The great recession that occured between 2007 and 2009 and brought the U.S. economy to its knees changed how I think about stuff….about buying and keeping "stuff”. The recession had a profound effect on the country and the world and to some extent helped drive the "live simply” movement and the tiny house craze. I was fascinated with the tiny house concept until I downsized and found out that a little space is a nice thing but that’s a different story. Despite my lack of current interest in tiny houses I do have a heightened awareness about how much stuff we have and about our holidays and how commercial they are. From Valentine’s Day to Easter to Halloween and Thanksgiving and Christmas we are bombarded with advertising. Everyone is competing for our money. Stores start putting up the next holiday celebration items before we even finish celebrating the last holiday. We run around buying stuff and forget why we celebrate in the first place. At Christmas we go from store to store (online or brick and mortar) using up any free time we have buying things for friends and neighbors and family... striving to get the perfect gift for everyone we know being terrified that they might not like what we bought and if that happens we have somehow failed.
This year we decided to try something different. Our twenty eight year old daughter actually came up with the idea. Her birthday is on November 29th and she suggested that we all take a cruise instead of exchanging presents. Terry and I have birthdays on December 17th and 19th and our wedding Anniversary in on the 8th and looking at the bigger picture we decided that this idea was just plain brilliant. We could have an adventure with our kids and focus on family fun and skip the traffic and lines at the stores and reduce the stress and experience Christmas without the distraction of shopping.
We booked our cruise for the week before Christmas. I told my parents that we weren’t going to buy gifts this year. Mom was relieved because the thought of buying gifts overwhelmed her. She’s been dealing with my disabled brother and my Dad who has dementia and has enough on her plate. With Mom’s buy-in we were now totally committed. We told the kids and our siblings about our plan and for the next several weeks we thoroughly enjoyed going about our business every day without thinking about who to get what. I’d go by stores jammed with cars and think….”I’m so glad I’m not in there waiting in line.” We relished the holiday season. We picked up the real Christmas tree, decorated it and put up lights and bought some pine scented candles….getting in the spirit. We were still celebrating after all… just not celebrating with gift giving. It was a glorious few weeks.
Our cruise started on December 16th and ended on December 23rd. Click here to read about that trip and the things we learned. We traveled with Terry’s adult son (my step son) and his girlfriend our twenty eight year old daughter and our nineteen year old son. We went to Nassau, Bahamas, St. Thomas and St. Maarten. We ate lots of food, did some gambling, saw some shows and visited some cool places, and I think a good time was had by all. I would be lying if I didn’t mention that we had some tense family moments and frustrations during the trip… and I was to blame for some of them but I won’t bore you with the details. Like most families, our family isn’t perfect but the good news is that we all love each other and there were lots of good times and we made some great memories.
We returned home on the 23rd and spent Christmas Eve getting ready for the evening activities and Christmas day dinner. Three trips to the grocery store and some food prep made it a busy day. We took our appetizers to my parents house to spend Christmas eve with them. Keeping in line with our cruise activities we had some food, a few drinks and played bingo and blackjack and had some wonderful desserts. Mom loves to bake and she is very good at it! On Christmas day, we had a late french toast breakfast, viewed pictures from our vacation and went to the beach for a few games of corn hole and paddle ball. Yes, we love living in Florida at Christmas time. In the evening we cooked lobster tails and filets for dinner and I went with a neighbor to pick out the best holiday lights display in our neighborhood. We drove in her convertible with the top down looking at lights with our two dogs (A Schnauzer Doodle and Australian Shepherd) in the back seat and gave a bottle of wine and a card to the two best decorated homes. A new tradition that I think we’ll keep each year. All in all it was a great Christmas day.
Today is the day after Christmas and things are getting back to normal. We still have family visiting and our son is home from college for another few weeks but I’m facing the reality of paying bills and the idea of getting back to work soon. Reflecting back on our Christmas without presents I can tell you that I didn’t miss the shopping and the lines and the stress. I enjoyed our vacation and the time we had together as a family. I didn’t miss the gift wrapping or the cleaning up of wrapping paper and boxes and bows. But, to be honest, It did feel a bit like something was missing. I did miss seeing the gifts under the tree and the smiles and laughing that go along with the unwrapping celebration. This year we didn’t have any little ones in the house and I missed the wonder, and the excitement and energy that young children bring to Christmas. But, I think with a few more traditions and perhaps some small gifts for the children we can transform our Christmas into something great, something less commercial and something our family will relish and enjoy each year. "Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night.”