Simple Christmas. It's the name of the current series at church, and I love it for its... simplicity. This year, I'm more excited about Christmas than I've ever been, and it's in no small part due to the fact that we are slowing down, scaling back, and remembering the true meaning of the holiday. The wonderful thing about it is that not only does shifting our Christmas practices improve our focus and help protect the environment, but it saves money as well! We put money into savings all year long for Christmas, and this is the first year that not only have we not gone over (and subsquently added to our debt) but have actually come up under budget!
Some main points of our new and improved - and SIMPLE - Christmas:
1) Gifts -
Santa is guilty of going overboard on gifts to the kids in the past. While it's fun in theory, it's also excessive, wasteful, and overwhelming. This year each child is getting just a few carefully chosen gifts that we know they will love. We drew names with the adults this year, so we get to have the fun of shopping without the added pressure and expense of trying to include everyone. We always give to someone less fortunate each year too, and this year I'm thankful that we have more money to do so than in seasons' past. We are going through World Vision this year, and because of corporate sponsors, each monetary gift is multiplied 14 times. They offer a lot of ideas to help people in other countries, but we wanted to stick closer to home. A gift of $100 buys $1400 worth of necessities for a needy family right here in the United States.
I wish I had the time to make homemade gifts for friends and loved ones, and it's still something I aspire to do in the future. For now, I'm happy with the changes we've made.
2) Wrapping -
This year, we aren't buying ANY wrapping paper, bows, ribbons, or gift tags. We are using what we have in the house! Leftovers from last year, decorated pillow cases, cut up sheets, construction paper, pretty magazine pictures. We'll be creative :-)
3) Christmas cards -
This was one of the hardest for me. We have sent out a photo Christmas card every year since Spencer's first Christmas, and this year we are cutting it out. Our list has grown exponentially, and there's just no way to justify the expense of the postage and cards and envelopes (and the trees! All those trees!) to send to that many people. Instead, I'm going to create an online... something... with Christmas pictures, music, and a slideshow as our Christmas greeting this year. I can easily send out the link to all our friends and family, and no trees have to suffer. :) I'll still make a couple of prints of my favorite picture, to give to the people who really look forward to them every year.
4) The tree -
We have an artificial tree. Before this tree, we had a hand-me-down artificial tree, and before that we always bought a real tree. From a monetary standpoint, the best choice is to use what you have. For the environment, the best choice would be a potted tree, that you could actually plant when you were done using it. Artificial trees, since they're not biodegradable, aren't the best choice. But since we have one, we'll continue to use and enjoy it for many years, before we pass it on to someone else.
5) The party -
We always have a houseful on Christmas day, which I love!! We also always go through a ridiculous amount of paper plates, cups, plasticware, and napkins. This year we're using REAL plates, real cups, real silverware, and if I can scrounge enough up, real napkins.
I wish you all a joyful - and simple - holiday season this year!!