Pardon the lack of recipes lately! I’ve been busy getting presents bought, made, and wrapped and fighting off a cold. We won’t have Pennywise Platter Thursday this week, but expect a recipe or two before Christmas. Today I share slightly rambling thoughts I have been having on Christmas gifts and food.
I recently was finishing up some little gifts for our extended family with my three year old daughter. Christmas music was playing, the Christmas tree lights were on, and Elena and I worked in silent enjoyment of our task. At one point I leaned back to watch her and just savor the moment. It was one of those moments that just seemed “right”. Sometimes you can try to create those moments, and they don’t happen, but this time it did.
It got me thinking about what makes Christmas so special. For us personally, it’s a celebration of a little baby born to save the world. But how that’s celebrated varies greatly from family to family. I was thinking about our culture, a culture that is always buying something. Some people have rebelled against this materialistic viewpoint and don’t celebrate or give gifts at all. Just plain tired of it all, they don’t really celebrate Christmas. On one hand you have those who spend a lot of money -even go into debt!- to buy gifts, while on the other side you have those who are a little “grinchy” about Christmas. Neither seems quite right to me.
I think that part of the reason Christmas got out of hand for so many is because they are able to buy everything that they need in daily life. When Christmas rolls around they have no real needs and their Christmas wish lists are full of expensive non-needs (like bigger TV’s). It’s the same way with food. When you are able to eat sweet treats all year round on a consistent, even daily basis, why get excited about Christmas cookies?
Under our Christmas tree you will find presents, many of which were real needs of our family. Oh yes, Elena got some new toys, paint, and” new” blocks from Goodwill. But many of the presents were things that we have been wanting and needing for a while. Christmas gifts are special to us partly because it’s a chance to get a few things that we know that our loved ones are needing/wanting. However, we all know the trouble of buying Christmas gifts for people who “have it all”. What fun is it to buy something for someone who already has everything they need and want?
It’s one of those trade off’s you have. If you don’t have a lot of money, you can’t always buy what you would like to own. That can really be hard sometimes, especially if it’s something that falls in the “need” category. However, it makes it all the sweeter when you do get it.
Speaking of sweets, in times past when sweeteners weren’t as available and as cheap as they are today, sweets were very special. Children who didn’t always get cookies, cakes, and candy were thrilled to get them at holidays. In a way, by giving them sweet things all the time, we take away the fun of holidays.
We are pretty into holidays around here for a variety of reasons (religious affection, family time), but I think that it’s also special to us because we get to savor treats and presents that don’t always happen in this household.
But, my Christmas Grinch readers might ask, “Why give gifts and bake sweet treats at all? Can’t you celebrate without them?” I think that both are signs of affections and have been historically. A well thought out gift expresses love, concern and care. It denotes sacrifice, buying something with hard earned money or spending time making it. It doesn’t have to be expensive. Our gifts generally aren’t. But gifts given among friends and family show affection and care. The desire to make someone other than yourself happy. Yes, it’s true that gift giving has become a chore for many of us. Perhaps part of the reason is because everyone has everything they really need and want (or we can’t afford what they want/need). That can take the joy out of gift giving. Perhaps another small part off it is because we have lost the happiness of gift giving because we forget what gifts are supposed to express. They aren’t meant to feed our appetites for a consumer lifestyle, but rather be marks of affections.So even though we may not have a lot in the budget for Christmas gifts, and I wish that we had more to spend on each other, I try to remember that I can still express love and affection through the gifts I give.
Making special foods for Christmas, sweet or savory, denotes that we have something worth celebrating and that this time of year really is special. As rich as we are compared to many other cultures, we really celebrate much less. Celebrations have always been historically very important in people’s lives. Many of us seem to have lost the joy of them. That’s too bad, because I think that we all need to find time to celebrate, rest, and laugh with family and friends.
So this year, we may not have “big” expensive gifts under the tree, but we have gifts that show that we care and love each other. We many not have everything we “want”, but we have each other. Our relationships aren’t perfect by any means, and many of us may feel strain or a certain lack with other relationships in our lives, but in the end, this Christmas season we have a lot to celebrate, and celebrate we will!
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Excellent thoughts, Kimi. I think it’s always easier to enjoy the true simplicity of the holidays if we are limited by budget! 😉 I know I fall into the trap of “Oh, I have MONEY for that this year!”… and although this ISN’T one of those years, my husband and I have both discussed at length the type of holidays we would prefer for our children to experience (always more difficult when we have, ahem, family, who like to spend…). As Christians, I think we almost have it easier, because we have Someone else to turn the focus to. 🙂 We decided last year to only have our Nativity set under the tree until just before gift-opening time, and then had our boys be the Wise Men bringing gifts to Jesus. It worked out quite well, and we’ll be doing it that way again this year. I love how it took the focus off the anticipation of the presents, and brought it back to the Christ. Anyway! 🙂
May you and your family have many wonderful holiday blessings!
Merry Christmas, Kimi! I appreciate your blog-the gift you have given us! 🙂 I’m still working on this lifestyle, but coming here often for recipes and inspiration helps alot and is so encouraging. 🙂 May God richly bless you and your family this christmas season with His love and peace.
I agree completely with everything you said! Thank you for saying it!
Merry Christmas to you!
Happy Holidays to you and your family! From me and my kitchen, and home!
Elizabeth @ The Nourished Life
Great holiday post, Kimi! I love giving gifts in general, and Christmas for me is just a wonderfully happy time when we can go out of our way to remember someone with a thoughtful gift. Maybe the whole focus of the holiday shouldn’t be on the gifts, but I know a lot of people whose hearts get blessed when we remember them this time of year. There’s definitely a balance involved.
We’re just blessed to be close enough to family to celebrate together. For several years we lived too far to travel, so now being only a few hours away is really exciting. What a great gift to be able to spend this special time with those we love!
Merry Christmas! I agree with Kari that you give us a gift when you write this blog! And although I definitely agree that sweets and needed items made Christmas much more special in days past, I like the tradition of gift-giving because gifts, as well as special foods and spiritual traditions, represent the interaction between us. It is what we come together to do – exchange gifts, bake cookies, sing carols. May all of you have wonderful holiday gatherings this year!
my year without
That’s a nice, well written description of how and why you celebrate Christmas. I sort of fall under your category of “Christmas Grinch” because of one of the reasons you mentioned: consumerism. Because there are no little ones in our families yet, we stopped buying gifts for each other and instead we donate to those who are in need of food or clothes or water. We donate “in honor of” each person. It has started quite a tradition and this time of year does not feel so hectic or mall-oriented. Honestly, I got inspired when I heard about Advent Conspiracy…..
As far as sweets are concerned, I agree with you that they are so prevalent that it’s almost no big deal to have so many goodies around the house. My goal is to keep “sweet-baking” to a minimum during the year (at least beginning in 2010!) and save some specific recipes for certain times of the year so they are more meaningful.
I thinking giving money to others in need is lovely. I was going to mention that idea, but ran out of time. I think that it is also different without children. There is something so magical about Christmas for children.
Ann Marie @ CHEESESLAVE
Such a sweet post! It made my eyes well up with tears.
Thanks, Kimi, for your heart that, like the Grinch’s, is much larger than average.
You do so much good to help so many people. The world will repay you, multiplied many more times — and then you will be able to help even more people.
That is my Christmas wish for you (and I already know it will come true).
Thank you for this excellent posting. We have lived this way for 25 years and my children 22, 20. 18, and 9 are thankful and giving children because they learned that It is more blessed to give than to receive. Goodwill and second hand items can be wonderful treasures that they might not have gotten otherwise. It a blessing to give from the heart what you have made or sacrificed. Jesus is the the best give to man kind and you reflect him well.
Sorry ” the best gift”
Wonderful post. Merry Christmas to you and your family.
I think the saddest thing I’ve heard is spoken by my mother each year. She says “I can’t wait till the holidays are over, it’s such a pain.” Yes, we do more than we typically do in a normal week, but we do it in joy and in eager anticipation of the Newborn King.
I have a few recipes I only make during the holiday season. Eggnog, cinnamon rolls, devilled eggs (with fresh dill from my garden!), etc. My kids & dh look forward to it each year.
Merry Christmas to all! I enjoyed this post and comments very much. As Christmas draws nearer, it is good to keep it all in focus.
Kimi, thank you for your insight on this post. Merry Christmas to you and yours, and God Bless you in the coming year.
Hi Kimi, I have been coming to your site for about the last 5 months and I always get so blessed from it. Thank you for all the dedication and time! May you and your family have a wonderful Christmas enjoying the beautiful birth of our amazing Lord Jesus and the life He gives us everyday! :0
Interesting post. I really like what you said. I grew up handcrafting things for my family and we all understood the monetary limits and worked really hard for months in order to make something that was really special. My husband grew up that way, too. So, it has been a very nice fit for us in our marriage. However, the more we get to know other couples and families the more we are astounded at their expectations and budgets, which has, in turn, produced some spoiled ways of thinking and acting. It is sad to us that so many children open their presents with the full expectation of getting everything they want without much thanks for the givers. This was an angle I had never thought of when we were “training” our kids to be grateful, often by not giving them what they wanted, but something that would form their character. I got a call from one of the grandparents today and he told me he was so grateful that when our children opened the gifts he had given them, they were so excited over such simple, little things. New pencils, paper, and board games. I have always wanted to do it for the value to their character and never even thought that our effort to keep our children un-jaded would actually minister to our family, parents, and friends. To all the moms out there who are trying to keep gift giving simple and heartfelt, just remember that the ripples of what you do go a bit farther out into the pond than you might think. It’s worth it.
Merry Christmas Kimi! May God bless you this Christmas and throughout the next year.
Lovely post, Kimi. Thanks for writing it.
Nice thoughts. It can be such a confusing time, especially with little ones around; trying to figure out a balance between letting them experience the joy of surprises and treats but not foster greediness. It makes us lean toward grinchness, but we still do some decorating, and some gift-giving.
I especially appreciate your point of enjoying sweets. As a child, I never understood why, in times of yore, citrus was considered such a treat. Now I wish we could return to that mindset, where certain fruits and intensely-sugared items were truly a once-a-year thing (if ever).
But it’s hard to go wrong, gifts and sweets or not, with spending some good time with friends and family. I hope that’s the biggest holiday memory our kids are left with.
Lindsey @ The Herbangardener
Well said!! Thanks for posting this. It perfectly crystallizes my own thoughts about Christmas.
This year, we had the most wonderful Christmas, exchanging gifts only with immediate family members, and keeping a strict $20 limit. We spent less time in stores, less money, and more time on Christmas morning savoring each gift since there weren’t so many. All around, this Christmas season was more joyful and relaxing for me…with more time spent on the free/priceless things like baking, decorating, sitting in front of the glowing Christmas tree, relaxing with a cup of tea and listening to Christmas music, hanging out with family, and visiting neighbors and friends.
Less was truly more!