December Choices

This blog has not been so much about choices lately, partly because my “glass wall” kept me occupied for a bit. 😉

But recently I noticed that there are so many things to choose in December – you could call it the month of choices, I guess. Everybody keeps asking each other: What will you do for Christmas? Stay home? Go somewhere? To see your family? To see the in-laws? Or will you go on holiday somewhere (skiing? looking for the sun?)? What are you going to eat (that seems to be a major point)? What type of tree? Real one, fake one? Candles? Electric lights? …. And so it goes on. Lots of questions, lots of choices to be made. It makes your head spin. No wonder so many people get stressed out before Christmas. (And I have not even had it about presents and sending Christmas cards!) Plus most children get a bit crazy too (I know mine do), which does not help much to keep the adults around them calm.

So this is what I choose to do, to keep my sanity and to preserve myself something of the magic atmosphere this time of the year always had when I was a child (and “stressed out” was a phrase I did not know):

This year we are not going anywhere. Not to the part of the family that lives 1200 km away, not to the part that is only separated from us by 400 km. We will stay home, just the four of us. We will have our own little Christmas without the need to manage diverse expectations. I won’t be spending hours in the kitchen, but instead think of something simple that still has a touch of special. We will do a nice table but won’t expect the kids to sit there too long.

How does Christmas look like in our family:  First of all, “Christmas” is starting with Christmas Eve, not with Christmas Day. On the 24th of December, the living room is roped off, forbidden territory for the boys. We have breakfast and lunch in their room, with them playing host, which they love to do. Because on the 24th of December (and not a day before), the Christmas tree is being decorated in secrecy by the “Christkind” (= “Christchild”), which can be imagined as a sort of angel. (Our oldest knows it is the parents that are doing it, but he still likes the secrecy about it.) In the late afternoon we go to a special family service at our church, with Christmas songs and all. When we come back, it will be dark, and the tension will be rising. The boys will listen for the tone of a little bell – and then the doors of the living room will be opened, the tree will be there, decorated, lights glowing, presents underneath (left by the Christkind). We will sing a song and then the boys will open their presents. There will be play and later dinner and more play, and eventually bed. They will wake up early the next day, but probably not as early as if they were still waiting for presents to be opened.

This is the type of Christmas I had as a child, and my husband’s family has similar traditions. Living in an international community made us learn about other types, and it is funny to see how the children juggle with the combined concepts of our Christkind and the British “Father Christmas”/the American “Santa”. They do not really mind and we decided they are all helping each other because there are so many children that otherwise it would be too much work.

One more thing about the Christmas tree: When I was a child our tree at home always had real candles, burning down peacefully (no trees where ever harmed or singed). When I met my husband I realised he was terrified by the concept, coming out of a family with electric lights. He thought I was being really dangerous, I thought electric lights were unromantic. So for the first years of our relationship, he put up with my pyromaniac ambitions and suffered silently while my candles burned down (always very peacefully).  But when we approached our first Christmas with a baby boy I had to admit that toddlers and shiny hot objects are not a good combination. So we switched to electric lights and stayed with them, even though now both boys are out of the toddler age. I still think real candles cannot be beaten concerning the perfect look (yes, I know, a burning Christmas tree is not a perfect look and it tends to incinerate the rest of the room almost instantly), but I have to admit that the electric ones have one advantage: you can switch them on whenever you like, whereas we only lit the real candles once, on Christmas Eve.

So these are our choices for December 2013: staying home with a real Christmas tree (fir) with a colourful mixture of bulbs and other objects, electric lights. Spending two weeks of holidays with each other, meeting some friends, hopefully spending some time outside (the weather here is not very Christmas-like at the moment…wet and mild and windy). Letting the year end in a restful, peaceful way. Looking forward to the next one.

Merry Christmas, everyone!

6 thoughts on “December Choices

  1. Good for you for staying home and keeping it peaceful. Being with extended family at Christmas is great if that’s what everyone wants, but it can also be done out of a sense of obligation which is not so great 😦 I’ve already told my kids that when they have families of their own they can do whatever they want on holidays, no pressure.
    It was interesting to read about your traditions, thank you for sharing 🙂

    • I do like to spend time with the extended family – but being with them on the “special days” of the year is a bit two-faced: it is wonderful to see them and share with them, but sometimes you also loose a bit of the things that are important to you, being so busy to please everyone else. Sometimes taking a step back and concentrating on the inner family circle feels good. So we try to do a three year rhythm of “one Christmas here, one Christmas there and one Christmas just the four of us”. (Easter will be a big family event again – with visitors and all, and I am sure it will be great!)

  2. Yes, we are staying home as well, with our traditional salmon patties and bacon wrapped scallops for dinner. Nothing too crazy, but as you said, still special.
    Our craziness has been Sat and Sun with 40+ relatives from my side at our home for a smorgasbord. I only host my honey’s side every three years. So Sunday was his family’s party of over 40, but I hosted last year so I only had to bring a dish.
    More important than the presents is the spirit and atmosphere of love.

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