Sunday, November 25, 2007

in which i whore out my blog in an attempt to win stuff

I was, as I am wont to do, reading Navel Gazing, and noticed a li'l contest going on, and so here I am: I'm writing about my own Christmas traditions. These are the traditions held by my own li'l family:

~On Thanksgiving night, after the meal and naps and whatnot (mostly whatnot), my kids are each given a gift: a new ornament (as of now, it's always been from Hallmark), and a new pair of jammies. We used to do the jammies thing on Christmas Eve, but this way they can wear their jammies as much as they want while we enjoy the getting-ready season. They are SO EXCITED to get to open this present. Maybe that's because...

~Our kids only get three gifts for Christmas (plus their stocking): two from Darin & me, and one from Santa (this doesn't include gifts from grandparents, etc.). I totally bogarted this idea from la yen, but it's genius. It cuts down on the "MOMMYMOMMYMOMMY THIS IS WHAT I WANT FOR CHRISTMAS THIS YEAR!" Since they know they're only getting three things, they're careful what they ask for. I usually ask for five requests so that their three are surefire winners, and so that their three aren't: a motorcycle, a castle, and three more wishes (or whatever). Why is three the magic number? Because that's how many Jesus got.

~I go shopping on Black Friday to get good deals on those three gifts each.

~I write a The Christmas Letter.

~We create our Christmas Wall.

~I read this letter that my brother wrote.

~This tradition requires a story from my own childhood. When I was in 5th grade, my dad had brain surgery. He was released from the Cleveland Clinic a few days before Christmas (I remember it being Christmas Eve, but since it was twenty years ago, and I wasn't into which day it was back then, I'm not certain). I know now that my parents had ZERO dollars for anything of a Christmas nature. Nothing. This is not an exaggeration. My dad had not been able to work for months, and there was just -- nothing. The drive to Cleveland to pick him up took a long time, and I think the drive home took twice as long: six hours or so, as opposed to the normal three, due to the snow. We parked the car in the driveway and walked into our house to find the following: two completely decorated Christmas trees, more gifts than we had ever seen, and dozens of bags of groceries. As a parent now, I can sort of imagine the gratitude my own parents must have felt to have seen this display, and it is overwhelming. Our Christmas celebration that year was courtesy of the teachers and pto from the school where my dad was/is a teacher, and from the local volunteer fire department. And now my current tradition: I go to the Giving Tree at the mall and pick a card for a ten year old girl, a seven year old girl, and a six year old boy, and buy them their Christmas gift requests. Because while it's not about getting stuff . . . when you're a kid without anything, it's absolutely about getting stuff.

~We put up about a half-string of lights on our house. This is half in defiance of the Griswolds to the front of us and the Griswolds to the back of us, as their lights can just be reflected off of our house and it might actually look like we, too, went all out. No, seriously, they started before Halloween with their lights. I know I talk about this every year, and maybe this year I'll actually post photos to prove it.

And there you have it. These traditions are simple things I can keep up with year after year, and when we decide on more, we'll add them.

Word.

*****added the next day because I forgot to mention this one***

~A few days before Christmas, we get up really early and donate a bunch of stuff to The Road Home, a homeless shelter in Salt Lake City which not only houses people, but also provides counseling and work services to help families get back on their feet. While from a practical standpoint this seems logical: get rid of stuff so that we'll have room for the new stuff we get for Christmas (doesn't it sometimes seem like all we do is move our stuff around??), the Christmas part comes when we arrive: residents see us walking up with our boxes and bags and wish us a Merry Christmas. They ask for high-fives from the kids. And they are vocally thrilled with the fact that someone brought lotion. Or socks. Things that we might not think of as luxuries are heralded and lauded as if we had just given them precious jewels. The drive home from this annual, humbling event promotes conversation about how fortunate we are, and makes our Christmas a time in which we are more grateful for our blessings.

20 comments:

Shar-bear said...

I am also going to give my kids only three gifts. I think too many kids nowadays are given excess of everything, and it's made rotten little monsters, like my three nieces.

Your brothers' letter was sweet and uncharacteristic for an 11-year-old.

I'm trying to build some of our traditions, but get overwhelmed with where to start. I might steal some of your ideas, because they're good.

{natalie} said...

jenny you are awesome and i love your traditions! and i definately want a copy of that letter!! ps i looked into remedez on sat night but didn't see you
:(

Sue said...

The title made me laugh out loud. If you've whored out your blog, does that make me your pimp? Ew. I feel so dirty.

I love the three gifts idea! (Especially great since we are totally broke.) What a great Christmas story. You hear about that kind of stuff happening, but how awesome to have that memory.

We have barely any lights too, but it's because my husband and I are both huge chickens and don't want to climb really tall ladders :>

Ku'ulei Ali'i said...

I really liked this post! What good ideas...hmmm, I wish I'd have thought of this before my kids got wise to saying, "I only want 2 things and iPhone and a Wii..." you see that is only 2 gifts and that doesn't even deal in Santa - LOL. I am glad that you keep Christmas fun and build traditions of love and service within your family. I admire your parenting skillz ;)

Lyle said...

Has there ever been a study that shows "more toys" = "happier children"? Didn't think so. I think the 3 gifts idea is a great idea. Of course, if this idea catches on, you or La Yen might have the retailer's mafia on youor case.

Lucky Red Hen said...

Definitely post a picture of your house looking like the Griswald's with the reflection of your neighbors! A 1/2 string is a great thing :o)

compulsive writer said...

Love it. Especially the part about the giving tree.

~cari~ said...

Your neighbors are out of control! My son is friends with your neighbor across the street and every year I hear, "Why can't we put up lights like N. ?" My answer is always, "Because we aren't insane." There should be some law against how many lights you can put up.

Bek said...

Great post. THis year we have been much more aware of incorporating service in to the season. We try and do this all year long, but with Lu finally old enough to "get it" we are searching for things that our family can do together...

Great inspiration. We don't do tons of gifts (but we don't have the number set at three) but it tends to be about that number.... it does make things easier. It isn't like my kids go without...

Geo said...

Three is perfect.

And you are excellent.

~cari~ said...

I love your tradition of donating to the homeless shelter. I'm going to copy that one (if that's okay) because I am a copy cat.

Sue said...

I love the addition!!

AzĂșcar said...

I live 10 minutes away from you; 4 miles, give or take. I can read in the evenings by the light of your neighbor's display.

I'm just saying.

~j. said...

shar-bear - welcome! I looked at your blog and saw that you said that Redlands is your ol' stompin' grounds. My husband grew up in Redlands. The temple sits on the old orange grove right next to where he went to church. Neat-o!

nat - awww...I usually work during the day on Saturdays. I'm sorry to have missed you!

sue - yes, you most certainly are my pimp. I just found out this year that there are companies you can pay to design, put up, and take down your lights for you. I can get a phone number, if you're interested.

ku'ulei - Your boys are so smart. You're such a great mommy.

lyle - bring 'em on! Wal*Mart will be the first one to get a punch in the face.

lucky - I'll have to wait until we're finished with our own decorations -- but I can't wait to post the pics.

cw - why, thank you. I'd better get going on the tree: If I wait too long, it's not always easy to pick my specified 3 ages/genders.

cari - my kids ask the same question. It's a ward competition. I think this is the new Road Show.

bek - you do nonstop service all year long! You are such a fantastic example.

geo - shucks. thanks. You are.

cari - do it. It's great. I seriously think about it all year long as I work to de-clutter.

sue - thanks! how MUCH do you love it?

Azu - I know. Somehow, though, in the winter, when I get up in the middle of the night to use the bathroom, the red glow outside from the next-door-to-behind-us neighbors is very comforting.

ash said...

I love family traditions! Very inspiring! Is the invite to send my "The Christmas Letter" to you still good?

Logan said...

Jenny, I love your traditions. Your kids will know the true meaning of Christmas... and gratitude. Love it!

sue-donym said...

That sounds just like my house, except really different.

You are an example to me.

Thea said...

I love the 3 gifts - brilliant. I just might have to "borrow" that one, though I promise to give credit where credit is due.

~j. said...

ash - absolutely! Let's exchange addresses!

logan - welcome! I'm glad you're reading my posts! You're sweet. Thank you for the compliments.

sue - You're funny. And you're an example to me.

thea - welcome! Take any one of these ideas, and take the credit, too. I rarely have an original idea, just take others that I've heard.

emilyshaw said...

(found you by way of navel gazing)
I LOVE your traditions and if you don't mind i'm going to adopt a few of them ... namely: Thanksgiving gifts, 3 Christmas gifts, giving tree (i haven't had a similar experience but i think my kids would benefit from doing this each year) and donating to a shelter! don't even worry that i'm pinching all your ideas ... but they're all good ones! thank you for sharing! and have a VERY merry christmas!