event) changed forever! it was really, really hard.

    we have changed so many things…trying to find our own way. thank you for sharing your struggles with another family who “gets it”…

    Jenns last blog post..DESTASH HUGE WOOL HANKS,over 500 yards each, variegated blues

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