What do I love about Christmas? That it is a time to put away petty arguments and silly fears. It is a time that belongs to Mamas and Papas and all their little bears. It is a time to sit in laps and listen to stories about "when I was little". It is a magical time to sit quietly and listen for sleigh bells and reindeer's hooves. It is the time to celebrate love. Many times in our marriage, my husband and I would look at our bank balance at the end of the year, and realizing that the amount would not keep the wolves from the door anyway, decided to spend the meager amount on a Christmas celebration. One Christmas in particular, it was as though fate was not with us. Following the happy occasion of our son's birth, I developed a massive blood clot and had to spend ten days in the hospital. So we had some major medical bills. I had no sooner been released from the hospital, when my husband awoke to discover that he couldn't walk. After many doctor visits (and many doctor bills) he was finally diagnosed with what we had thought all along - a rare form of arthritis. Fortunately, we found an excellent doctor, who prescribed a treatment that sent his arthritis into remission. On top of all that stress, our area had not the one hundred year, but the one thousand year flood. Our property became a lake overnight, ditto for the basement. Oh! Did I mention that all this happened during a time of high inflation and wage freezes?
So you see, I know about hard times too. But we were determined to give our sons a merry Christmas even if the bank book said zero ( probably negative). My husband and I would conspire late into the night after the boys had been tucked into bed. He made blocks and little push toys from wood scraps. I knitted mittens, sewed stuffed animals and made candy for Christmas stockings. We poured so much love into these meager offerings. Outside our "lake" had frozen, so my dear husband swept off the ice and made a skating rink. He turned some buckets upside down and placed boards on them for benches, then made ice candles to set around the perimeter. On Christmas Eve, instead of our usual smorgasbord after church, we went outside and skated and roasted hot dogs (79 cent turkey franks) over a fire under the starry Christmas sky. And do you know it was one of the most memorable Christmases we had ever celebrated? Can't say the most, because one of our sons was born on Christmas and we became engaged on that day too, but it was certainly one of the dearest.
Children really don't know the value of things, so you don't have to feel guilty about how little you spend.
After a few gifts, small children become disinterested, so it's really a waste of money to have presents stacked to the ceiling. If you can't bare it, then buy the things they need like socks and underwear and wrap them.
Babies really do not care if the receive a present at all. And they will not have any memory of their first Christmas. So don't be silly, buying lots of toys. Whatever the grandparents or godparents give will suffice.
Older children can be very understanding. Have a frank talk with them about your money situation.You might find it brings you closer together.
Spouses should be on the same page. A moratorium on gift-giving to each other should be obvious.
Don't be shy about telling your relatives that you can't afford to send them presents this year. You might be surprised to learn that they are in the same boat.
If you feel you must buy for relatives, consider a family present instead of lots of individual gifts. A board game, puzzle, a tin of cookies, or a box of chocolates, are all inexpensive gifts.
Pay attention to the gift wrapping. It can make a simple gift look like a million bucks. Use gift boxes and tissue wrapping to make a pretty presentation. Look for pretty ribbons in the thrift shops. Buy fancy gift wrap at the after-Christmas sale.
Lastly, but most important, besides the main reason for the season, Christmas is about family. All the time saved by not going out shopping, wrapping gifts, attending parties and concerts, gives you more time to spend with them. Tell stories, play games, just cuddle and watch a movie on TV.
Praying that your Christmas is filled with love, joy and peace. All free for the taking!