red and green

“Birthday traditions will not of their own accord become simpler, rather the reverse, and it is not difficult to imagine that traditions generated with enthusiasm can, in certain circumstances, become a burden.” ~ The Birthday Book: Celebrations for Everyone

The holiday season leads right into the birthday season in this house, with three birthdays in January, one in February, one in March and a break in April before our final child birthday in May.  Currently, I’m reading about birthdays while planning food for the Solstice and knitting for Christmas.  The knitting bit is a warm surprise for a certain little someone, with my current favorite everyday yarn, in the rich, festive ‘Hollyberry’.

A hand-made doll for her child (this was the only gift mentioned), a house decorated with greenery, odd bits of roots and foraged slices of wood mixed with white fairy lights, with plans for a day spent dancing, singing and eating nourishing foods.  This is the description of a Christmas celebration that I remember reading many years ago that has stuck with me.  As far as I’m concerned, it sounds just right.  Our own celebrations have become too complicated.  It’s time to scale back.  Mostly I want to reassess how we handle gifts.  We’ve always tried to keep things fun, but moderate.  In recent years we took up the “something they want, something they need, something to wear and something to read” concept, to which I tacked on art supplies as we always seem to be ready to replenish by this time of year.  It sounds fairly simple.  But with five children that’s 25 gifts!  Without taking into account a few odds and ends in stockings, not to mention gifts for any of our other loved ones or the gifts and planning required for our big double birthday celebration just 11 days after Christmas.  Even so, it might not be so bad if I didn’t have such high standards for the items I’m willing to purchase.  If I was willing to buy just anything…even if it’s likely to break…or potentially toxic…or from a sweatshop…or crass…or too much money…etc….it might not be such trouble.  But that’s not something I’m willing to compromise on.  As things are, it’s too much time, too much money, too much stress and much too much time spent on the computer shopping for me.   I’ve had a late season epiphany (erm, private little hissy fit? It’s a fine line.) and announced that each child would be getting one present under the tree.  They were all like, “ok” and went right back to what they were doing….I mentioned it would mean more time to be together and that I wouldn’t feel so strained and someone said that would be a much better gift.  Right.  And all this time Steve and I have been fretting about expectations and precedents having been set.  Eye opening.

It’s not quite as little as it seems as everyone will have a nice full stocking (have I ever shared my stocking formula here?  Would you like me to?) and there will be Christmas Eve pajamas of course.  And they all like to give gifts to each other.  So really it becomes quite a lot, without even taking extended family into consideration, and I wonder why I’ve fussed about it for all this time?

I’m also reading The Princess and the Goblin.  Firstly because I’m not yet too old for a good fairy story and secondly to see what hands would be best to set it into next.


8 thoughts on “red and green

  1. Megan

    I wish I had scaled back the gifts when my girls were younger but I definitely have this year. For stockings I went with the Victorian rule of stockings, “Something to eat, something to read, something to play with and something they need.”

  2. Becca

    I would find the stocking formula very useful, yes please! and I am finding the present hunting tiring this year too..I think I will take a leaf out of your book and scale back next year..Thank you for your insights and sharing your wisdom.

  3. kim

    yes! stocking formula please…….i too am hitting a wall with gifts. i wish i held to the standards i once had, but i find myself succumbing to little junk to fill the stocking and ‘have enough’. i hope to change things next year.

  4. Emily

    We decided when my oldest was a baby that we were just not going to do the whole present thing for Christmas. Nothing – and we make this known to extended family and friends as well. Now I have three, some of whom are in school, and I’m continually impressed that they really don’t care. They look forward to Christmas because we sleep in the barn on Christmas Eve, gather with family, and eat special food. Presents are for birthdays. Given that birthday season follows Christmas in your house, I bet you would be surprised how accepting they would be of punting all presents until then. Sometimes we set precedents as parents without realizing what the fallout will be years down the line – but I think we often underestimate our children’s ability to be resilient, and even respect their parents for making changes that need to happen. The most important thing is that they know you are in control – of the situation, and of your own emotions.
    Peace to you and thank you for sharing your inspiring scenes!

  5. Melody Post author

    I don’t mind doing some gifts. I’m considering only doing Christmas pajamas and stockings next year. We do not buy them things for pleasure the rest of the year, just needed clothing and school books. I think having two points in the year (Christmas and birthdays) for a little splurge is just fine. And I love finding things that they will deeply enjoy, that will enhance their lives in some way. It’s just when that starts to get out of proportion and feel like the main focus of the season or that we start feeling like we have to have a certain number of gifts or gifts that will produce a certain reaction that I start to have issues. I guess it’s all a question of balance and finding what feels right.

  6. Meredith Brennan

    Hello, could you please tell me where you got the fairy tree or was it handmade? I love it so much. It’s beautiful. Thank you very much.

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