This year for Christmas, I was determined to scale back.
Every time I would walk by the Christmas section at the store, I would be tempted to break with this goal. Oh, look, more lights! We could hang them around the windows and house trim. Oh, look, clear glass ornaments! The boys and I could decorate them! Oh, look, more ornaments! I could make ornament garlands!
I could make my own wrapping paper! I could make snow globes! I could give handmade gifts to everyone!
Pinterest and Facebook and the entire world seem to be conspiring against me, making me feel like I need to do more, do nicer, more elaborate things all the time.
But then, I remember how tired and busy and hectic things have been. I would try to remember the things I really wanted to do with my kids: read Christmas stories, play games, have pillow fights, eat cookies
My boys don't care if the cookies are hand painted to look like the 12 days of Christmas. They just want to bake something with me that they can eat later, and preferably has sprinkles on it.
Keeping all this in mind, Christmas was smaller this year. There were not as many lights hung. There were fewer Christmas activities. But it was every bit as magical.
Hubster and I were a little worried, because the other thing we had decided to scale back on was gifts.
We had decided to go with a primarily toy-free Christmas. Our children don't need any more toys. They don't play with all the toys they have. We struggle to store and clean up the ones they do play with. The last thing we need are more things they won't play with, we don't have room for, and we have to clean up after. Also, I'm tired of giving into all the commercialism of the season. I don't want to buy BeyBlades just because that's what everyone else is buying.
Doing a toy free Christmas mandates getting the grandparents involved, because we didn't want to be the parents that didn't give toys, only to have Grandma and Grandpa send awesome, battery requiring noise makers.
This Christmas, there were fewer packages under the tree. Those packages contained books, clothes, board games, flannel sheets, silly slippers, family movies, musical instruments. Yes, Bug and Monkey both got a Lego kit that they had asked for, so there were some toys. But we are to the point where Legos are almost a lifestyle.
Our boys are also getting older. With Bug being 11 and Monkey being 7, I worried that Christmas has lost some of its excitement.
So combine everything: the slimmed down decorations, the trimmed down pile of gifts, and the perpetual growing of my children, I worried about how this Christmas would go.
Like usual, my worrying was fruitless. The boys woke up at 4:30 am and descending upon their stockings, delighting over the treats and puzzles and Star Wars band-aids. They woke us up at 6:30, desperate to begin opening gifts.
Instead of trying to control the wrapping paper and freaking out that things were getting messy, I just let the wrapping paper and bows and ribbons pile up around us, while the boys exclaimed and jumped up and down and hugged everyone with each gift.
There was not one look of disappointment. There was still just as much magic.
Part of what made this work is that in all our scaling back, in all our simplifying, we didn't leave out the important things. We didn't omit traditions. We still picked our tree from the local tree farm. We still had an evening decorating the tree (this year, I left it totally up to the boys and didn't move a single decoration, except the ones that fell off). We still made paper snowflakes and opening a gift on Christmas eve. There was still monkey bread from Christmas breakfast and our traditional Christmas dinner, eaten in pajamas.
What the scaling back resulted in was not a devaluing of Christmas; it was not an attempt to diminish the importance of the holiday and our time as a family. What it really was was a chance for us to focus on what really matters: tradition, joy, and each other.
How grateful I am that little Christmases can be wonderful Christmases.