It’s been some years since I got off what I refer to as “the crazy Christmas train.” I hope I don’t sound too much like Scrooge. Because this is just a personal choice.

I did all the parental Christmas duties when my girls were young. We had a tradition of crafting Christmas tree ornaments the day after Thanksgiving.

I was certainly quite involved with making their Christmases merry and bright.

But my children are grown and we stopped exchanging presents years ago by mutual decision. 

I just think the entire country is far too materialistic, and we’re spoiling our children beyond measure.

Glad I spit that out and got it over with, because I know it sounds a bit harsh.

Crazily shopping and ratcheting up the credit cards while stressing for one holiday seems utterly ridiculous to me.

It’s kind of depressing to think of those long lines the day after Christmas to exchange presents that the giver put much thought into. But were not at all what the recipient wanted or will keep.

So I stepped off the crazy Christmas train. 

For me now at the cusp of 60, holidays are whatever I want them to be. 

My Christmas holiday is simple. I cook a meal, one that will provide leftovers and/or freeze. Or I might eat a TV dinner and call it good. I will have a very relaxed day.

Or I could be painting. Painting has become a relaxing endeavor for me to some degree. I’m kind of a messy painter. But I get a whole lot of thinking done while I’m wielding a paint brush.

I will reiterate that this is a personal choice. It is not a judgment of anyone’s holiday plans. 

It’s just not for me.

I know that many people feel that it isn’t a proper holiday unless they have dozens of presents under a tree with all the hoopla. 

Advertisers do their dead level best to have everyone frothing at the mouth for the newest and coolest gadget on the market.

I can’t blame them. It is their biggest shopping event of the year.

I just believe we should celebrate by personal choice. And not get bogged down by what everyone expects.

So however you choose to celebrate the holiday, I wish you a wonderful day. Whether that’s having lots of family or taking a longed for vacation.

I will happily be doing my own thing. Whatever that turns out to be.

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  1. Hi Brenda,
    After reading this I guess I have never been on that train. I have never purchased gifts on credit, or felt like I had to gift everyone that gives me something. I send out cards and I give something to each of my children and grandchildren. And what they get depends entirely on what I can afford, one year I made everyone pyjama pants and they were loved. And I purchased an inexpensive t-shirt to go with the pants.
    When my kids were little it was the same, they each got a new toothbrush and toothpaste in their stockings along with a small toy.
    I think you are wise to live according to what you can do, and never according to what others do or think you should do.

  2. Brenda,
    Merrry Christmas to you!
    I so agree with you about all the shopping and gift giving. I do still decorate like a fiend but it is because I love it and want to do it.
    Since my sons turned 18 y/o, I gave in to their wishes and started to give them money instead of gifts. When I did that, my life became so much easier and a lot less stressful around Christmas. Then my husband and I decided that instead of buying things for each other just to have presents to open ( which none of us really needed) that we would stop giving each other gifts. So It is about 10 years now that my husband and I do not exchage gist for any occasion, not just Christmas. If we want or need something, we buy it when we want to.
    With changing the focus of Christmas off of gift giving, now it seems like everyone enjoys the meal more and the conversation that follows…It is so much more enjoyable for all os us!!

  3. I love the phrase too Brenda "Crazy Christmas Train". We;ve scaled down to basics & try to be good examples to all the kiddies in the family. It was getting out of hand with all the focus on "Black Friday" — i gave that up long ago and leave it to the young ones. Simple celebrating is actually more fun and WAY less stressful <3 oxox

  4. I like that phrase, Christmas crazy train. In my family, my mom has been the conductor of that train, having expectations for the holiday that my siblings and I haven't always been able to meet because we've had spouses and in-laws to take into consideration too. There was one really stressful holiday years ago when my mom blew up because my brother and his then-fiancΓ©e couldn't be at the family gathering on the date my mom chose. The tension and hard feelings lasted for over 25 years! Things have eased over time. My mom has hit her mid-80s and isn't in such good health, and this past year my daughter passed away, so this Christmas probably will have a more bittersweet feel to it. I usually sort of dread the family gathering, but this year I am looking forward to it because I want to feel close to the family members who are still here. It will be at my sister's house this year. But I am glad that I do get to spend quite a bit of time in solitude in my little house, doing a bit of baking and cherishing the quiet. Brenda, I am happy for you that you have pursued a way of life that works best for you, and you get to do something with your grandchildren, buying books, that is meaningful to you and them as well. That is a very good way to share with them your love of reading and encourage them to enjoy reading too.

  5. We stopped putting up a tree over ten years ago. Too much hassle! I do decorate a lot because I enjoy it, little vignettes all over the house. We stopped giving each other gifts years ago and give donations in peoples names instead. It's still a gift and helps other people at the same time.

  6. I am from a small family…and we no longer go to my parents home. They come to our home. When my kids were tots we always had to be here or there and my children did not really enjoy Christmas day and their new toys. We never went crazy. Back when my kids were little there were the Christmas catalogs that came in the mail. My preschoolers sure did wear out those pages. We went simpler this year…as far as decorating, presents, etc. We set a budget…and stick to it…because we don't want to have that post Christmas…why did we spend this much?! It is nutty. I think that as we get older we mature and realize what is really important and what is not.
    Hubby and I will be home alone all day Christmas until the evening. My son is in a service job and has to work both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. It does not matter when we get together…just so we can sit for a nice meal sometime. I have had to learn how to do this "no kids at home thing"…ha ha. It is not nearly as much fun as when my kids were smaller. Cookies. Movies. Just being together. I know that at some point there will be a time when we are home alone …but then I told hubby, we need to go somewhere fun when the kids cannot come home. My mother (85) has this saying when it comes to folks doing what they want…She says. "Whatever floats your boat." And she does not mean that in a sassy way…just do what you want. πŸ™‚ Merry Christmas Brenda. Do it your way…as Frank Sinatra might say. πŸ™‚


  7. Hi Brenda, I agree with you…..everyone seems to forget what the real meaning of Christmas is, ever since my kiddies were small we always have a "birthday cake" for baby Jesus and a great display of our manger…I just didn't want them to forget the priority reason for celebrating. This year I am giving each of my 6 children little ideas that I would want them to do for Christmas in place of a gift for me, for example I asked my son to take a few homeless people back in Ct. to get some lunch and a warm jacket. Another will donate to St. Judes and so on. This is the joy in Christmas to me. I do decorate and probably always will and the kiddies also get a visit from Santa but it is important that all of my family help ones less fortunate not only with items but helping in other ways as well. I love the way that you are at peace and harmony with your life perhaps I will achieve that someday when all the kiddies have left the nest.. Happy holidays to you and your pups! [email protected] Sweet Tea N' Salty Air

  8. Enjoy Brenda. That is what is important. Everyone should celebrate the way it makes them feel good. This time of year should not be about stress, finding the right gift and going into debt. We had to cut way back this year with Terry still looking for a job. I love to make homemade gifts and give gifts that give back in some way. Every gift I bought this year benefits rescue animals, people with cancer and family food shelters. I did pretty good with finding nice gifts at reasonable prices that will also benefit a charity. I love giving a gift that keeps on giving. Enjoy this wonderful time of year.

  9. I'm completely skipping Christmas this year. No decorations, no gifts, no special foods, no trips or visitors. Mother and I will have a quiet day at home…just like every other day. Neither of us wanted to expend that much energy just for the two of us, so we voted to take the day off. LOL

  10. I completely agree with you, Brenda. We are a large blended family, with all sorts of variations in relationships, religious persuasions, and financial status. Several years ago we stopped the ususal gift exchange and started a tradition of a white elephant gift exchange among adults and kids over 12. We truly do find some hilarious white elephants in our barns, basements and garages! I always feel completely free to get rid of the item I end up with since it was a white elephant in the first place (thus decluttering). The laughter, good will, and fun we have far exceeds exchanging gifts of dubious worth that probably cost too much. I find that a casual meal goes really well for Christmas (soup, pie, snack foods) and is easy for the host. We do buy gifts for grands and great grands under 12 and give the older kids a modest cash gift, but find that it is time to scale back in this area since the numbers of kids keeps increasing! The holiday experiences that really become wonderful memories have so little to do with money. So, Brenda, I hope that your Christmas day is peaceful, joyful, and exactly how you want it to be!

  11. I agree!

    The only presents we do are the $25 limit family white elephant gift exchange, and that's only for those who want to participate. My husband & I don't buy for each other, and we quit buying for my adult girls once they married (the last one, 3 yrs ago).

    I do love Christmas, though, decorating and hosting my very large family for a buffet dinner. Last year we had fun with ugly Christmas sweaters. We all voted, and the winner got #1 in the white elephant (that's the one who gets the final steal at the end of the game). I told everybody to wear their pjs this Christmas. Not sure if they will, but I'm planning on being comfortable as host. πŸ™‚

    Merry Christmas, Brenda. I know you'll enjoy it because you'll do whatever you choose!

  12. Brenda, I am for individual choice wholeheartedly in everything. We only buy gifts for our two grandchildren, give money to our son and daughter-in-law plus a few small stocking gifts, and cooked items to our daughter and son-in-law. Our daughter asked us not to give them anything for Christmas because they have so much already. One of my friends doesn't buy gifts but give only handmade or repurposed items. I love that idea. We all have things we have bought or gotten as gifts that we no longer use or want and someone else can enjoy them the second time around. I enjoy your blog everyday and pretty much always agree with your philosophy. Have a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year in your own special way.

    1. I used to give my daughter money for her to buy whatever she thought the kids wanted. But I was married then and had more money. I know they get so much stuff their heads are swimming. That's why I wait until the holidays are over and take them to the bookstore.

  13. I whole-heartedly agree with you! And, I'm very tired of being judged because I don't participate in the who-bought-the-most-expensive-present-to-give game. Good for you for having the courage to say so.

    1. We women get judged harshly for a lot of things. Namely things like not being the cheerleader in making sure everyone has a wonderful Christmas with lots of baked goods and going all out. That's why I wrote that it's oftentimes expectations that people cling to and expect us to fulfill. Well, I say to heck with all the expectations. If they want it, let them do it.

  14. Totally agree with you re: people being too materialistic. No wonder folks are depressed during the holiday season. The media and advertisers would have you believe you are not a good person if you don't go crazy buying things. The most offensive (among many) commercials are the car ads. Sure, I'm going to drop 50G on a new car. Maybe the holiday should be renamed the Go Crazy, Go in Debt holiday.

  15. I almost did not put up a tree this year. Just wasn't in the mood and top that off with I got the flu the first week of December. However, my grandchildren still love the winter wonderland I usually create every year. But this year, I did not pull out all of the stuffed Christmas bears, the ceramic village, Mr & Mrs Claus' motorized figurines or a lot of other stuff. My grandson is 4 and he seem to have a bit disappointed, but he was over it quickly and my other grand is 17 and only really cares about having a good dinner at my house and a gift certificate to her favorite store. It's actually my daughter who wants me to keep up all of the traditions her father and I had but he and I are no longer together and dragging all that stuff out is tiring and time consuming. I would much rather spend the day painting and/or crafting while at peace. Maybe next year I can talk her I can talk to her about establishing new expectations for her little family. πŸ™‚

  16. We have really cut back, too, and I made many of our gifts this year. The adults in our family no longer exchange…we play a fun white elephant gift game. The children draw names. Everyone brings a treat, and I make a big pot of soup…no sit down dinner, eat when you want. It makes for a relaxing, fun time. I just do what I want to do these days…with decorating, cooking, etc. I'm not putting pressure on myself…and no debt. Merry Christmas, Brenda!

  17. I agree with you Brenda! Christmas should be celebrated however you want. I do buy gifts for the Grands and enjoy it but never go in debt and try to throw some educational things in there also. A meal with family makes me happy. Then the afternoon is mine to rest and reflect.

    1. My daughter usually asks me if I want her to bring over leftovers. But I can make my own meal, and not intrude on her day. I'd just rather have it that way.

  18. I totally get it. However, this year I did decorate my little house with 3 trees! It is what I call dealing with the sudden death of my brother at the age of 47 in mid November. It was my way of coping. I am pretty frugal when it comes to shopping, I start early and usually order special gifts from ETSY. When I finally returned to work, the Christmas gift I ordered for my brother was sitting at my desk. Just another reminder of what was supposed to be…Christmas should be what you make of it. I will be spending time at a nursing home where my Dad has been since October. Staying strong for my mother. She and I will go to a movie Christmas Eve and church on Christmas Day. That is my new normal. Spending quality time with my parents.

    1. I realize that Christmas is a biggie for children. Of course it is. But the way so many parents feel like they have to buy the biggest and the best, just saddens me.

    2. So sorry for your loss, Laura. I am my brother's caregiver, and I know the day is coming when I will be dealing with his loss (he lives with me). But an unexpected loss is the hardest. You are a good daughter. I think God has a special reward waiting for those who honor their parents in their old age. And Brenda, we too have a very low-key Christmas, but it works well for us! Blessings and Merry Christmas to all who visit here, Bess

    1. I know that some people are bound by what their family expects. And they feel like they have to comply. Those are the ones I really feel sorry for!

  19. Christmas used to be my favorite holiday. I loved the tree, the stockings, and shopping and shopping for presents for my three girls. Then they grew up, got married and started having children.

    Before I knew it, the children grew up and got married and started their own families. Now what used to be presents for three has blossomed into an unbelievable amount of people.

    I am now divorced, and living on social security. Buying presents is no longer the fun it used to be. How could I possibly pick and choose which grandchildren and great grandchildren to buy for? So now, I have cut back to only purchasing for my three girls, one present each.

    I no longer put up a tree, and I usually spend the holiday with one of my girls. Do I miss the old days? Yes and no. To everything there is a season, and I agree with you that the holidays have gotten way out of hand in many ways. It should not be about how many presents are under the tree, and people certainly should not celebrate Christmas on credit cards.

    1. It was mine as well. Back when the kids were young and we started making homemade Christmas tree ornaments the day after Thanksgiving. But now that that is past, it's just not that important to me. I take my grandchildren out after Christmas to the bookstore and they pick out books.

    2. Good for you, never apologize for who you are. I don't either. I have never had a tree in the house. Raised three kids who had many many presents and parties however…I agree that now (same age as you about), I also find joy IN peace, and treasure simplicity, and quiet. Add to that -it makes me ILL to see the crime, desperation, and poverty many experience, and then see the indulgent and ugly greed as it's opposite. How, just how, can someone go for another shoppers jugular vein for grabbling the last Xbox, when someone has just been shot in the same city? Or has just been robbed, or a child is without a warm coat? I can't accept that.

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