Monday, February 17, 2014

final thoughts on christmas



 I know it is super late to be posting more thoughts about Christmas, but for some reason I want to go ahead and put this post up.  I've been thinking about our Christmasses and what works for us and what doesn't, and year after year (since we've been doing it this way), this advent calendar is a sweet, fun, non-materialistic ritual that the kids and I get a huge kick out of.  I've written about it each year for a number of years now.  Basically, I have this "vintage" advent calendar wall hanging that my mom made from a kit back in the 70's (or maybe even 1969??) and she passed it down to me a number of years ago.  I love it!  When we were little she'd tie on small gifts or candies, and I've done it that was as well, but about 5 years ago I switched to this "advent village" theme.  Each item is wrapped and tied onto the wall hanging (photo #3) and the boys take turns unwrapping one each day and placing it in the "village" (photo #4).  I have some light up houses that I thrifted and that stable and the vintage bottle brush trees are from my mom.  That piece of blue felt is a "lake."  As advent progresses the village fills in.  They boys have fun arranging and rearranging the village.

We just have so much fun with this.  I've noticed some moms around blogdom feeling frustrated by their advent calendar traditions.  I highly recommend this one!  I keep it a little bit exciting by adding two "new" items for days one and two.  This year it was a wooden shepherd boy and a wooden racoon.  I'm dying to find a snowman someday.  The rest of the stuff is saved items we use from year to year and things from around the house--wooden animals from the farm, etc.

Also, on the topic of Christmas, and then I will move on.  I think we really need to restructure our thinking about gifts and material stuff around the holidays.  My boys don't need that many toys, and what they do need they already have.  Mostly they play with blocks, marbles, Hero Factories (Rainer) and books, art supplies and paper, and games on the computer (Dieter).  I just did a huge room clean-out of the boys' rooms and ended up tossing or donating so much of what they received.  We also donated a lot of books because we just don't have much space for storing even nice books.

I think there needs to be a major paradigm shift around Christmas.  Instead of giving material presents, lets exchange handmade cards and letters, or experiences with each other (a trip to the beach, a meal out, a movie), or plan a trip or something.  I feel so stongly about this!  I wonder if this is true for most kids today--that they play with fewer toys.

As far as what we (Ken and I) got the boys, I had the idea to get them scooters and they were a hit!  Both boys love their scooters and Rainer still rides his in the house as a daily pleasure.  His is a Maxi-Micro scooter and Dieter got a Razor scooter.  The Maxi turned out to be the best.  The boys kind of fight over it a little bit.  Everything else they received has been sort of cast aside.  Sad, but true.  They still totally have creative childhoods.  They draw, build marble runs, build with blocks, take down and reassemble Hero Factories, act out pretend scenarios, read (mostly Dieter) and they are active outdoors and do swim team and take piano lessons.  Having lots of toys is just not part of that.

I'd love to hear your thoughts if  you are willing to share!





8 comments:

Maiz Connolly said...

I agree so much with you on this, even though it is hard to not get swept up in the Christmas fervor! We try to give a few meaningful and lasting gifts, as well as some practical ones, but most of the time even our minimal approach feels like too much. We have asked friends and family members to give the boys gifts that don't take up any space, but still excite them, like membership at the Natural History Museum and movie tickets, and those have been quite wonderful.

Maiz Connolly said...

I agree so much with you on this, even though it is hard to not get swept up in the Christmas fervor! We try to give a few meaningful and lasting gifts, as well as some practical ones, but most of the time even our minimal approach feels like too much. We have asked friends and family members to give the boys gifts that don't take up any space, but still excite them, like membership at the Natural History Museum and movie tickets, and those have been quite wonderful.

Zena said...

Christmas is out of control! I have two young ones and I get too many presents and they are all from the cheap and crazy variety stores. I don't mean to sound ungrateful but I only want beautiful wooden and handmade gifts. Actually i don't want anymore gifts. Like your sons my children don't need any more toys and they are busy with all the facets of life such as arts and crafts, playing outside and school for one. I'm glad I am not the only one. Your post is not too late, I am STILL thinking about how consumerist Christmas is these days.

Andrea said...

I know exactly what you mean--I don't usually get the boys toys for christmas/birthdays because they have so many already, and they don't really play with toys that much (why? have I forced them to grow up too fast? yikes!). They will play Legos, but they have a zillion of those already. They draw, they play games, read, and play outsid, and otherwise mostly run around doing spinjitzu and casting spells on each other (the little ones anyway...my oldest son plays guitar all day, so he's easy, but expensive--guitar accessories)e. But as we near the holiday, I start to freak out that I didn't get them any toys, and what fun is that? But then they end up with so much from grandparents, aunts, uncles, etc. that they don't miss out at all.

Mary Beth said...

Oh wow, thank you so much for commenting all of you! It's so good to hear I am not alone. I too get swept up in the excitement and the childhood memories and buy more than what they need. It's so hard to resist the frenzy!

Sarah said...

I have to say that because we were on such a strict budget for several years we have stopped going over the top for the holidays. BUT it has been more difficult to get the extended family to understand that our children don't need all of the things they want to buy, especially when it comes to technological "tools" i just can not fathom why a child needs an ipad or the newest gaming system. We've also stuck to asking the grandparents to give gifts that are active ones or events - things like basketball hoops, new helmets, scooters, tickets to upcoming entertainment events etc. I should also add that Ethan's top gift choice was a jersey from his favorite soccer player...so it seems our kids are getting that Christmas isn't all about a pile of presents :) Or at least I hope.

Gabi B. said...

When my son was younger, he got many presents too, lots of Lego or Playmobil... We have stopped this, now I try to make non-material gifts, like a day in the zoo or a daytrip. This year, my son had absolutely no idea what he wanted for christmas, so he asked for money... I HATE giving money as a gift! He saved all the money he got for something "really precious" as he said. Yesterday, he decided he'll spend his money on a keyboard. He has been playing "piano" on our iPad for weeks now, has lots of fun and I think he'll enjoy his keyboard. Good choice... :-)

Gabi B. said...

Forgot to say: I love your advent calender, I have seen this idea before, where people put the parts of a Christmas crib in the calender, animals and so on, and by Christmas, the crib is complete. We have two calendars, one for Christmas and one for Ramadan, mostly filled with sweets. Need to change this! :-)