Christmas without Presents

by Sandy L on December 7, 2010

Foodie Ornaments

I love decorating for the holidays and it’s one of my favorite events of the year.  After breaking about 7 ornaments, me and the kids managed to decorate our tree, put lights in our windows and generally fill our house with pine scented goodness and Christmas cheer.

Today I started thinking back to my childhood and the Christmas’s I had growing up and what a long way our family has come.  My childhood tree did not have any fancy glass blown ornaments. Instead we had those stryofoam balls covered in satin on the gangliest artificial tree known to man.  I still loved decorating the tree every year and it was a double bonus when one of my friends brought over her grandmother’s hand me down ornaments to fill in all the bare spots.

The toughest years were the ones when I believed in Santa.  I’d wake up on Christmas morning and run over to the tree only to find it as empty as it was the night before. It was a huge let down. I had many theories to why Santa didn’t come.  I first thought I somehow made it onto the naughty list. I also thought maybe Santa just skipped immigrant households because they didn’t believe he was real.  One year I deduced that it was because I had no chimney, so I snuck over to the backdoor and made sure it was unlocked on Christmas Eve. (We kept our doors locked at all times because our neighborhood was not the greatest).  We usually didn’t have cookies in the house, so I’d leave him some cold cuts and a hunk of cheese just in case.

My kind of Santa

The sad feeling of Santa not coming passed quickly as I eagerly awaited going over my aunt and uncle’s house later in the day. My cousins would always have a present or two for me, the wood stove would be roaring  and my aunt always prepared a tasty feast.  Because I was an only child, it was also a time that I got to play board games and watch cartoons.

So, here I am 30 years later and thinking the opposite: that we exchange too many presents. What a nice problem to have…or am I just secretly turning into Babci without realizing it?

Consumerism Free Christmas

Whether your consumerism free Christmas is an act of choice or necessity, you can still  keep the magic alive without falling prey to the hype of consumerism. For me, it would have been so much nicer if my mom pretended Santa was real for a few years. Even if she didn’t want to buy me a toy, some food under the tree would have been just as effective.

Here are some other free ideas that could insight giggles in your children without breaking the bank:

  • Use the age old milk and cookie routine.
  • Hang extra Christmas lights around the house on Christmas eve and keep them lit all night.
  • Put Green food coloring in all the toilets.
  • Move decorations or furniture to different spots.
  • Save some extra decorations and put them out on Christmas Eve.
  • Make a few Paper snowflakes and paste them on some windows after the kids go to bed.
  • Put something obvious in an open trash can (like an empty roll of wrapping paper and scraps).
  • Turn the TV onto the Cooking Channel or Put in a Santa themed movie in your movie player (make sure something else was in there the night before and subtly point it out before hand so they notice it the next day)
  • Write a Santa to do list and leave it by the tree or near the plate of cookies like he forgot it. Cross some things off of it and use green and red marker or ink. Make sure you write your child’s name on it as part of the good list and cross it off.
  • Add a layer of different colored lights to your tree. If you have colored, then add white and vice versa.
  • Put baking soda in the fireplace so that it looks like snow (and it will deodorize your fireplace at the same time)
  • If you have fireplace doors, leave the doors open.
  • Make a bag of reindeer food out of cereal or something and have your kids put it in the yard the night before.
  • Have Christmas music playing.

Give to those Less Fortunate

Believe it or not, even in the land of plenty, there are still children who go around in need of even the most basic of necessities.  My son’s school is going to do a coat drive shortly because so many of the children don’t have winter clothing.  Yesterday it was 20 degrees F out and the principal told me that as the kids were leaving and she was telling them to bring coats to school, at least 5 of them told her they don’t have a coat. Okay, if that doesn’t make me want to pull out my wallet, I don’t know what does.  I have to admit that although my parents never bought me toys, I always had a winter coat and I was never hungry, so I need to thank them for that because they did have their priorities straight.

Don’t think that your act of charity is going to hurt someone’s pride. I was always thankful of any kind of hand me downs.  Although my parents never had any kind of public assistance, they would never turn away someone’s unwanted stuff.  You can also take the time to participate in a local giving tree or toys for tots program.

Do you have any fun and free things you do on Christmas Eve that you want to share?

{ 17 comments… read them below or add one }

Everyday Tips December 7, 2010 at 8:26 AM

I am always torn at Christmas. I want to make the kids happy, but I also don’t want to spoil them.

The holidays are a great way to teach lessons to kids about the less fortunate. However, I think quite often that message gets lost as more and more catalogs show up in the mail!

My favorite ‘free’ activities are baking cookies, decorating, and driving around to look at Christmas lights!


Sandy L December 7, 2010 at 5:37 PM

I finally figured out how to do nested comments, hurray. I tend to go overboard too. I’m trying to scale back this year myself.


Nicole December 7, 2010 at 8:40 AM

Our post today is on charities.

We’re going to just stuff the stocking this year. The grandparents already do more than enough spoiling. Already a wii pad (to go with the wii from just before Thanksgiving) and a basketball hoop have shown up in the mail. They give way more than I ever got just on their own. (DH says the haul is similar to what he got– they’re way more into Christmas giving than my parents.)

I never remember believing in Santa Claus. From an early age I remember knowing that it was pretend just like the Land of Make Believe or magic books. At the same time I also remember knowing that was a secret and not to tell other kids.


Sandy L December 7, 2010 at 5:40 PM

My son is 5 and he’s already questioning if Santa is real. Oh well. My son has a huge stocking, so this year I’m going to stuff it with a 6 pack of coke in the glass bottles. He thinks coke is the best because we never have it in the house and he only gets to drink it when we go out to eat. It’s nice when soda can be a treat.


Nicole December 7, 2010 at 10:09 PM

Mine is younger– he’s just figuring this Christmas thing out. Right now he’s convinced that Santa lives on the north pole in the tropics with the Elvis dinosaur. He was explaining it in the car. At school he’s been told that Santa lives at the north pole, but he just saw a Dinosaur Train episode about a crested dinosaur…


Invest It Wisely December 7, 2010 at 8:53 AM

As a way to cut down on bought crap, we are doing “secret Santas” with friends, and I am buying only stuff I could see as being useful. I have bought too many things in past years that, while nice, were used only once a year, like a tea set I got my grandmother that I ended up getting back at some point because it was too complicated to use and wash. 😉

We did have to go and buy a small tree, since my girlfriend’s parents chucked theirs + all the ornaments in the garbage… and I used to have a small tree that got chucked out by my grandmother too! No idea why… I guess with all the kids gone, Christmas mostly becomes just another day? So, we got a new tree, some cheap plastic ornaments that still look mostly the same as the older glass ornaments I managed to find, and on Xmas, my chef friend will cook us and some friends a dinner before he goes back to Korea. It will be fun. 🙂


Sandy L December 7, 2010 at 5:42 PM

Sounds like a great Christmas plan especially the cooking and eating part. I’m a practical gift giving person myself, although some people don’t always enjoy getting them.


Rachael Myers December 7, 2010 at 9:48 AM

Once again my mind is frantic with comments! The past 2 years our financial situation has changed dramatically right before Christmas, as I know you are aware. With 3 kids this has lead me to completely re-think our holiday. A few thoughts,
1. Our Santa brings a “group gift” and one other present per child to open Christmas morning. This year the wanted item was a video game, and not much for impact under the tree. We have decided to get creative with our wrapping this year. The game is going into a moving box, and I am actually going to wrap it 3x over to give each child the chance at it. ALSO small inexpensive gifts in the stockings will be wrapped this year, prolonging the whole ritual. My kids are getting older, and often request gift cards. Same goes for the box with creative wrapping. On a final Santa note, in our home Santa is for kids only, my kids know that the hubs and I do each other’s stockings as a present to each other. For us all, we put small inexpensive toys, socks, soap, toothbrushes, shampoo, etc. Things we NEED and will use.
2. My kids donate 10 unwanted/unused toys to charity before Christmas. We also pick a charity or family to buy for. This year the school is doing a pajamas and book campaign.
3. Each year their favorite gift under the tree is new Pajamas. I wash them ahead of time, and they dive right in. My mom did this for me as a child and for them so it is a nice way to keep her memory alive.
4. For family I give pictures and homemade gifts when ever possible. This year people on my list are getting homemade cookies and candy, and a photo of each child. My kids make card and gifts for their teachers, (I use the coupon from Michael’s and stock up on the plain cards) and we usually spend a day making ornaments to give out to neighbors, family, teachers, etc…
5. In my house Christmas is for the kids. We set a money limit per child, and buy on sale ALWAYS. Randy and I do not buy much for ourselves. Usually a gift from the kids for each of us, (nothing ever big and this year again 30$ representing the 3 kiddos) and the stockings. None of us have ever been disappointed yet. This year I am going to work on all your ideas regarding the “mood” I am not a morning person, so I usually just make coffee to go with my stocking.


Sandy L December 7, 2010 at 5:46 PM

Rachael, you seriously need to do a guest post. You always have such fantastic ideas.
The triple wrapping idea is pure genius.

It made me think of a friend who wrapped a grab gift. Big box with punch out holes covered in wrapping paper (picture a box with a bunch of wrapping paper circles on it). Some of the circles had stuff in them, some had nasty surprises. What you do is you tape a baggie to the other end of the hole so it’s like a little gift area. Might be fun for the kids as well to each have a punch out area in the big box with a random little candy or toy.


Aloysa December 7, 2010 at 3:43 PM

We don’t buy a lot of gifts – to in-laws and some friends. That’s it. We don’t exchange gifts with my parents, or with each other. Christmas is much more than gifts. Back home we didn’t even celebrate Xmas till 1990s. We always had New Year’s as big holiday and Santa would come then. 🙂


Sandy L December 7, 2010 at 5:49 PM

We’ve come full circle. First we did nobody, then it totally got out of hand and we were buying for every tom dick and harry and now we’re back to a chosen few (most of which are the under 10 crowd).


The Grouch December 8, 2010 at 8:59 AM

I could definitely go for a scaled-back Christmas. Gift-giving has gone way overboard to the point that ridiculous sums of money are spent buy crappy gifts most people don’t want anyway. I’d rather get less and have more fun.


Sandy L December 11, 2010 at 5:27 AM

Grouch – I had a cousin who would literally run down the aisle of a department store on christmas eve and just buy whatever crap happened to be within arms reach. I’m sure if I was still speaking with him, he would’ve bought me a snuggie last year. His gifts wouldn’t even make it back to my house. They would go straight to the salvation army. I would have preferred food or nothing.


S-I-L December 10, 2010 at 3:10 PM

I agree – all I asked for Christmas this year is to make and decorate sugar cookies with my mom & daughter using my grandmother’s recipe and her old cookie cutters. We were so ‘busy’ the last 2 years, that we never did this tradition that I’ve done since I was little, and my mom did since she was little. What are we so “busy” with? What is more imporant than sharing time & tradition with family & loved ones?


Sandy L December 11, 2010 at 5:28 AM

SIL – what a wonderful tradition. Although it’s not a tradition for us, I find that it’s a good year when I manage to make and decorate sugar cookies. I’ve only done it twice since the boys were born. There is nothing more important…well maybe your health.


Molly On Money December 11, 2010 at 10:43 AM

My daughter still remembers when Santa visited her one Christmas morning. My dad came in the house and asked me to wake her up a bit. He than went outside to my back alley and rang bells and ‘ho, ho, ho’d’. It took a few times before my daughter was awake enough to realize Santa was outside her window and had just taken off before she could spy him.
It didn’t cost a dime but she remembers it fondly even now when she no longer believes in Santa!


Doable Finance December 29, 2011 at 1:34 PM

It’s a trade off. Spoiling kids and showering them with gifts. Give them gifts but don’t go overboard. They have to learn the lesson in finance.


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