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How Was Your Holiday Celebration Different This Year?

The youngest, opening his first Christmas presents

The youngest, opening his first Christmas present

The hazardous snowy conditions, combined with precarious economic situations, remarkably altered the tone of our family’s holiday celebrations this year. There were fewer gifts and more hugs. There was more caring, more homemade food, more focus on the children and more emphasis on good conversation.

The snow brought us all together, as we phoned each other all morning trying to figure out whether each of us could make it, and who was picking up whom to minimize cars on the perilous roads. When we finally made it, the Frangelico-infused coffee warmed our tummies as we watched the snow fall from the skies and coat the earth. All of the food served was homemade. All of the gifts given were filled with extra thought and care.

Family Christmas Celebration

One of my relatives only had $200 for gifts this year, so she gave half to each of her two favorite local charities, saying, “we’re all so lucky that we have everything we need.” My grandfather, who often gives each person in the family a check for Christmas, kept most of his money in his dwindling investments this year and instead gave a bit of cash to each of the youngest kids for their savings accounts.

There was far less wrapping paper and plastic wrap in the trash this year. Because there were fewer gifts, but also because my mom wrapped each gift she gave in a reusable grocery bag. Matt and I wrapped in reused paper and cloth bags – or we didn’t wrap at all.

We kept most of our traditions, but sometimes they were switched a bit due to the snow. For instance, we didn’t gather on Christmas Eve because the roads were too icy – so we read ‘Twas The Night Before Christmas on Christmas night, with my sister and her husband participating via speaker phone. But these switches actually made the holiday even more meaningful.

Grandpa, Marion, and their Great, Great Grandson

These are difficult economic times for many of us, and the snow made our streets unsafe, but there sure were some wonderful side effects to both of these elements this holiday season. Did you have a similar experience?

How Was Your Holiday Celebration Different This Year?

Were there fewer gifts, more hand- or home-made? Was there a greater sense of togetherness?

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24 comments to How Was Your Holiday Celebration Different This Year?

  • Hi – we had a nice Christmas with family but this year there were I suppose fewer presents. Now my boys are older there is less of the plastic packaging around which is good. My Dad made my 4 year old niece a wooden dolls bed which was beautiful and she was thrilled with – I wonder if it will be played with more than some of the other plastic toys she received. This year I decided to make some biscuits for my uncle and aunt rather than buy them something similar – they too were really pleased. I think we forget that others really appreciate it when we make an effort to make things and I think I will try and remember this for next year.

  • Our children are now teenagers so it was actually fun to get them what they needed this year: clothes. Rather than drive for a thousand shopping trips, we made lists and went only twice!This amounted to less stress for all of us and also more time to spend together. (it was freezing here too).
    We also did a couple of green things. We didn’t put lights on our tree at all. Instead we used tinsel (not green I know) and I made a cloth star. It looked so pretty. The other thing was we had bought a roll of butcher paper years ago for the kids to draw on so we used this to wrap presents. I use this paper to draft patterns and do crafts so saving the wrapping for that was a good thing.
    The overall gift list was necessities actually. Things that we need but are priced a bit on the luxury side. I thought we would be dissatisfied but actually we are all feeling very content.

  • Your celebration appears to have been grand. As for us we have been living on a budget for years including a category called gifts. So we continue to save and continue to spend as it was before the meltdown, at least for now. The future is always uncertain.

    May your increase in hugs continue with the new year.

  • N.

    We spent about what we’ve spent in years past although it’s far below the American average. The difference is how we spent that money. Buying more local and fair trade and buying stuff people would really use versus stuff that would sit on a shelf for years.

  • Big difference for me. First time I’ve spent the holiday by myself. My parents had about 2 feet of snow where they were and my brothers were out of the area this year. So, no transportation to family. It was a lovely day. I watched the snow, worked on my quilt and did a lot of day dreaming.

    Mom and Dad and I got together yesterday and it was really nice. Everything we gave each other was handmade (except for the solar light my parents gave me and the curry we’re sending to my brother). That’s pretty normal for my family and we spent pretty much what we do every year- more time, not much money.

  • I was so proud of my family this year. I asked if we could make our dinner as local as possible and they were up for it. Our carrots, red cabbage and potatoes were local, as was the free range organic turkey that people couldn’t get enough of. I made the cranberry sauce from scratch this year. My aunt brought the wine, which is local to her.
    There were a lot less gifts under the tree this year. Mine were all handmade, second hand, or donations. I wrapped them in packing paper that I saved all year from work.
    My mom cut out decorations from old Christmas cards and asked each of us to write down one green thing we could to commit to, that would be our gift back to the earth. She’s giving up disposable coffee cups, my Oma is going to get a cloth, reusable coffee filter, I’m going 100% vegetarian (no more of this “I don’t buy it or cook it, but if it’s around I’ll eat it” business!)
    It was a special time together and really wonderful!

  • We spent Christmas Eve and Christmas Day alone this year – with just our immediate family. We then joined my in laws (a very large group) for Christmas dinner.

    Usually we spend Christmas with my family – every second of it. I have to say it was nice to do it separate. We had no pressure about giving too few gifts and had plenty of time to play with and enjoy each gift. My husband and I each spent hours playing Legos or trains with the kids – really playing, and those are things we don’t often have time to do.

    We enjoyed a homemade breakfast of bread pudding. Perfect for Christmas morning because you make it ahead and then stick it in the oven when the kiddos get up but you don’t need to interrupt your celebration to cook it.

    We had pasta with homemade sauce from our baby sitter for Christmas Eve along with a Yule log cake from the cute French guys who run the bakery at the farmers’ market.

    I have to say that we got a bit less from relatives this year, what was given was more targeted to what people actually wanted or needed instead of just indulging the giver’s personal interests, and a fair amount was homemade and consumable. Very nice.

  • This must have been the most stress free Christmas we have ever had. We have always been on a tight budget so presents were already saved for – but this year there was a new catorgory. We all had to make one gift each. This was so successful. We plan to expand it next year. No wrapping paper, we used butcher’s paper and all food was bought local and made from scratch. A lovely time.

  • We had fewer gifts this year and they were more things that were useful and practical but a little indulging (i.e. handmade felted wool slippers) rather than more toys for our girls. Items were bought locally and/or handmade when possible. We also spent Christmas with friends for the first time, usually it is just our family, but we invited our friends and their children because they don’t have any family close by, either.

    My oldest told me it was the best Christmas ever and it really was up there in the top five, even though some gifts didn’t get here on time due to the weather. It was a wonderful day. And we even got a rare white Christmas.

  • Rob

    Christmas sucked this year. Sorry, but it just did. We usually all go to my Aunt and uncles on christmas eve- Cancelled due to weather. And I had to work on Christmas eve anyway but I usually stop up there for lunch. And my little pug collapsed on Christmas night and had to be put down. So all in alll it just sucked.

  • Ohh, Rob, that really stinks that you had to go through that! It makes me feel a little guilty to report that we had a good gathering, with lots of fun and family. We have the first little one of the next generation, and watching a toddler enjoy her gifts was big entertainment. We do a drawing among the adults, and that’s successful for us for years. It’s about right, in my opinion-gifts, but not too much.

  • All the branches of my family have pretty much come to the conclusion that the best gifts are food. Some were home made, others not, but I got very few inedible gifts (and most of those were food-related).

  • ctdaffodil

    We stuck to the agreed on limits we set for spending. The kids did get plasticy toys but legos are only made from plastic and they don’t take batteries. I could go for a totally really green one next year…..I’m already thinking up ideas…..especially for the kids to make useful gifts for the aunts and uncles….

  • Our spending has been “low” for years but never what I’d call sustainable. There has been some stress among us on this point; I’d so much rather we all just chip in on a pig for a Haitian family and then have some soup and just sit around the fire with a cup of cider. Maybe some day!

    When we all got cabin fever on day three, I broke out the little kayak and spent the afternoon on the reservoir (eight miles up the road), keeping company with coots and cormorants, while snow fell on the surrounding hills. Almost the best part of the whole week for me, I have to admit. Well, everyone needs a curmudgeonly break sometime!

  • **Hi Rob, sorry to hear of your loss. All round it sounded like an awful day.

    Hi Melinda,

    I have to say my Christmas day was extremely different this year.

    I was fully expecting to be spending it with DH’s family down at the hosting families beach house but life conspired and the car simply wasn’t up to a 2.5h drive each way so at the last minute we were forced to change direction. He caught a lift up there with another family member but my back simply wasn’t going to make it swashed into the back of some ones car for that period of time so I ended up at the Orphans Christmas that my best friend throws every year.

    I woke up in her house and we shuffled off to an annual group breakfast, where we all got a good level of sugar rush going. Then moseyed back to her place where the first lunch guest had already arrived and started feeding people… for the next 12-16 hours. Lots of fun, laughs and a totally stress free day of food and companionship.

    It was certainly strange not to be spending it with any official family (although the friend involved became family years ago) but I have to admit not a bad experience by any means.

    Kind Regards

  • Our Christmas celebrations were almost identical to last year’s, but the gifts this year were more thoughtful. Many were purchased locally from local craftspeople. My husband sweetly worked really hard to find me something “green.” In exchange, I gave him an original watercolor by a local artist he enjoys. Overall, there was a lot less plastic packaging and wrapping paper to dispose of, which says a lot.

  • Both of our Solstice celebrations were cancelled due to weather and we missed Christmas Eve at my Grandmother’s house due to nasty weather and then it didn’t happen again today because it stormed again.

    We don’t spend too much for the holidays as we don’t do credit cards which seems to naturally limit the amount we spend. We definitely did more handmade gifts than in previous years. I posted some pictures of some of the gifts we made.on my blog.

    Later this week I am going to post pictures of the handmade gifts we gave that were made by other people and a few wonderful gifts that we received.

  • It sounds like I was really lucky with the weather this year! Here in CA it rained a LOT, very wet for tourists (grandparents) but at least we didn’t have such bad weather as to stop what we were doing (unless we were planning to walk outside a lot, in which case the rainy days kept us inside playing games). Our celebration was very different and it makes me so happy I have to talk about it all the time, LOL. My grandparents spent Christmas with us for the first (and probably last) time in my life! I loved having more than just my parents and brother around. My parents usually have a Christmas Eve crab dinner (my brother and I don’t like crab much), but this year we had turkey and stuffing, and I got to make bread and cookies. It felt really good, being able to contribute to the Christmas Eve meal. I think that’s a tradition I’d like to start. I always love being able to bake things that people like.

  • cutts

    We tried to go green this year and look for gifts that keep on giving. We found and picked up some neat reusable grocery bags and fabric gift bags. Well worth a look.

  • Thanks for all your great comments. Please feel free to continue leaving your thoughts!

    Helen, I LOVE that your Dad made a wooden doll bed for your niece. What an amazing present she will treasure, and probably hand down to her children! I will also remember that hand- and homemade gifts are received with more appreciation next year. Great point.

    Linda, Your cloth star sounds wonderful. For years, my family used a handmade aluminum and clay angel my father had made when he was a child! Old butcher paper is a wonderful wrapping idea – easy for kids to personalize, too! I have a friend who wraps presents with her child’s school drawings. Such a lovely personal touch.

    Wayne, What a lovely sentiment – thank you. Have a wonderful and satiated new year!

    N., We also worked harder toward local, fair trade, and stuff people would use – I must say it felt really good!

    Deb G, Wow, it sounds like you had a truly lovely Christmas. It was so smart for your family to get together when it was safer. Time rather than money… indeed!

    Amber, Congratulations on having a local Christmas! I’ll bet your whole family will start thinking twice about local foods now. : ) I’m jealous – I didn’t quite make it to only handmade, second hand, or donations. Every year we’re closer though!

    And I love the idea of each doing something green! I’ve been a vegetarian for almost 20 years now, and I’m happy and healthy!

    Green Bean, I remember when I was a child and we finally separated Christmas morning from the extended family – it was such a relief for all of us, for the reasons you include. Good for you for making that choice. And oooh bread pudding sounds like a delicious Christmas breakfast!

    Margaret, LOVE that idea, to each make one gift. I’m so glad to hear it was so much less stressful!!

    Lisa, Lovely, lovely, lovely sentiment to invite your friends to celebrate with you! It sounds like a splendid Christmas.

    Rob, I am SO sorry. You did have a terrible Christmas. I am so sorry you lost Spike. He was such a cutie. He is and will always be in your heart. I hope things begin to look up again soon.

    Joyce, We also had the first one of the next generation (top picture), making a total of 5 generations in one room! I’m glad you had a wonderful Christmas.

    Teacher A, Ha! That is awesome – all gifts of food – I love it!

    ctdaffodil, How great would it be to receive handmade gifts from your nieces and nephews? A lovely idea.

    risa b, I wholeheartedly agree – maybe someday for us, too. Sounds wonderful, doesn’t it? I love your solo trip in the kayak with the wildlife… that sounds very pleasant and peaceful.

    Belinda, What a wonderful, fulfilling Christmas! Wow. I love what opportunity can bring…

    Donna, Excellent presents! Sounds like a much more sustainable Christmas. : )

    Stephany, What lovely handmade presents!! That Galdalf doll is particularly precious – I’m sure your husband loved it.

    Stephanie, Sounds like you had a great Christmas. Cooking is one of the holiday events in my family that can either bring our family much closer together… or do the exact opposite. : ) But as I’ve grown older, it seems more fun to do together – I think we’re all appreciating that more.

    cutts, Reusable bags are a great idea – my mom’s reusable-bags-as-wrapping were a great hit this year.

  • We had a smaller Christmas because I have 4 kids, and although we aren’t feeling the effects of the economy at the moment, we are preparing for it. BUT, Christmas for 4 kids still looks large. The difference this year was my attempt to make at least one thing for everyone (which I almost did, but still have to finish a couple of afghans). Next year I will attempt to wrap in cloth bags (great idea) and I found a fantastic tote bag pattern I made for my daughter that could easily wrap presents (so I must try that next year). Sorry I can’t complain about the weather, but honestly it was 70 and beautiful here in the Southeast U.S., so we were outside playing – although the kids watched the snow with extreme envy. We did a LOT of baking, and my husband tried his hand at making bread (really great). Love your website

  • Kelly, how lovely to make one gift for everyone! I’m sure they each cherished theirs. The grass is always greener (or snowier) on the other side, eh? : ) I’m glad you enjoy our website!!

  • [...] and the company.  Do you feel this way as well?  It became particularly clear for me on Christmas 2008, when the snows made traveling particularly dicey, and many people chose to celebrate Christmas a [...]

  • Normally I just escape the whole palava altogether by whisking the family away for the holidays to a local (yet far enough away!) destination. Last year we went up to London, because we could spend Christmas Day by ourselves and enjoy all the themed, festive displays and such on Boxing Day. We went to Stratford, so we’re going back there again in 2012 for the Olympics.


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