Christmas...

Well there is no denying it, Christmas is fast approaching. 

I'm going to be honest.  I'm struggling these days with Christmas.  I'm struggling to find the joy. 


We are bombarded with questions of "what can we get the kids?"  and my insides scream "nothing!" Its just more crap to pick up and they genuinly have enough of everything.  In fact, they have more then enough.  So I rake my brain trying to think of something suitable, that is going to last, that they actually want, thats not going to break in the first week, that they will love.  I try to put away my cynasism and make it special for them.
 
Family wants us to be with them over Christmas - at their houses.....which means as usual we have to travel several hours.  We will never be able to make everyone happy.

We have to buy gifts for everyone and if I'm completly honest "gifts" are my absoloute lowest love language.  It's not my thing, Im not worried about material posessions, I want for nothing, and know in reality those in my life want for little also.  So whats the point of spending lots on stuff that is going to sit around in others homes?  You know?  I could give that money to charity.....But I do give gifts because I love my family and I understand that gift giving is important to them.

We are just so privledged, and Christmas is all to often a time of over indulgance and gluttony.  Such a stark contrast to so much of the world. 

I used to LOVE Christmas when I was a kid.  It was completly magic with all the cousins gathered around, special food, laughter and and abundance of love.  I'm not sure what happened to make me cynical.  Perhaps because "Christ" is often missing from "Christmas" in our family circles, which pains me more then I would like to admit.....But then again he was never there in my family circles when I grew up either. 

Perhaps because I feel we are expected to fit in with everyone else, and even when we do our best we are bound to leave someone dissapointed.  Which I hate.  Im not sure what stole my joy, I suspect a combination of things. 

But Im going to be honest, Christmas has lost its magic for me, and quite frankly Im not sure how to find it again. 

I put on a smile, we play the music, I do the gifts, we do the miles and we do our best.  But for me, the truth is that it's hollow these days.  I crave a deeper Christmas, something that stirs my heart and my imagination again, something that brings back just a sprinkle of the child like wonder I used to love so much.  Though Im not sure how to get there, which saddens me. 
 
How do you keep the Christmas magic?

Much love,
Emma
xx   

31 comments

  1. Hi Emma. I think I am a lot like you in my thoughts of Christmas. To keep the magic going - remember how you loved it as a child and try and create that love of Christmas for your own children in the same way. Instead of buying gifts - why don't you get your children to draw or paint pictures of say your family or of themselves. Buy a nice frame and put these pictures into them and give them as gifts. Your family would be hard pressed not to love such a gift. Maybe you can make a few small things yourself. Give gifts that would make you happy and do not cost the earth. Maybe it is time we all took a step back from all of the commercialism.Set a new trend in your family. Anyway, I am sure as Christmas approaches, your children will ignite the light of Christmas in you. You cannot make everyone happy BUT you can make your own little family unit happy. Isn't that the most important thing? Take care and be kind to yourself. Best wishes... Carol

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    1. I didn't feel like I had the time to sew much at the moment, but it turns out I do. It has greatly helped to get me back to my roots and core values. I'm making the boys a simple present each. But it means so much to me to show them the love and care going into a hand crafted item.

      Xx

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  2. Have you thought of asking those who want to buy your kids a gift to rather deposit what they are prepared to spend into a savings account for your children. That way when they really want something / need something they have the funds to do so.

    Also, regarding gifts - what about homemade gifts? Jars of boozy fruit for the men, (large) fruit pies, jam or cordials for the ladies? That is what gifts used to be in days of yore - sharing homemade goodies from the heart not what the suppliers think should the rage this Christmas. ;)

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    1. Yes, home made food gifts are a wonderful idea for adults. Simple though as I'm lacking in energy to be honest. Perhaps the kids and I will make honey biscuits.

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  3. Last year I made a split-second decision to take the entire family to Anglican midnight mass at the Newcastle Cathedral.....still getting talked about (both positively and negatively) and this blew some breeze through the family simply because it was something we had never done before and was unexpected.

    So, perhaps keep a surprise of some kind up your sleeve (you choose) say nothing, keep a knowing smile to keep them guessing and spring it on the family at the last moment. The simple act of keeping a secret but also being mysterious can be energizing in itself.

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    1. This is wonderful, there is an upcoming Christmas pageant I will take them to and surprise them. Thank you Phil.

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  4. Wonderful post Emma, that will stir the same emotions in many folks. I opted out of a stressful and empty Christmas many years ago, when I returned to Australia after living in a third world country. It was a huge culture shock to observe the wastage and gluttony here. Tonight we had our family dinner/meeting, and I suggested we donate to Fred Hollows Foundation instead of gift giving. It was happily accepted, so that's what we'll do. All it takes is to have the conversation, and maybe others will start to bend your way instead of you always bending to theirs. X

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    1. Perhaps one day we will Sally, we do our own thing with giving to charities at Christmas. I suggested it a couple of years ago but no takers. Perhaps it is time to try again with us showing our own examples.

      Xx

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  5. Hi, Emma. How I feel about Christmas (and indeed lots of things) has changed as I've gotten older. For me, now, Christmas is really about giving - not so much of material things but of love and time. I live a long way from my Mum and so the Christmases I get to spend with her are extra special. That's nothing to do with the things wrapped up in pretty paper but with being able to hug her close. When we are all here, sitting around the table on the deck, sharing our lunch together and talking of memories and laughing and raising a toast, just as a now absent grandfather did, we are continuing the traditions of my husband's family for our youngest family members. Seeing Christmas this way has helped me to continue to see it as a special time of the year in our family. Meg:)

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    1. Your completely right of course. I think I let myself be dragged down by the bits I don't love, instead of encouraged by the parts I do.

      Xx

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  6. Emma I was with you in the not finding the Christmas joy right up to today. Today two small things happened that helped me find the Christmas spirit. I had to go for a wound check at the Dr's. As I was leaving my Dr, a beautiful woman of the Muslim faith turned to me and wished me a Happy and Blessed Christmas. When I got home my daughter(24) asked me to go to the shops with her to purchase the ingredients to make a Christmas Pudding. She is spending Christmas evening with her boyfriends family and wanted to take something to add to the Christmas feast. A reasonably cheap gift and made with love. These two things reminded me that Christmas is a time of sharing of self.
    I hope you find your joy. I hope those little boys of yours help you to find the magic.

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  7. Emma every thing you just wrote is my feelings about Christmas every since I had kids. I feel like screaming inside when I am bombarded with the question "what can we get the kids?" I want nothing! Christmas is full of gluttony and landfill presents. They get tonnes of stuff from the relo's and some are very hostile on y husbands side when you try to discuss it with them. When I was growing up I got a Summer outfit or pj's because I needed them, an indoor craft and an outdoor toy or a book. That's it! I went to Church and loved it. It was always about Jesus and food. I have not been to church in 20 years except for weddings and I have told my husband that I want to take the kids to church at Christmas even though he is an atheist. We have to travel 7 hours to my family then 2.5 hours to his and then home 5 hours. I come home with so much stuff we can't even fit it all in the car. I feel empty inside because I don't get to talk about my life just about stupid toys. I can't stand it any longer. It has to change for us since I have an auto immune disease I can't handle any stress and plus I am not honouring my self in the holidays which only festers internally and causes high estrogen hence my health issues! I really appreciate your post and want to let you know that you are not alone. I will have to let you know our small changes this year when we decide what we will do.

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    1. Thank you for sharing your story, I completely understand what your saying and resonate with it. I would so love to hear your changes when you make them. I hope you find some joy and peace this season and can do some things that resonate with your "why".

      Xx

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  8. I need time and space to fan the Christmas magic spark into a warm glowing flame. The more time and space - mental space that is- I have, the more magical and meaningful Christmas feels to me. If I don't have time and space then there is no spark. I try not to get hung up on having Christmas day on Christmas Day - after all there is no specific date given in the Bible. So that leaves me free to celebrate Christmas Day with extended family on a day other than Christmas if that is the best way for us at that time.

    How would you like to spend Christmas Emma, deep in your heart what would make you feel that you have been given tidings of comfort and joy? What would the deeper Christmas you crave look like, feel like? Who would be there, who wouldn't be there? For a short while don't think about anyone else - just you and write down what it is you want. I think it is important to at least acknowledge it, whatever it is.

    Now is there anything on that list you can include in your Christmas time? Cause I think what your Christmas planning is missing is Emma, and what she needs. This wonderful woman Emma deserves a wonderful Christmas, just as much as anyone else does. It is not your job to make everyone happy. Each adult is responsible for their own happiness. With much love and the sincerest intentions - Sherri

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    1. Yes, Emma, take note!!
      -Kelly B

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  9. We've had both....Christmas' without a lot of gifts and Christmas' with a lot....and you know what....the least feeling of Christmas peace is with more gifts. Giving gifts is not the true spirit of Christmas. I feel contemplating how Mary beheld giving birth to the Son of God and that mystery...the mystery of the poor shepherds being the first to hear the good news and see...this is where you will find the true joy of Christmas. Giving gifts and sharing with others who have less are the fruits that follow. The Christmas I "feel" is peace on Christmas evening when I am resting after being so tired tending to my children (when they were young) and cooking and everyone is settled down in another room (with little kids a new children's movie to watch is nice for a mom) and I can sit by myself by the tree and the manger, contemplating this peace. I also go to daily mass and Christmas mass...but daily mass is more quiet and less crowded so I find joy in that. Andrea

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  10. I believe 'if it is to be, it's up to me'. If you don't want your children to have a lot of toys, buy them less, write them each a story about your family, when you and your husband married, how you came to live in your home, the joy as each of them was born etc. You can fill it with lots of photos and copies of their drawings etc. and have it spiral bound at Officeworks or even make it into a photo book when they're on sale.

    Christmas is such a special time, it's a shame to be so negative and cynical. You can put the Christ back into your own Christmas and if your extended family doesn't feel the same, enjoy the chance of you all sharing time and food and being together. Perhaps you are judging rather than just being in the moment. It's always in the back of my mind that next year we might not all be together so I make the most of when we are.

    You really don't have to buy gifts for everyone My gifts are usually home made with a lot of thought for who they're going to. You could suggest that the family tries Kris Kringle next year when you all pull out just one name to buy for and at what amount. Or suggest this and also that the others just get a small, $5 or home made gift.

    I hope your Christmas spirtit returns soon. It really is a most joyful time.

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  11. As I was reading your post Emma my head kept nodding as I agreed with everything you said. Gifts are not my love language either and I don't really need or want anything, but like you said I do buy gifts because I love my family.

    As a child we got some toys but it was mainly things we needed like pj's, underwear and school supplies for coming year. I'm lucky that our daughter really isn't into toys and I'll probably end up getting something for her horse and maybe some clothes. I hate wandering around the shops looking for something to buy just because it's Christmas.

    I still love Christmas, putting up the tree, enjoying good food and company so that's what I try to focus on. Not the crazy buying beforehand.

    Take care
    Mel xx

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  12. Say no to others, spend Christmas in your own home. Tell them it is easier on the children. Start your own family tradition sharing your values. I bet that's the role model you want to be to your children and that's what is disturbing your peace of mind. Other family can visit later or maybe you could meet up halfway for a picnic after Christmas day.

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  13. I agree with what Jamie posted above.
    If it stresses you out to have to travel to see family at Christmas, just don't.
    You have your own little family to spend Christmas with.
    Because you will be doing it YOUR way with your own traditions, you might just find that bit of love for it again.

    As for me, I believe that my own children have enough. They have more than enough, in fact. I'd say every single gift that came through the doors this year hasn't lasted.
    I'm now more inclined to gift experiences rather than stuff, but it's not something you unwrap and play with on Christmas morning, which makes it hard.
    For the sake of having a physical gift, I have settled on giving books. And some rechargeable batteries so that old toys can be played with again.
    Swimvac lessons make a good gift, right?

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  14. Oh dear, it does get to the point where there is not much joy, peace or even goodwill.

    Christmas giving was meant to represent the gifts of the 3 Wise men...not the manic spending we are encouraged and manipulated into these days.

    You will find Christmas joy in making gifts, cooking, sewing, knitting, soapmaking etc. If family appreciate the effort and thought that went into your gifts they may see gift giving your way and tone down the buying of "stuff".

    The best of happy times are spent simply, you could all agree to rent a few cottages at the beach instead of spending on presents, a few days with all the family relaxing and catching up will make wonderful memories.

    If your families excuse excessive gifts with 'Christmas is about making it special for kids' ...... heard that one many times ...most kids would choose a stay at the beach with family , kids don't mind sqeezing extra in a bedroom or sleeping on the floor on blowups, or even in tents ,if you split rent 2 or 3 ways on a house it isn't too much. Most cooking can be BBQs so that lowers stress and shares the labour and keeps everyone outside.

    Very best of luck finding a solution.

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  15. No Christmas spirit here! As a holiday it means very little to either
    my husband and I since we're not religious, don't have children or
    grandchildren (which I think makes a real difference) and no family
    locally. We go to my inlaws interstate every year which I don't mind
    since its a chance to catch up with them. What I do object to is the
    whole gift giving thing. My SIL is very insistent on it and I've given
    up trying to fight it. It's all very well to say give a donation to
    charity but that really only works when everyone is on the same page!

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  16. I hear you Emma!

    Quite a few years ago I stopped buying for the adults in our family as it was getting out of hand and I was feeling just as you are now. So now only the little ones get a present from us. The adult children get money to spend as they wish. I enjoy the family gathering but not the stress leading up to the celebration. It is terribly hectic, and the real meaning of CHRISTmas is forgotten and this makes me very sad.

    There are many great suggestions from your friends here. Emma, do what is best for you and your little family. Maybe have Christmas on a different day, I know some families that do this.

    Much love,
    Tania xx

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  17. Yes, yes. I agree. I struggle to maintain joy about Christmas, and have done so since we had children. My inlaws have a way of manipulating us at Christmas to make sure we are spending the day as they want us to, and with who they decide we should, even knowingly at the expense of us spending Christmas with my side of the family. My children are 9 and 7 and have only seen my parents on Christmas Day once in their lives, even though they only live twenty minutes away. I know we need to share our time between both families but that is such an unfair split and my parents lose out on sharing their Christmas traditions with their grandchildren. It certainly takes any joy out of the day.

    My emphasis has always been on quality time together rather than gifts. So whole gift giving thing irks me. It gets out of hand and seems unnecessary when everyone already has more than enough. And also the waste!!! I have to cringe as I dump mountains of wrapping paper and ribbons in the bin, then do the same again at lunch when everyone eats of paper plates and drinks out of plastic cups. This really upsets me. I have fond memories of much laughter in the kitchen as everyone helped wash up dishes after a delicious Christmas lunch. There is no need for this to be a dreaded chore to be avoided at all costs, to me it is a treasured childhood memory.

    My other concern is that I never seem to be able to spend any quality time with my children on Christmas Day. Because the day is consumed with relatives and their families all getting together, by the time you catch up with everyone the day is over and the children have been left to amuse themselves while the adults have drinks and chat. I think huge Christmas gatherings don't allow any time for deep connections. My ideal Christmas would always be one spent at home.

    As I rarely have the opportunity to have the Christmas I want, my 'fix' is to make Christmas Eve a special day. We may have a Christmas drink with neighbours or friends in the afternoon, but I always cook a lovely meal, set the table nicely and light some candles. We turn the lights on the Christmas tree and sit around quietly just chatting. We might play a board game or have a family walk together in the evening. It is always quiet but special and i hope is something my children remember fondly, and is a counterpoint to the excesses of the day to follow.

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  18. My husband is the perpetual child who rekindles Christmas every year. If it wasn't for him, my kids would have a very sparse Christmas. It's not that I don't like Christmas as a concept, it just doesn't personally resonate with me. I like to find the magic in every day, ordinary things, as opposed to exploding on Christmas in a frenzy of expectations.

    But this is where my husband has helped educate me on Christmas. You can have ordinary fun, putting up the Christmas tree and make it special too. Not because it's Christmas, but because you're spending time together and enjoying doing things together. I don't know if he's part Elf or anything, but he has a certain magical charm at Christmas, which rubs off on everyone, lol.

    We actually gave up travelling to so many relatives, once we had kids though. Which really helped alleviate some stress. And my Sister-in-law has a tradition with her husband's family, that they celebrate bi-annual Christmases. So one Christmas with her family, and the next, with her husband's. Just because they're a big celebration worth spending quality time on. If you have to squeeze in every possible member of the family, on both sides of the family, it loses it's special appeal quickly.

    So in a nutshell, what you're feeling is absolutely normal, because it does ask so much of a family, over just a few days. Maybe time for some new traditions to start, to rekindle your ability to enjoy Christmas again. With my kids, when relatives ask what they want for Christmas, I always ask for a size up set, for next seasons clothes. Or educational tools and crafts. We took a chance, and started implementing home made gifts, or gifts to use in the kitchen to make food. We got some odd looks at first, but now people understand what we like. If we didn't take that chance and risk offence, then it never would have changed how they give gifts.

    Anyway, I hope you enjoy Christmas in the best way that you can. :)

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  19. I'm sorry you feel this way about Christmas! I know I was feeling a bit 'meh' tonight as we put up our tree. Mr T was so excited though and that was beautiful, Miss E was mesmerized by the whole thing!
    Perhaps next year (if it's too late this year) you should nick off with your little family for that week long holiday you're craving and tell everyone else to stick it up their jumpers :-)
    -Kelly B

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  20. We no longer realy celebrate Christmas, we give presents to the children, already bought and wraped and money to everybody else, we by a packet of sweets and stay home bah humbug ! It is all to much hype, christmas is a religious festival not a commercial opportunity so we have opted out. It is much more relaxing.

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  21. Used to have those same feelings. Then I realized Christmas is just a day, and stopped placing so much importance upon feeling happy. And making others feel happy. Now I just put the emphasis on what I feel the real emphasis should be, the birth of our Savior. In the evenings I read the Gospel of St. Luke instead of attending parties. When people ask what they can buy the children you can always say "please don't". if they do pack up those gifts and put them away to give to needy children. Have a frank talk with all the gift givers and tell them that you can't afford it. That leaves little room for argument. You might discover that they are relieved not to exchange gifts and might be feeling overwhelmed too.

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  22. Try making things about rituals instead of things. First of all, ditch the big family get-together.We tried doing that and it was misery.Now we have a Christmas that is meaningful and full of joy. We put up the tree on Dec. 1 and make no other preparations before then. In the first week of Dec. I make fruit mince for mince pies, Christmas cake and Christmas pudding (while playing carols) In the second week, I buy gifts for the children. I buy a few stocking fillers (the stockings are actually one of their socks so it doesn`t take much to fill them)-consisting of small things like a mouth organ, Matchbox car, Christmas sweets, stickers etc.Each of the children get one thing they want (Lego, Transformer etc) one thing they need (new beach towel and bathers, back-pack, clothing) and one thing to keep them busy in the holidays- usually a box packed with craft supplies and puzzles. In the third week I make edible gifts to give to my brothers and sisters- this year it will be decorated jars of raspberry jam. A week before Christmas, the family gets together at grandmas house for an afternoon tea and the home-made gifts are exchanged.The only gift the children get is the one from grandparents but they have a great time playing with their cousins.
    On Christmas Eve we have something special for tea and the children get to stay up to watch the first part of Carols by Candlelight eating home-made mince-pies, shortbread and vanilla milkshake. They hang their socks and off to bed. This is the time that I take Christmas into my heart- I go outside and look at the stars and think about that long age miracle and imagine people all around the world doing the same as me-breathing in the peace of the evening , full of hope for the future. Then, fill stockings (hung by the fireside with care!!), place gifts under the tree and off to bed. In the morning the children are allowed to open their stockings before breakfast, then a special breakfast and the house tidied before opening gifts. The meal is cooking in the meantime and we have the simple traditional roast chicken and ham followed by Christmas pudding. Christmas afternoon is quiet and gentle- the children playing with their gifts and parents resting and planning out their hopes for the following year.
    It is the same ritual every year and the children love the familiarity and for me, following the time-honoured traditions immediately evokes the spirit of Christmas. Don`t buy into the whole masses of presents, masses of food and huge family gatherings- the media tries to portray that this is what Christmas is about, but it`s not. It`s the little traditions that your own little family create , and each family`s traditions will be different. And yes, we bring Christ into it- we have a little nativity scene next to the tree and tell the children the Christmas story each year. They know it well but still love to hear it told

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  23. Thank you for your beautiful post Emma.
    My feelings about Christmas are very similar but over the years (my girls are now 14, 12 & 10) my girls and husband have got on the same page as me and we have a modest Christmas with our gifts and focus on church, thankfulness and family. Since we emigrated away from our family when the kids were small, that tug to travel and split time has been removed and we love the way we spend our time together as a little unit over Christmas.
    But I do feel a little bit like the kid in the crowd as the Emperor strode past in his 'new clothes'. I find myself wanting to shout 'the Emperor's got no clothes on!!!' If so many people are feeling this way - weighed down by the materialistic non-meaning of Christmas and the stress WHY AREN'T WE SHOUTING ABOUT IT??? Who is it making us conform?? Why are we conforming?? Let's be bold and do it our way and be happy to do so!!

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