Hi friends! Here are some fun ideas from my friend Janel who lives in Uganda with her husband Jon as a missionary, wife, writer, and creative homeschooling mom of 4. With far fewer conveniences than she was used to in the States, Janel has learned how to juggle the holiday expectations in new ways. Here she lists creative ways for keeping the holidays in check!
By Janel Breitenstein
You probably already do this as a mom, but during the holiday season our evaluation becomes even more important: “Which is more valuable here–my money, or my time? My time with my kids, or doing this for someone else? Doing what’s expected, or preserving my sanity?” It’s worth a few minutes for me this year to consider, what’s really important this Christmas?
May God bless you with a joy-filled, more simple Christmas this year!
- Get creative. Take a look on the web or just dream a little to make your own truly unique gifts. You might burn a CD of (ahem, non-pirated) songs that express your unique relationship with a person. Cover a plain hat box with swanky fabric and fill it with candles, soaps, or bath salts you’ve made. Begin a photo album with pictures of you (or your kids!) and a friend or relative, or give a journal with a meaningful entry or two from you or the kids inside. Give framed snapshots of your children, or their handprints in plaster.
- Shop online. Search engines can now do in .02 seconds what takes us hours to do while paying a babysitter or hauling cranky kids around. Sometimes shipping directly to your home saves the cost of gas (or the babysitter) for you to fight crowds and find “the best deal.” Plus, if you type in the store name and the word discount into your search engine, you may find online coupons for shipping or a percent off.
- As so aptly worded in a magazine I just read—stop competing with Martha. Maybe this year it’s better for you to give vanilla-ginger hand cream, a mug with a packet of nice cocoa, or a pretty ornament to the Sunday school teachers than Grandma’s special recipe fruitcake. If you’re more in economy mode, have them make a candle or an ornament for their teacher (like the ones made out of applesauce, glue, and cinnamon) along with a card. Creating memories with your kids is wonderful and truly priceless. But don’t fall prey to overachieving in a time that could be more special if you simplified. (Remind me of this around mid-December, please.)
- Find a gift that will be personal, unique … and easily given to a ton of people. Look for a classy ornament, a gift card to Starbucks, or a perfect Christmas CD from someone everybody likes (online, remember?) for that person at work, or all those gift exchanges. What’s worked for me for bosses, grandparents, and the relatives you won’t see: Fresh evergreen wreaths sent at the beginning of the season. They smell great and greet them every time they walk in the door.
- Christmas together.With your adult family members, consider pooling your gift money together to give to a non-profit or a missionary (a different person chooses every year) rather than buying each other yet another less-than-personal exchange gift.
I’ve mentioned this one before: A friend of mine has a bunch of us bring two types of cookie dough (some baked the day before), and we all bake and frost together, then mix up the kinds to make plates of cookies to bring to our neighbors and love on them. Our kids have a great time in the chaos and it provides all of us an easier way to reach out.
Rather than a gift, offer to take someone to dinner or coffee for their gift this year, and give them a card that expresses how much you care about them. When you can, create a memory for a gift (even if it’s with your children as you make gifts together). They last longer and are more valuable!
- Traveling?Start boxes of giftsto take and lists of what not to forget. Keep the boxes at the rear of the tree or in the garage.
- Use the holidays for character.Because things are busier, this can be a time for your kids to step up. You don’t need to be the only one who works harder! Work changes our kids and helps them understand their part in the “body” of your family and the church … another great way to turn their focus from the world’s focus on ourselves and our appetites at Christmas. Try to set an atmosphere of joy as you work together.
If you complete an advent calendar of some kind, try also to think of a different point of thanks for each day—maybe writing them on the paper chain you’ve made, or keeping a thankfulness log on the fridge or the calendar. You might also hang a “Thanks, Lord!” poster board and ask people throughout the month to remember what God’s done through 2013 for your family.
- For the kid who has everything.Throughout the holidays—no matter what your financial state this Christmas—talk to your kids about people who won’t be eating meals regularly this December, and who are hoping to make it through the winter. When you’re buying gifts, keep character in mind more than happiness. You might spend money on an experience with your child (a pass to the children’s theater, a pass to the zoo, a special trip) rather than the toy that will break on December 26.
Your turn! What do you do to simplify, personalize, and economize at Christmas?