My mom mailed Emma's Christmas gifts to our in laws house in Colorado, where we spent the actual day of Christmas.
Sorry Mom, we opened them up early.
We did it to spread out the Christmas presents. We did this with her birthday presents. Every day we opened a new gift from a family member or us. That seemed to work better than a barrage of toys, books, and clothes. I ended up being happy that I did pre-open my mom's gift for Emma because she included a few classic christmas books and we read them to her in the days leading up to Christmas.
We thought that maybe giving her all her presents would be too much Christmas joy all at once. I think the oft heard parental phrase is,
"Too much stimulation."
Then I got to thinking that maybe it's too much stimulation for us.
Think about it.
I mean so much of child behavior is just human behavior displayed more adamantly. Really, we don't change much over the years.
Chrstmas morning after we took turns opening gifts from each family, my husband is the youngest of five, so with spouses and children there are a lot of people. Thankfully there seems to have been a precedent set a few years ago to dial it down. For the past few years we have collected small gifts throughout our year that signify where we have been and what we have done. Since the past few years have been full of travel and transition each Christmas package has been pretty unique. I am wondering how we will fill a box of interesting goodies from just living a normal year in the US. (I probably shouldn't pre-empt myself, international travel has a way of falling in my husband's lap.) I was happy to see that everyone had gathered thoughtful and inexpensive gifts. Little, 'I'm thinking of you's.' Even though it took us a few hours and at the end we were tired and maybe a little over stimulated.
In the evening we gathered around scrapbooks another sister had made and talked. One sister stated that she would be glad if we didn't do presents. Internally I balked at this. I don't know why. Isn't this what I wanted? An admission that we don't need anything of this? A proclamation that we love each other anyway but don't need to spend money on each other?
In Kenya we heard from many of our friends that they don't exchange gifts on Christmas day. As children they would all get new outfits and then spend the rest of the day visiting family, and eating. I thought this was lovely. Simple, family oriented, low cost, and low stress.
So why didn't I readily agree to no more presents?
Because what is Christmas without presents?
How is it that we have turned Christmas into a morning of giving gifts, that we mostly don't need, to each other. If we take away the presents what do we have? What would it look like to gather in the morning and...do what?
I know, I'm stumped too.
I love taking a stand and doing alternative celebrations and really questioning why we do what we do. Why do I get tripped up at Christmas? Cutting out presents would eliminate a huge amount of stress from life, save money, and cut so much excess from this time of year that is so prone to excess.
So now, a few days later, in the aftermath of it all what stands out?
For me I think of all the fun I had watching my relatives play with my daughter. The hikes that we got to enjoy with each other. The conversations that I had with the other adults. The cookies that I baked with my niece. Our family Christmas Eve Service.
But still the question remains, what do you do with Christmas morning? What do you think?