I was determinedly trying to hold off posting anything in relation to Christmas for a bit longer, but looking around the other blogs I read, I can see that I'm on a losing track there! Everywhere I look on my reading list at the moment there are tales of recipes, moneysaving home-made gifts, and in some cases a marked determination not to spend a penny on anything related to the festive season! FrugalMummy over at My Beautiful Life has written an excellent series of posts on planning for the festivities, and there are many others out there writing in the same vein too.
For us, Christmas could more aptly be named "Mid-Winter-Mas" - as we are not religious in any way, so for us, the season is about getting together with friends and family to celebrate, well, being with friends and family, as much as anything else! Before anyone starts huffily suggesting that in that case, we shouldn't be celebrating at all, pipe down at the back, there has been a celebration around December 25th since long before the Christians cottoned onto the idea of joining the party, and in fact research has shown that it seems highly unlikely that Jesus Christ was born in December at all! We'll let you keep the celebration if you allow us to borrow the name - deal?!
Whilst we mostly choose to be frugal in our daily lives, we are happy to spend extra on one another at christmas. As a family though, we lean generally towards buying presents that are needed by the recipient, or items which will be a nice little treat that the other person would not be able to justify for themselves. We are great fans of the "gift list" too - what better way to know what the other party would most appreciate? My Mum's list thus far includes a new dressing gown, a hairdryer (hers is suffering from a nasty case of impending death!) a tube of the makeup she likes, and underwear, among other things. For us to buy her these things means that her personal spending money throughout the year won't have to be tied up by purchasing necessities. Likewise, one of MrEH's presents from me for the past few years has been a box containing so far as possible all the toiletries he will want for the year - toothpaste, soap, shower gel, shampoo, deodorant, toothbrushes, all the odds and ends that he loathes having to go and buy for himself. The shaving oil he likes, and odds and ends of rugby kit that are needed are likely to get bought by someone for him also, and likewise with me - my list this year will no doubt include clarinet reeds, music, memory cards for the cameras, the Clinique powder I love (and which I'd not found anything cheap that even comes close to being as good as) and more than likely underwear and socks, too! If there are recipe books we fancy then the inlaws usually come up trumps - and my great Aunt - who at over 80 is finding it increasingly difficult to get the the shops, usually gives money on the basis that we all know what we want and can go and get it easier than she can, and it means we get something genuinely wanted, too. MrEH and I usually pool any money we get given to go towards visits to other islands while we're on holiday - the last two years Auntie D's money has paid for us to go and visit the gorgeous Islands of Barra & Vatersay.
There is genuine pleasure to be had in buying things for people that you know they are going to be grateful to receive. I understand entirely why folk are kicking back against the commercial aspect of Christmas - and indeed every other "festive" occasion, and yes, we do generally give some home made presents, and even odds and ends picked up in the charity shops - the last two years Mum has had a cardboard box full of books for example, all picked up for 40p each from the local hospice Shop (She knows, I'm not giving away any secrets!) it keeps her in reading material for a couple of months, and helps the Hospice too - what's not to like? Mum-in-Law benefited from a rather gorgeous blue earthenware dish the other year - just the sort of thing she collects for serving food in, and a bargain at another local charity shop at £2. We buy odds and ends in the sales too and put aside, it all helps to whittle down - and more importantly spread - the cost. We don't spend extortionate amounts on one another - we never have, really, and all the family kids knew when growing up that we would stop getting presents from the Aunts and Uncles when we hit 18 - something which we will apply to nieces and nephews as well.
So, by all means kick against the commercialism if that is what you want, or restrict presents to "token gifts only" if that is your desire, or what your budget will allow, but remember that the same as we respect your wishes for this, so you need to respect the wishes of others doing things differently. There is more than one way to skin a cat, as the saying goes, and so there is more than one way of achieving the same objective, your way might be right for you, but it might not be right for everyone.
How do you choose to celebrate Christmas (Or Mid-Winter-Mas if you prefer)?