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Saturday, 04 January 2014 20:28

Evaluating the Holidays - Christmas Traditions

This is the time of year when I look back at the past month (and year) and evaluate what we did.  The things that turned out really well, and that we all enjoyed, we will definitely do again and a few of the things that didn't work as well as we'd hoped - well, we probably won't repeat them. 

Reading back over my post on Christmas Traditions and priorities from last year, it's encouraging to see that our priorities are still the same and we upheld them well this year again. Our schedule was insanely busy, but we managed to spend an entire day as a family of 4 and go to the Christmas Eve service at church. We were also able to spend a day each with our parents, and we even saw each of our Grandparents over the holidays for a meal. Then, on New Years' Eve, we had a few of our close friends over for our 'traditional' New Years' Eve party to enjoy the company of some of our favourite people and to 'try out' our new space for a gathering. 

Last year I also wrote a post on the traditions that Brian and I both grew up with, discussing which Traditions to Carry Forward from our own childhoods. One of my favourite memories of getting ready for Christmas as a child was the day we set up the tree. My Dad might sit and watch - that was about as involved as he would get - but my Mom, brother and I would listen to Christmas music, eat chocolates and Christmas oranges and decorate the tree.  Since Clara was born it has also become a part of our Christmas tradition to make a day out of getting ready for Christmas. 

Last year, we dressed the girls up in Christmas dresses and took semi-formal pictures of them at our piano and with the sparkling tree lights in the background. The year before this, we did the same with Clara.  We had every intention of making this a tradition - and I still hope to - but because of our renovation this year, everything was pushed back a few weeks in our lives and although we spent a wonderful afternoon decorating the Christmas tree, it didn't work out to dress up the girls for pictures. I was really disappointed about this one.  

One thing we tried this year was to do a month-long advent calender for the girls using books and movies. After only a few days, I realized that although half of the books and movies that I wrapped were their own books and movies from the the previous year - they didn't remember them, and so I had created an advent calender in which my daughters would receive a gift every single day of December. I think this would have been a good idea for older children - children who would know that almost everything in the surprise packages was from previous years, and would understand that the fun and excitement was in the discovery and story time together.  I might revisit this in the future - years from now when the girls can handle it - but for next year, I would like to plan a simple activity advent calendar with few or no gifts involved.  

On the topic of gifts, my perspective on Christmas gifts has changed also. I've been doing a lot of soul searching this past year, and I'm feeling more and more as though we have too much stuff and the excess of gifts that comes at Christmas is something I would like to try to minimize. Again wanting to focus on the fact that Christmas is not 'about' receiving presents (which I'm sure Clara is still not convinced of, despite my days of discussion with her on the topic), and wanting to learn to live more simply, I would like to try to tone down our gift giving to each other for next year. 

All of the gifts in the presents below were for our small family of 4. It actually looks a bit less ridiculous in the photo than I thought it looked in reality, but after deciding not to go too crazy on gifts for the girls - looking at the extravagance here, I felt a bit like a failure.  I knew that this year could very well set the stage for Clara's expectations in the future, and I had hoped to tone it down significantly now so that she would not be disappointed in future years - and I just hope now that next year will not be too late. 

Another thing I missed out on this year with the renovation was Christmas baking. As we try to live and eat healthier - specifically using less sugar - it actually gave me a chance to evaluate how much we really need to have Christmas baking around, and how much we really missed it. "Not much." I'm a bit disappointed to admit.  Not that I will abandon all Christmas baking in the future, because I still love the baking itself, but I will probably not try to fill my freezer with Christmas treats in the months leading up to the holidays, and only bake a few of our favourites for the joy of baking itself. 

Such a strange and disjointed Christmas for us this year - and suddenly it's all over.  How were your holidays? What traditions do you cling to, and how was your Christmas the same or different than previous years? Is there anything you won't repeat for next year? 

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