Our lawn is awash in the red and orange hues of falling leaves, and the air is refreshingly crisp. I pulled out my warm sweaters and winter shoes. It's dark in the morning when we open our eyes, and the sun is a warmer shade of gold. And beautiful tones of Christmas songs fill the air.
Yes, that's right - Christmas songs. Too early? In fact, much later than usual. In the past I've been in charge of one Christmas event or another, which often meant pulling out the albums in August. This year I have graciously given my family a little extra time to seem somewhat normal. But finally, it's that time of year.
I'm an early Christmas shopper - in fact I'm a year-round Christmas shopper. I already have a few things I picked up last spring. I love perusing the stores for that perfect item that will entice a magical smile from the recipient.
I also have been struggling with the inundation of gifts over the past years. We have been blessed with so much already, and the car-full of presents to add to the heap seems redundant and just a mite spoiled. Plus there are other things I want to impress upon my children about the Christmas season than just getting gifts.
So, here are a few of the things we have tried in the past, or are trying this year. I hope you'll all share some of your gift-giving traditions, too.
A friend told me that in her family, for the first two Christmases and birthdays for a baby, she just wraps up toys they already own. Around September (or a few months before the birthday) a few things quietly disappear from the toybox and are stored away from sight. She wraps them up and gives these on the big day. Since the delight is really in the paper and boxes, she avoids the expense and storage space of new gifts for a baby who doesn't really know what's going on.
Growing up money was tight in our home, and so my parents started getting my sisters and I to make Christmas gifts for each other. Sometimes it was a Family Studies school project, sometimes it was a craft we'd come up with on our own. To this day I still have a Christmas ornament and a homemade pillow I received. Sure, it helped with the budget, but my parents were teaching us more than just saving money. The delight of seeing my sister open a gift I'd personally laboured over is incomparable.
This year I'm making most of my boys gifts. This isn't out of a budget necessity. I want to give something to the boys that will last over the years and will mean something to them when they are older. I'm also after toys that aren't made solely of plastic. Textures are an important part of learning, and there is something so beautiful about a real wooden train or a cloth book. This year I'm working on three projects. The first is a large 11"x 14" photograph for each of my boys. The photo is one of them sleeping as a baby, and I'm adding the text of the lullaby I sang to each one overtop of the photo. The second is a train set for Colin. We've purchased the wooden track, and will be building and painting a table on wheels and then assembling the track on it. The third is a set of cloth stacking blocks for Caleb, with letters and numbers and animals on them.
I also read recently of a woman who wanted to make sure her four boys understood that Christmas is a time of giving. Her and her husband gifted each boy with money to donate to a charity of their choice. Each child would spend the month of December thinking of how to use this gift. Sometimes it went to a local cause, sometimes it was donated overseas. Sometimes it even went to buying gifts for a family who might not have much for Christmas that year. On Christmas morning, each family member would then share who they had blessed with the money.
Another of my friend belongs to a very large family. Very large. Her husband is one of nine children, and each child is married with 4 or 5 children of their own, and some of those children also have children. They rent a hall each year and have a huge Christmas dinner. But instead of trying to buy gifts, they donate to a cause. Each of the nine families takes turns choosing a charity of their choice and everyone donates to that. They have also helped out with local, national and international things, in areas ranging from animals to children to environment.
Those are some of the ideas I've gathered over the years. What are some of your Christmas traditions that help to light the love of the season?