With many talking about how to save money at Christmas time, how to have a minimalist Christmas, and how to do less for Christmas, I’d like to share today about why I go ALL OUT for Christmas. And why I don’t feel bad about this.
I’m not normally a stuff buyer or a gift-giver. Every other month of the year I am a cleaner-outer – a girl who feels that less-is-more. But at Christmas time? GIVE ME ALL THE CHRISTMAS!!!! And let there be lots of presents!!!
Allow me to explain…
Why I Go ALL OUT For Christmas (and Feel Good About It!)
Part of me can’t explain my “why” except for the fact that I really, really love Christmas. I look forward to it, make big plans for it, am super creative with it, and do everything I can to give my family the best day ever. This, in turn, makes it the best day ever for me, because I get to watch my favorite people having tons of fun on my favorite day.
Wow, this picture was many years and fewer boys ago.
So because I love Christmas so much, and I love watching my kids (young and old) have fun with this day of celebration, I tend to go ALL OUT making the day fun and festive. Can you believe this…
Last year I made our Christmas morning last from 8am until 2pm.
Yes I did, thank you very much. We sat in the living room (and/or at the breakfast table) Christmasing together for six beautiful hours. Then we cleaned up some of the mess and had a late Christmas dinner together: Lasagna, because it can be made ahead of time and bake while we are Christmasing. It’s become our family’s Christmas dinner tradition!
What does our very long Christmas morning look like? Keep reading if you dare. :)
Well, first I should backtrack and say that instead of drawing names, all of our boys buy a gift for all of their brothers. (With our growing family, this in and of itself turns into a lot of presents under the tree because 5 boys times 1 gift each to all of the others, plus a gift from each for Dad and a gift from each for Mom…I can’t even do the math. And this year there are 7 boys, plus Mom and Dad, so we’ll have to figure out how we’re going to include the babies in this since they’ll obviously care more about ribbon and boxes than anything else.)
Why do all the boys get a gift for all the other boys? Because everyone loves it!
Everyone makes a wish list and it includes things like a new phone case, soccer socks, dress shirts for work, windshield wipers for their car, and all sorts of other fun and practical requests. This is obviously an example of the “big boy” list. The little boys’ lists are easy, and I make those based on what they need. :)
Once everyone has made a list, the boys take turns shopping with me for their brothers and Dad. It is truly special seeing them pick out gifts for their brothers as they say things like, “Oh, he’ll love that!” (Dad takes the boys shopping for me separately.)
Most of our gifts to each other are practical. This is the main reason we can buy a lot of gifts at Christmastime. When our boys need something – new soccer cleats or shin guards, work clothes, school clothes, something for their car – they put it on their wish list. Some think this is boring, but we think it is fun. IT IS FUN TO OPEN A BIG PILE OF PRESENTS!!!! Or at least we all think so – even if the gifts include socks and tools.
So there are many presents under the tree because everyone buys something for everyone. Phew.
But wait. There’s more.
This is the part where I go crazy and probably sound crazy, but boy do I have fun!
Matt and I do something unique for our gifts to our boys (and by “Matt and I” I really mean I, while Matt
smiles shrugs and nods shakes his head and lets me have my crazy fun). Besides all the presents under the tree from one another, this is what the boys wake up to on Christmas morning
Many piles of gifts. That must be opened in order. AFTER THEY HAVE SOLVED A RIDDLE TOGETHER to determine what is in each pile.
I know, I’m nuts. Thankfully the boys love it and look forward to it and have now come to expect it. So for instance…
Pile #4 last year was a stack of gifts that included new York College beanie caps. They needed new beanies, everyone got a different one, we get an employee discount at YC, and they are great quality hats. Here’s the riddle the boys had to solve together before opening this pile of gifts:
What, you’re still cold? It’s ok, we are on it
This is much better than a cap or a bonnet
They’re special, don’t lose them, they cost a bit more
Thank goodness Dad gets a discount for doing his chore
They take turns reading the riddles, work together to solve, then take turns opening their gifts to reveal who got what beanie. (Trading is allowed.) For the record, we got Brayden (5) a fun beanie from Walmart that he loved just as much but cost a little less. :)
Another riddle gift we got last year included everything we needed for a Family Movie Night:
Another throwback, you say? Don’t mind if I do
We’ll enjoy this along with something to drink and to chew
You’ll remember the VHS variety, and it’s time to improve
These gifts make for a fun night as the sweeps make their move
Can you guess? It was a Mary Poppins DVD, which was a favorite when our first set of boys was little. Since we’ve got young ones again and Mary Poppins brings back such good memories for all of us, we thought getting the DVD was a perfect family gift. So for this pile of gifts, one person opened the package with the movie, and everyone else opened a present that included a snack item we’d enjoy while watching together.
Other piles from last year included gifts like:
- Slippers – see how practical? But if we need them anyway…
- Board Games – last year they included Candy Land and Hi Ho Cherry-O since we had landed back in a place with littles (and ha, little did we know that God would bring us more babies this year!)
- Socks – with this riddle to go with it:
Nothing special here, but it’s something else to unwrap
They are fancy and fun, not a shirt or a cap
Keep what’s in your sack or feel free to trade
These can replace those in your drawer that are starting to fade
But wait. There’s still more.
I know. It’s crazy. BUT IT’S SO FUN!
After the boys solve the riddles and open the piles, there is one more Riddle Gift they have to work together to solve. This one includes a Day Out that’s become a tradition – so this gift is about an outing we enjoy together on December 26. See how the fun just keeps on keeping on, even after Christmas day??! (Then on the 27th I’m all done and ready to move on into well…summer.) :) :)
For this gift, Matt and I have chosen several fun things to do in Lincoln (45 minutes from our home), then I write riddles for the boys to figure out so they learn what our Day Out will include.
Two years ago, it looked something like this, though of course, the boys had to solve riddles to figure out all that we were doing:
- Grab a coffee from Captain Red Beards on our way out of town (our local shop that we love but hardly frequent because we make coffee at home every day instead!).
- Head out of town and go to Play It Again Sports where each of us got to choose a used tennis racket (they loved this so much!).
- Go to the indoor tennis courts where we rented space for two hours and played 3-on-3 and made fun of ourselves because most of us were…unpracticed.
- Go to lunch at Raising Canes, one of our favorites.
- Walk the mall, choosing one inexpensive item each (after Christmas sales, whoop!)
- Dinner at our friends’ house (extra special because we don’t get to see them often)
After all the riddle gifts – and I should mention that somewhere in there we’ve paused and eaten our Christmas breakfast – the boys open their gifts from each other and Matt and I open gifts from the boys and each other and there are boxes and paper everywhere!
It’s a lot of Christmasing, it costs some money, and it is actually kind of excessive (what with all the piles). But I love it and I feel no regret about this. After all, we are frugal all year long, rarely eat out or buy coffee from shops, almost never to go movies or splurge on anything that we can make or do ourselves at home. But one day each year, for Christmas, we go ALL OUT. It’s an absolute blast! (And yes, we still shop sales and see how we can save on all the gifts and outings!)
Where’s Jesus in all of this?
Oh trust me, He’s there. He’s in every bit of it as our family has spent the entire year striving to look outside of ourselves and serve selflessly. Jesus is in every moment of our days, so you can bet He’s a part of our Christmas, even while we go a little crazy with gifts and silliness.
Jesus is in our laughter and our time around the tree and our mealtimes. He’s in our Christmas Eve extra-long family prayer time while we sit at the tree with all the lights out except for the Christmas lights. He is the reason for the season and without a doubt, He makes our Christmas completely full of joy.
The days leading to Christmas, we help people in our community to be sure their holiday will be extra special too with plenty of food and special gifts. But we’ve decided it is important to hold December 25 as sacred for our family. Christmas day is the one day every year we close our door and focus inward toward our family unit.
This year, there will be 9 of us. Matt, me, our five boys and our two foster babes. I absolutely cannot wait!!
So now you know. Laura goes crazy at Christmas and has no regrets. It is the most fun and the family loves it!
I believe that there’s no one right way to “do Christmas” because Jesus can be in it when you choose to let Jesus be in it. Christmas is joy, God is love, and no matter if you’re big into gift-giving or choose to take a minimalist stance, Jesus can be at the helm.
I’d love to hear what your Christmases are like. Big, small, get up early, sleep in, wear jammies all day, dress up fancy, go all out, keep it simple…
Whatever you do, choose Jesus as your center. He’s in it all if our hearts are focused on His Truth.
Coming up next: Ways We Save All Year Round So We Can Enjoy a Big Christmas!
I love it!
We always lean towards the practical (and oft forgotten) gifts. This year stockings include flashlights ($1) because everyone always seems to need them. Our kids are all adults, so our grandson has a different rule: something you want, something you need. something to love, something to read. When an aunt or uncle finds the perfect gift, they inform everyone else that’s taken care of. Ponytail holders, nail files, teeny bottles of hand sanitizer and such.
Bethany Lotulelei says
So many great ideas, thanks for sharing!
-Bethany (Laura’s assistant)
Erin C says
Tears in my eyes!!! Yes!!!! I see Jesus in all of this. How well thought out and planned takes lots of love and brings sweet memories together. Such beauty!! It reminds me of things I’ve done for our 5 kids for traditions or gifts and thought they were silly because to the outside world they’re not “costly”, but the kids ended up loving them! Oh, we have so much to learn from kids! These are the best kinds of things that can’t be measured. You can only measure love by the blood Jesus shed for us. We spend far too much time comparing and losing our joy in the process. But when we all have grateful hearts, we hold Jesus in our hearts and that’s all that matters. Thank you for unabashedly sharing your Christmas with us! I love how much you love Christmas. It brings me joy and I know Jesus is surely smiling, too. Thank you for helping me remember what Christmas is really about.
We do lasagna too! I used to bake a spiral ham and make homemade dinner rolls and homemade mac & cheese but we live close enough to a FABULOUS Italian market so now our big splurge is buying them. And since I am pretty frugal usually I don’t feel bad about this at all. A breakfast casserole popped in the oven before presents and I’m all set for a nice relaxing day. Merry Christmas!
A few years ago we were having financial issues and ended up on food benefits for a few months. I ended up buying all of their favorite foods, good and bad?, and made a “hunt” for them in place of a Christmas stocking and to distract from the lack of gifts. They had clues to follow and at each clue there was gifts for each one and they absolutely loved it. One of the clues always instructs them (in a rhyming way) to read Luke 2. The next year I wasn’t going to do it but they kept asking about it so I did it again. After the second year though I started keeping my clues because those babies are hard to come up with at 2 in the morning??. This will be year 10 doing the hunt and while the bigs don’t care much (I still make them hunt?) the littles look forward to it – I’ll probably be doing this for grandkids when they come?
Those misplaced question marks were emojis:)
Bethany Lotulelei says
Ten years, wow! What a great idea! I love how resourceful you were to create this fun game, and how it’s become a sweet family tradition. So wonderful!
-Bethany (Laura’s assistant)