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Rebooting Christmas - is it possible? If so, who's with me?

(48 Posts)
lightroom Wed 04-Nov-15 11:48:01

I love the run up to Christmas. I love decking the halls, cooking, Christmas music, watching Christmas movies, carols by candlelight... I'm in no way a Scrooge, but every year I feel the day itself is a disappointment, once all the presents are unwrapped. I don't like the excess as I'm a minimalist at heart. My ideal Christmas is all a bit Little Women/Lucy and Tom's Christmas. smile My dc are 10 and 13, and have got used to the excess. I have brought this on myself...

Christmas Day feels v subdued once the presents are opened. I work FT (off sick today) and the run up can be so manic that I'm just knackered by Christmas day and just want to sleep...

So I'm trying to think about ways to do Christmas differently this year, even though my family might be a bit resistant.

I'm thinking about simple changes - like actually doing Advent properly and waiting to get the decorations up & Christmas music out till later in December; trying to celebrate the 12 days of Christmas in some way; a walk or going to Church on Christmas Day (which would be v unpopular!), and being REALLY restrained about presents... We've started asking GParents for experiences rather than things (like tickets for a show) and that's been v lovely.

Anyone else trying to strip back Christmas for whatever reason? Any thoughts on how to prepare DC for the shift?

NathalieM Wed 04-Nov-15 12:10:20

Hi Lightroom,

I absolutely see where you're coming from. It's hard to have a simplistic and meaningful Christmas when over-abundance seems to be so deeply ingrained in everyone's mindset. You should focus on what matters to you; maybe attempting a more simple Christmas will reflect well on your children? I definitely agree about the experiences too, and I think gifts which have long-standing benefits are a good idea.

In my view, Christmas is much more than the day itself. The entire month somehow has become engulfed in Christmas, which sounds like a terrible thing but has somehow become, for me at least, a much better way to deal with the entire holiday itself. Perhaps attempting to make it less about the day itself and more about how the entire month can be enjoyed might help?

Hope you manage to find that balance this year!

Treats Wed 04-Nov-15 12:21:58

I agree about the timing of things. I try to get food prepped and in the freezer and cards and presents finished in November so that I can just enjoy December and do what I want, rather than have the pressure of completing tasks.

I'm a fan of church at Christmas. We do the crib service on Christmas Eve and the early morning service on Christmas Day. I find both invaluable for getting the DCs out of the house and it's a useful walk/ breath of fresh air/ pause in the madness. We do most of the Advent Sunday services as well, which is a nice way to lead up to Christmas.

DH and I also like a good carol service (we're both singers) so we drag the DC along to a Nine Lessons and Carols in the weekend before Christmas. Much nicer to hear the music live than on the radio/iPad and you often hear something new. All these things are usually free which is a bonus.

Also, DH and I only buy one present each for the DCs (although Fr Christmas is very generous with the stockings!) They get plenty from relatives so they don't go without. Once the present is bought, that's one more task ticked off - I don't feel pressured to carry on shopping.

Finally, we try and do a few little craft things - something different each year. This year and last, it was a wreath for the door. I'm going to get the DCs to make their own cards for their DGPs this year. I like the feeling that preparing for Christmas is about more than spending iyswim. I would rather decorate the house with a few quirky things the DC have made than with things I had to drag them round the shops to buy.

lightroom Wed 04-Nov-15 13:04:20

Completely agree about making decorations - we usually get some holly from the farm where we get our tree, and we get greenery from the garden and use red ribbon that we've had for 15 years and then deck the halls. Lots of paper snowflakes, too. This year my ds and I are planning on building one of his Lego houses as a Christmas house and putting little battery-operated tea lights inside, too. I LOVE that kind of thing!

I've just ordered a book of Advent reflections, but I think just going to church through Advent will really help me. Also meditating...

Great idea to get all shopping sorted in November. I always mean to do that, but don't. Maybe I should use today to do it online smile from my prone position on the sofa.

I'll also have a look at the calendar for December and see what lovely, nourishing things we can plan that are low-stress & high joy.

Just thought that maybe I could do a mass bulb-planting session this weekend and give relatives pots/bulbs for Christmas... Hmm. I need to be careful not to get feverish about simplifying Christmas, though, as that would defeat the purpose!

Treats Wed 04-Nov-15 14:18:45

smile. True. Pick a few things that are manageable and put some time aside to do them properly. I am slavering over a book of Christmas crafts that I got from the library at the weekend, but realistically I'm not going to be able to do hand-stitched Christmas napkins this year...... But paper chains and paper snowflakes with the DC I can do.

I know some people would probably recoil at the idea of going to church at all, never mind every Sunday in Advent, but for me it does provide a space and time to meditate, or be mindful, and appreciate my troubles and concerns exist in a wider context.

Bulb-planting is an excellent idea. Creative, organic, cheapish and you can get outdoors to do it.

Another thought I had was that not everything that happens in December has to be "Christmassy". Watch some normal films, eat normal food, read normal books, do the normal things. I have a great memory of taking the kids to the local playground with a winter picnic the day before Christmas Eve last year. Not remotely Christmassy but still very good fun and precious time spent together.

FlopIsMyParentingGuru Wed 04-Nov-15 14:32:27

We do a family film night ever weekend in December other than that I keep mid week normal as otherwise burn out.
Also I've researched and planned a day out for 27th/28th so we have something to look forward to. And panto on chtismas Eve.
Other than Christmas plays and church nativities I'm trying to keep December sane

MargaretHale Wed 04-Nov-15 14:37:48

We played a game of rugby in the park last Christmas Eve and it was SO much fun! Me, dh, 2.5yo ds and a set of grandparents- not a terribly authentic game but hilarious, and a welcome bit of fresh air.

girlywhirly Wed 04-Nov-15 15:38:47

I think pacing yourselves through December is a good plan. Also have something to do after Christmas to look forward to. Your DC are old enough to do things to help, and should not expect Christmas to be done for them, so they can help with cleaning, cooking, table laying, dishes, pushing the vacuum round, decorations, shopping. They can learn how to wrap gifts properly, or fold napkins into interesting shapes for the table.

I find it helpful to plan some meals in advance, cook and freeze so that you have a selection of stews and curries ready with minimal effort and time.

I agree to having a good walk or something outdoors.

MyFavouriteClintonisGeorge Wed 04-Nov-15 15:53:54

Advent candles are very nice. The days are marked on it and every day you light it and burn that day's ration of wax. It is a good way to anticipate Christmas.

Reach out. Instead of family only, invite friends for simple get-togethers. Play Twister, or Ludo, anything that encourages daftness. We like to let my nieces put on a show, it is usually hilarious.

I intend to have a family disco, because there is nothing more joyful or life-affirming than watching little kids dancing.

lightroom Wed 04-Nov-15 16:05:31

All v good advice! Part of my problem is that I work in HE (which I love) but the run-up to Christmas is crazy as students (rightly) want to get as many tutorials in as possible before the holiday, and I'm studying myself, so even without Christmas, it's all a bit frantic... Hence the need to expend energy thoughtfully and plan ahead. We're going to a Christmas show on the 20th, and will be travelling a lot between Christmas and New Year to visit family (which is never quite as relaxing as it might be) so I think planning as much outdoorsy stuff as possible to look forward to after Christmas would be good.

I don't get the kids involved enough in helping around the house, Girlywhirly - it's so much easier in the short term to do stuff myself. That needs to change!

Have you seen that Spanish Ikea ad that's doing the rounds, The Second Letter? What my big ds would want from me is a nice long game of footie with him. Little ds? Probably a big Lego session & lots of drawing side by side.

We did have a lovely family get-together before Christmas last year, but our living room suddenly felt very tiny and the kids got a bit overwhelmed, so taking the get-together round the park and back for hot chocolate might be a good idea...

I've got the Box of Delights audiobook lined up, and we always listen to A Christmas Carol during December, too, but I might try to keep Christmas stuff just for the Sundays in Advent.

I haven't actually bought any Christmas presents today, but I've been pinning possible gifts onto a private Pinterest board. Progress of a kind! Getting the presents done before the end of November would be the best anti-stressor, and stop me from doing panic-buying - which always leads to excess...

Thanks so much for all the thoughts so far!

lightroom Wed 04-Nov-15 16:08:58

Ooh, yes, get-togethers with friends. Great idea! I've already planned a couple of evenings of mulled wine and snowflake making in December, but I'll see who's around between Christmas and NY for a games afternoon/night.

Does anyone else find it tricky to wrench the kids away from screens during Christmas? Especially hard if they've had new games...

lightroom Wed 04-Nov-15 18:13:02

Woo HOO! Just done almost all Christmas shopping (except for kids' stockings) online! The upside of not being well enough to go into work today...

randomcatname Wed 04-Nov-15 22:04:26

Oooh this could be a lovely relaxing thread. I too want to be all wrapped by the end of November so December can be a bit more chilled. I've always wanted to go to a beach to celebrate the winter solstice on the 21st(?) but never managed it. I know it sounds nuts. I think I'll get an advent candle to burn in the morning. It'll liven up the darkness and put dc in good spirits, I think.

AnnaMarlowe Wed 04-Nov-15 23:04:51

I think Christmas should be special, family and community oriented and as stress free as possible.

We don't put our decorations up until the weekend before Christmas which I thinks help keep everyone calm and rational.

We do a big family clean and decorate session. Christmas music plays throughout

I take them somewhere special for a treat after school on the last day of term.,

The kids and I also usually try to fit in a Christmas craft or baking session to get in the festive spirit.

The children will be in the church nativity the Sunday before Christmas.

I take the children to shop for and donate a load of shopping for our local food bank.

The whole family attends the Christingle service which is lovely and then back home for mince pies.

Christmas morning with just immediate family before the hordes arrive in the afternoon. I haven't managed to find a way to stem the excessive grandparent purchasing but it comes from love so I bite my

AnnaMarlowe Wed 04-Nov-15 23:06:37

Oops! ... Bite my tongue.

The children always have a wonderful Christmas but we don't have tantrums or over excitement that I often see in their friends.

JasperDamerel Wed 04-Nov-15 23:20:10

Your plans found very similar to mine. I plan on doing all the present shopping this month, and keeping advent as s proper time of waiting and anticipation. Advent service at the cathedral, winter decorations consisting of greenery and candles, and a focus on doing nice things for other people, and on community.

Tree decorated on the solstice.

I'm planning on saving all the mince pies/mulled wine etc for Christmas Eve onwards and having a proper 12 days of fun and indulgence after a fairly austere advent. Presents will include things like tickets to the ice rink and theatre.

Lightroom Thu 05-Nov-15 08:50:16

It's fantastic to find kindred spirits here! When the DC were really tiny we decorated the tree on Christmas Eve, but it's crept earlier and earlier. I really like the idea of decorating the house at winter solstice and getting everyone involved.

I'm still not feeling well but need to try to get into work today, but having done the bulk of Christmas shopping online yesterday, I feel much calmer already.

RascarCapac Thu 05-Nov-15 09:11:04

I'm very torn between going into organisational hyperdrive warp factor 6, and actually just letting things be. We live in fairly central London and shops are open round the clock right up until the last moment. We won't have family over for Christmas Day, so as DH keeps saying - it's just a big roast chicken.

I think for me the thing is to work out what I find stress inducing and what I find Enjoyably Ritualistic, so this has been helpful. I think I will go into hyperdrive re presents and get them sorted early. I resent shopping early but unbought presents take up a lot of psychological space. And wrapping - aargh! I always lose an evening to wrapping immediately before Christmas and wrap with increasingly levels of furiousness, but really should bring that forward.

Food and decorations then are the easy part and personally I'm much more relaxed around those. I like to make my own Christmas pudding eg, but if life runs away with me then no one is seriously going to taste the difference if we have Sainsburys Taste the Difference.

I also like the idea of meditation. It would be a really good secular advent to make sure I did my Headspace every day in December, so thanks for that suggestion.

My best tip. We did parkrun last Christmas Day, which was a blast. DH and ds ran and dd and I volunteered. It was cold, muddy and very energising. Then when everyone retreats to the sofa you feel like you've earned it.

LittleMissGreen Thu 05-Nov-15 09:49:02

As a family we tend to have an advent candle and read a story by candlelight each evening in advent. I was looking for something to read this year probably going to be Reflections on Narnia this year.

but also saw Do Nothing... Christmas is Coming: An Advent Calendar with a Difference which made me think of this thread. May be useful for someone! Written by a bishop, but not particularly aimed at religious people I think judging by the reviews.

Lightroom Thu 05-Nov-15 09:51:00

Ooh, yes, running! ds1 and I have been only once together but have been talking about going again. Would be great to go a few times during the hols.

Now looking for an 'experience' present to give to dm and dsis. Actually I might suggest we don't buy anything for each other, but instead book to go away for a weekend together in the spring.

That's exactly it, rascar: eliminating the unnecessary stresses and focusing on enjoyable ritual. I've realised that sense of disappointment after Christmas Dinner is probably a hang over from childhood. Maybe it's ok to flop on the sofa and watch a film! That said, I will try to get my lot outside on Christmas Day this year - I think it'll make a big difference.

Every year I say I want to observe Advent and not start Christmas till Christmas, but it's so countercultural. Going to try this year, though.

girlywhirly Thu 05-Nov-15 10:38:10

DH and I put the dishes to soak after lunch and get out for half an hour or so, even just a walk around the neighbourhood is fine. It stops the cabin fever that can develop when people are cooped up, and helps with digestion, I always feel better for it. We often see like-minded families, often with the DC's new bikes/scooters/dolls prams. We even went out one Christmas when the pavements were frozen like glass and we had to walk on the roads or grass verges!

Sometimes we've deferred pudding until we're back, tackle the dishes first and then can relax with coffee.

Lightroom Thu 05-Nov-15 10:40:57

I'm taking notes! You're all brilliant!

WipsGlitter Thu 05-Nov-15 10:50:23

I agree about not putting decorations up too early no more than two weekends before Christmas.

If you feel the day is a bit flat what could you do to change that? Church is good if you're into that, visit family, have people round.

I found it was a bit flat for a few years once the presents were opened and we were waiting to go to my sisters, so i focused on that and tried to just chill, I think I bought myself nice smellies last year so i could have a bath in the morning.

This year we are not hosting so i need to look at things again and work out what to do to fit in seeing DPs family before we go to my sisters.

Treats Thu 05-Nov-15 11:34:45

Oooh - JasperDamerel!!! I've just finished reading 'Venetia'. I only just discovered Georgette Heyer after picking up a battered copy of 'The Corinithian' while waiting in A&E last week and found 'Venetia' in the library at the weekend. Can't believe I never realised what an amazing writer she was before now.

Sorry, everyone. As you were.....

Lightroom Thu 05-Nov-15 11:35:28

I think part of it, Wipsglitter, is that my lovely dad and grandad died 5 years ago, and my sister's been with her boyfriend these past few Christmases - all very vibrant and fun loving people, and it's just really quiet without them! I'd kind of forgotten that's why the last few Christmases have felt a bit subdued. But this thread is really helping me think things through. I feel sad and low at Christmas for a reason: I really miss my dad.

Turns out we won't be doing a mega family tour just after Christmas so I'm thinking about how we can use that time wisely to rest and relax, and I'll have a look to see if there are any community projects we could volunteer with, perhaps. We'll be driving three hours round trip on Boxing Day, then the same for NY, but for the first time in adult life, I won't be travelling endlessly after Christmas. Can't tell you how excited I am about this!

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