Monday, 15 December 2014

In praise of the "over the top" Christmas

The last four or five Christmases have been about survival for me. Becoming a single mother and managing Christmas when you have four kids was about couponing, cashing in points and the clearance section at WalMart.

This year is different. I didn’t set out thinking that it would be different. For me, being super-thrifty has become a way of life. (My Mom was a frugal McDougall and the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree) But my lovely husband Jarrett pointed out something to me a couple months back:

My kids don’t know how to give each other gifts.

Sure, we did Secret Santa each year, where we’d draw names and spend a whopping $5.00 on each other. I would give them gifts from me and Santa and Mama (Grandma). And there would be the stocking with the requisite 5 elements. Terry’s Chocolate Orange was the highlight.  Not much more past that though.

I do know that Christmas is about giving, not receiving. (Yes, I know that it’s actually about Jesus being born, I am intimately acquainted with Him) But I have been so consumed with making sure my kids received, I have not given them opportunity to give. I didn’t think much of it, but Jarrett noticed it, especially when it came to birthdays.

So he came up with a plan: give each kid $100 and charge them with the task of buying each sibling a well thought out Christmas present. Gift cards are not acceptable.

My inner frugal McDougall had a conniption and wondered about good stewardship and couldn’t they just give each other hand made coupons? We have five kids. That’s a lot of money.

But Jarrett assures me that we can generous, and our budget can handle one month of perceived excess.

Most of the kids are delighted, but the oldest is inconvenienced. We have never done this before, why are we now asking for this sort of material display of affection?

The last week or two the tree has gone up, decorations have appeared and baking has been consumed. But something else has happened. Late night secret meetings and notes have been tossed around, new questions asked and giggles have erupted.

It’s been fun.

With ten days to go before Saint Nick’s arrival, the tree is more full of gifts than it has ever been. And I struggle with thinking I’ve sold out to materialism. I need to remind myself that this experiment is maybe not about things.

-       It’s about acknowledging that this may be my eldest’s last Christmas at home for a while. Next year he is off to University and he’ll be spending December 25, 2015 at his Dads.
-       It’s reminding me that in many ways, “winter is over” and it is a new season.
-       It’s giving my kids the opportunity to know what it’s like to feel extravagant.
-       And Jesus has given me far more than I can hold.

I can celebrate that.

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