The Christmas That Wasn’t

Past Christmases in my family have always been about the kids, big haul or no. Much like my parents in their time, we continued the Santa myth with our own kids. It was a simple formula really, meant to keep the budget tight while maximizing count per kid, ‘the haul’ rated by the shear pile of boxes before the big opening. More was better.

Each year, I marked the Christmas shopping list for each of four kids, June through October:

Something to wear
Something to read
Maybe a ‘want’
Surely a ‘need’
(And a little something from Santa)

I don’t particularly remember details of my own Christmases. There was the year I got a skateboard. I remember it only because of the unseasonable warmth — it was one of the few Christmases we were wearing shorts outside. Forty years ago when boots were all the rage a need was apparently filled as my own mother checked items off her list.

Perhaps she stuck a comb in my stocking for good measure.

Christmas Morning Bedhead


My mom’s piano, toys in the foreground

My parents always made sure we had a great Christmas, no matter what their financial situation. We were definitely not wealthy, and a few times, I’m told, my grandparents seeded the pressie fund. I can’t remember ever not loving what I got for Christmas, but needless to say it was lot of stuff I don’t have anymore.

A few years back when Scott got the pink slip in time for Thanksgiving — an impending lay-off for January — we did what we could to keep the magic alive for our kids without spending needlessly. Re-purposing some of my old toys from the attic and accepting hand-me-overs from friends was a cinch; these were new to my kids who had never seen them before. He wound up keeping his job (and we saved the money), but the kids were none the wiser.

It remains to-date one of our best Christmases ever.

Re-purposed Kitchen Stuff

Today, there is an internal struggle in me against consumerism (particularly as it pertains to the season’s shopping madness). It keeps me from compulsory gift-buying — especially ones that really aren’t needed by the recipient. I’d rather use my time and wits to create something more useful, more memorable. I have no religious affiliation with the holiday, and with four the kids now home for school, the Christmas That Wasn’t was a foregone conclusion by September.

My husband and I rehearsed The Santa Talk and waited for the right opportunity to break the news to the kids. The bunnies arrived as if on cue.

Expensive supplies like a hutch, fencing and household bunny-proofing combined with an enormous vet bill would all but eat up the untapped Christmas budget. (And we live by a budget; they know this too well.) They also know that Mom and Dad do all the shopping for Christmas. It came down to a democratic vote:  rescue three little bunnies from certain doom or throw together Christmas instead.

(And, while we’re on the subject, there’s something you need to know about Santa…)

The vote was unanimous and swift: bunnies were coming home to stay.

The kids braced for the new tradition on Christmas morning, one of perhaps nothing under the tree to open up. For the first time ever, we successfully halted the habitual holiday consumption habit, but we might very well have elevated ourselves to the status of America’s sh*ttiest parents.

Only time will tell.

Cookie-decorating at Grandma’s has been an annual tradition since the older cousins started it more than a decade ago.  On Christmas Eve (or even the week before) it’s this Christmas tradition my kids love the most.  This year, it helped take the sting off The Christmas That Wasn’t, the one that hadn’t even happened yet.  After a family dinner, the kids went straight to work exploring their decorating talents and eating themselves silly.

Life is just better with cookies, especially of your own design.

Angie's Cookie

The Group
Cookie-painting is serious business

As we wrapped up the evening with those we love most in the world, we blazed a trail for possibly a new tradition of the season, one neither consumptive nor destructive, neither exploitative nor expensive.  It might a difficult adjustment out of the old way and into the new, but as long as our experiences are secured through thoughtful and purposeful living, loving, and giving — not so much in having — I feel we simply cannot go wrong.

As for this Christmas That Wasn’t, it might not have been the most awesome ever, but it was definitely the most memorable.

My mom’s piano, still the background

 Enjoy your holidays!

26 thoughts on “The Christmas That Wasn’t

  1. Hi Shannon,
    It would have been hard for me as a kid had my parents decided to cut down on/cut off the presents, to be honest. I think I was very spoiled, especially as an only child. But today I feel similar-I despise the senseless shopping and the stressed shoppers. We usually wrap a few items to put under our tree (which we still love), but they are typically utilitarian. And even though I have cut way down, I still love to give and receive books. 🙂
    Happy holidays to you, Scott, and the kids.


    1. The first one was hard for the kids as well, but we’ve settled into non-consumptive alternatives that scratch the itch for tradition just enough. Either way, there’s no better way to end the year than with those you love. Cheers to you and yours, Tanja!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. It’s courageous to make new Christmas traditions, especially paring down on gifts. We have done it in our family too, allocating the money saved to travel. I applaud your creativity and individuality, Shannon, as always. Happy Christmas!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The funny thing, Jet, is that our kids are completely on board. Some of the more fun gifts has been moving on perfectly nice things that we already had and didn’t need anymore. It’s new to someone and our space gets freed up ta boot. Enjoy your holidays, Jet!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I am a little envious of your new tradition… I never really had a very strong gift-giving tradition in my childhood, but I married into a gifty family. We’re paring it back a little bit every year, though.


    1. It has been a long time coming. With four kids and the obligatory 5 presents per kid — not to mention the others from Grandma and the like — it was getting hard to manage the influx of stuff coming in. Given that most of that stuff also has to eventually go OUT, something had to give! Our house is only so big.

      This coming from someone who still wears clothes from 20 years ago and lives without many (wasteful) conveniences, it was pretty easy to do.

      Thanks for coming by to comment. Nice to see you here!


  4. However you chose to celebrate — you are right that the best gifts you could ever get, you already have: each other. Wishing you and your family a year full of happiness!


  5. Shannon, what a great gift of the bunnies! Keeping the fun traditions alive is absolutely what Christmas is about. Gifts are fine, but you are right: what the kids will remember is how they *felt*. Our Christmas was much lower budget this year due to our WDW trip Thanksgiving, but both kids still are wrapped in Christmas glow. :). Merry Christmas to you and the family!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hello, Majken. So lovely to see you here! We are really enjoying the housemates. Though I’m hard-pressed to say they were worth the initial financial investment (yikes!), they are paying dividends in laughter and joy. Such personalities.

      I think the kids are over the non-Christmas now and are fully back into the life as we know it. Happy New Year to you and your family, and thanks for stopping in. 😀


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