Focus on Meaning, Not Money: Christmas on a Budget
When my grandmother reminisced about childhood Christmases, we were given a glimpse of a much simpler time.
Born in 1895, her early years were spent on Mt. Desert, Maine. Christmas was about cutting a tree and hauling it into the house to be decorated with cookies and popcorn. Her stocking was just that — one of her own stockings laid out carefully in front of the parlor stove after church services on Christmas Eve.
How wonderful it was to wake in the morning to find the stocking stuffed with an orange, a peppermint stick, and some nuts; treats made special because they were rare. Dinner was a stack of pancakes a mile high with maple syrup that had been saved especially for the occasion. Then the family would read the Christmas Story from the Bible and would sing carols.
The kids would compete to see who could make their peppermint stick last the longest. “Oh,” she’d say. “It was so tempting to bite it. But if you just licked it, it would last all day.” The youngest of eight, and the daughter of the town minister, the family didn’t have much money but she never felt poor. Her Christmases were made rich by family rituals that made the day special.
As I start planning for Christmas this year, I’m thinking about how we can recapture the simpler rituals and dreamy feeling that went with Grandma’s stories. The current economic situation and the accompanying need to cut back give us an opportunity to step back. Necessity may do what good intentions couldn’t. Necessity may help us all, finally, to rethink how we make Christmas.
Christmas Grandma’s Way
Christmas Grandma’s way means finding things that make the season meaningful without overstretching the budget. For a day or a season to be a holiday, it needs to be different from our day-to-day routines. It needs to be special. Fortunately, there are many inexpensive ways to make it so if we just pay attention to what is already happening in our communities and if we create special family rituals unique to this time of year.
Many churches have special services of Christmas music. Some communities have a Handel’s “Messiah” sing-along. Bring your own score and you too can sing the Hallelujah Chorus. Music can put you into the spirit of the season.
Find out when the local high school is giving its winter concert. You don’t have to be a proud parent to go. Enjoy being part of your community while listening to talented young people (and not-so-talented but enthusiastic young people) make music.