To Everything There Is A Season

A Time For Every Purpose Under Heaven

A blog about raising a young family and keeping Christ at the center of it.

The Cyrs

The Cyrs
Photo Credit: Rachel Dewhurst

Monday, December 2, 2013

A Time for My Thoughts on Christmas

For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder:and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor,The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. ~Is. 9:6

It may come as no surprise to you when I tell you I like to keep it simple. These are the things I enjoy...the simple things. With a little luxury thrown in here and there, when God and means allow. So for me (and Ben), Christmas is about one thing: Jesus. And this is what we teach our children. All the other stuff, which I will get to in a minute, are just extras that do not MAKE Christmas what it is. The birth of Christ, our Saviour, the one who would one day die on a cross to save us of our sins, and offer us a place in heaven. HE is what our Christmas is all about.

That being said, we do enjoy the Christmas season in other ways but they are not the priority and they are not the focus. There are 5 things that I do all I can to make time for because I want my kids to have these memories and traditions. I want them to grow up and look back and say, "at Christmas we always..." Those kinds of memories and traditions are special and I feel, worth the extra effort to make happen.

1. The tree. No matter what is going on, no matter how busy life is, we always make time to put up the tree. Even when we had our first apt. and no money, before kids came, we had a tree. It was a pathetic, Charlie Brown tree but it was a tree. Now we have an artificial one because it's just easier right now. Eventually I think we will get a real tree but for now the one pictured above is our tree and we love it. The older kids help us assemble it, Ben and I string the lights, then all the kids who are able start putting on the ornaments. We were not allowed to help with the "real" tree growing up. We had our own tree in the basement that we were allowed to decorate. Growing up I never thought that was a bad thing...till I tell people this story and you can just see the pity for us in their eyes! I want my kids to feel like this tree is theirs too, not just mine, and perfect is not my goal. Memories are. If they showed no interest in putting the ornaments on the tree then sure, I would do it myself but they really look forward to this.
2. Making sugar cookies and decorating them. We did not have this tradition in my house but I think its so much fun so we make sure to do this with our kids. This is another thing they really look forward to! This year I let Jena help me make the cookies. The boys are only interested once the frosting and sprinkles come out! This tradition I will admit is time consuming. I also don't love baking so this is a real labor of love for me. Not to mention the mess...this is a messy tradition. By the end of this everyone was covered in flour, frosting and sprinkles...but it all washes and the memories made are worth every bit of mess.

3. Sticky Buns. Oh my, these are so good. This is one of the traditions Ben had growing up that he was not at all willing to leave behind...and none of us are complaining! We all look forward to our Christmas morning sticky buns! The kids ask for these throughout the year but I only make them on Christmas morning. Whether we are home or away I always plan to make these. They are so good and everyone looks forward to them so much that its usually a hard decision when the kids are asked if they want to eat first or open gifts!

4. The Christmas Story. And I'm not talking about "Twas the Night Before Christmas", though that is a great read. I'm talking about the story of Christ's birth. I will never forget the first time I heard the Christmas story. Of course it is possible I heard it at a young age but I mean the first time I really heard it. It was the first Christmas I spent with Ben's family. Christmas morning Ben's mom told me that the seat reserved next to Ben's dad was for me. That was so special to me. I know that seat was a place one of her 6 children look forward to having but she purposed to reserve it for me knowing this was my first time listening to it with a changed heart. I will never forget that morning. So the tradition continues in our home. On Christmas morning before we do anything else, we sit down in front of the tree and Ben reads the Christmas story. As much as I love our other traditions and would miss them if they were gone, if we could only choose one I would choose this one.

5. Christmas pajamas. This is a tradition we had growing up and I love this tradition but when you have 7 kids this is not always a tradition we can afford. The past few years I have chosen to go with something most of the kids already had, like the red tartan patterned ones we all have, and just buy the one or two sizes I need. This year we had a little extra in the budget and I found Star Wars pajama bottoms at a great price for the 4 boys. No they are not exactly "Christmasy" but the boys are going to love them. For the girls I only had to buy one pajama, for Jena, and got it match what I already had for the younger two girls.

So how does a family with 7 children in a difficult economy afford Christmas without breaking the bank? We get asked a lot and my answer is simple: Christmas is not about the gifts. It just isn't. From the time Noah was born we determined that Christmas would be small when it came to gifts. As parents we set the bar. So even though we only had one child and could afford to do more, we didn't. I'm thankful that we had this perspective early on because we had no idea we'd have 7 and that a small Christmas in the gift department was going to become a necessity. We don't have a strict policy per say but basically it has been one gift per kid (within our budget, which is $50 per kid) plus *stocking stuffers. The past couple of years we purchased one big gift for all the kids to share and if there was any money left over (there usually is) from our budget (which is still $50 per kid, we just combine it for the big gift) we purchase a small item for each of them so they have their own individual gift to unwrap. This year, thankfully, our family members are putting money toward bigger items for the kids to share and we are grateful. This not only helps them but it helps us. When you have 9 people living in a modest home you can only have so many toys! I know to many reading this our budget seems ridiculously small and the idea of only having one gift each under the tree is crazy. This is how we keep it simple. This is how we remain stress free at the holidays and are able to enjoy each other and the things that really matter. Having a small budget for our family at Christmas not only helps us keep perspective but it also allows us to GIVE during the holidays. There are so many with so much less then us and its important for us to get our kids involved in giving and help them see how much they have compared to others. A couple ways we do this are by putting together shoe boxes for Operation Christmas Child and picking stars from the tree at the kids school, and donating to Toys for Tots. There are so many ways to give and each year how we give is a little different. I hope that you all are able to experience the joy this holiday season can bring. Even when difficult times fall upon us, if we keep perspective and remember what is really important, we can have peace and contentment. Enjoy your families and your holiday traditions and more importantly...breathe! Enjoy the season, don't stress and focus on building memories!
Still waiting for Emma's
stocking to arrive!
*Stocking Stuffers: This is something I love. As a kid stocking stuffers were my favorite! So I really want to fill stockings for my kids. The problem: this can get really expensive! Not only expensive but I really dislike spending money on trinkets and things that will break a day later just to fill a stocking. So this year what I am doing is putting the Christmas pajamas in the stockings with a couple other things. And I will likely keep it this way for the years to come. Two things my kids love are chapstick and soda. They very rarely get soda and if they do its half a glass maybe three times a year. I buy the small cans of soda (the ones that are half the size of a regular can) and they each get one in their stocking...they LOVE this! So pajamas, a can of soda and a chapstick are what my kids are getting in their stocking. I'm not kidding when I say its very important to us that Christmas remains simple and focused on what is important. I always tell my kids the story my grandmother told me when I was a kid. When she was young her and her siblings received fruit and a few pieces of candy in their stockings. Fruit was a luxury for them apparently and not something they got often. She would talk about how much she looked forward to getting that orange and I remember thinking, "really, excited about an orange?!" I haven't spoken to her about this story since I've been an adult. It's very possible she exaggerated in the hopes it would make me more thankful for all I received. In any case, I tell my kids, and it does make them realize how much they have so its a good story regardless!

1 comment:

  1. Love your Christmas traditions! I hope you and your family have a wonderful time this season. I love the simplicity and focus your family has.