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Christmas > Money
I’m one of those people who goes “ooo, sparkly” about a thousand times during the holidays and then buys the sparkly thing. Because I’m half magpie apparently. But all that sparkle usually comes at a price. It can pretty quickly start to feel as if Christmas is just one big money sink. Today is a reminder that Christmas is about far more than money, and that the most important ways we celebrate are often totally free. I’m not against shopping, I love some Christmas shopping myself. But after a while it all gets a little old and I want something that feels simpler, cleaner, and more pure. And that’s where the five suggestions in this article come in.
Traditions Don’t Have to Be Complicated
We’ve talked about traditions before here on Crazy Whole Life and, and the one thing I would want to reiterate from that for Christmas is that traditions do not need to be complicated or difficult. In fact, the simpler the better. A tradition that doesn’t require prep work, or a whole bunch of stuff to make it happen is one you can look forward to. Christmas dinner might be a great tradition, but it’s an exhausting one for the cook. Christmas presents are incredibly fun (I mean who doesn’t like making people squeal with delight), but they’re also expensive. So I aim for filling my Christmas celebrations with as many simple and free or cheap traditions as absolutely possible. It keeps me happy, and prevents me from becoming Queen Grumpipants, which absolutely no one wants. (Trust me.)
It’s the Moments that Matter
Here’s the thing to keep in mind, it isn’t the amount of money we spend, how far we travel, or even really what we do that matters. It’s who we spend those moments with, and if we’re really fully engaged in them. What I mean is: we can go to a great musical performance but if I’m distracted responding to work emails on my phone the whole time I might as well have stayed at the office. If we travel across the whole country to see people we love, but then spend the whole time watching TV, well what’s the point?
So. Put your phone into airplane mode (really, you can still take pictures but you won’t be constantly distracted by dings and peeps), or at least silence the damn thing.
Turn off the TV (err, except for my final suggestion).
And spend some time together. Those little moments, when you’re just enjoying one another’s company are the things you will remember for years to come. They are the things you’ll still be treasuring long after the sweater has worn out, the game system has broken, and one earring in the set has gone off to find itself (you sure can’t find it). So here are my five favorite suggestions for holiday traditions to start with your family and friends. None of them will cost you a dime.
Here We Come A’Caroling
Can’t sing? Doesn’t really matter. Everyone loves caroling. You don’t have to be good at it for folks to enjoy it, or for you to enjoy it. If you’ve ever stood outside the house of a home-bound senior and belted out traditional carols you’ll know what joy looks like. Years ago a group of youth from the church where I worked spent one night every Advent driving around to the homes of all the elderly or ill parishioners who couldn’t get out of their houses.
We’d call ahead like some sort of special forces operation and they’d meet us at the door with their walkers and canes and wheel chairs. And we sang. We didn’t necessarily sing well, but we sang loudly. And every one of them beamed with joy, they clapped along, they sang with us, they laughed and hugged and kissed those young folks who were having just as much fun. Our grumpy, often moody teenagers were pink cheeked and down right cheery by the end of the night, and we left a trail of joyful tears in our wake.
That’s the power of memory. And nothing brings out memory like song. The possibilities are endless. Grab your kids, friends and relatives and head around the neighborhood to the folks you know can’t get out. Or call ahead to your local nursing home or hospital, they’d love the visit. I promise you’ll change someone’s whole year.
Stars In Our Eyes
This is one of my favorite traditions of all time. (Remember, I love anything that sparkles.) If the weather is lousy, drive. If the weather is good, walk. Whatever you do? Remember to let your inner child out to play. Tour all the Christmas lights in your neighborhood or town and oooh and aaaah right along with everyone else. But here’s a tip, every town has those neighborhoods that are famous for huge over the top light displays. Those can be fun, but also packed and stressful. Try going between Christmas day and New Years when most folks still have their lights going. Since most Americans don’t know that Christmas is the 12 days after Christmas day the crowds will be gone, but the lights usually aren’t.
For viewing before Christmas I prefer to walk my own neighborhood. Sure the displays might not be so over the top, but the stars are shining and those simple strings of lights around windows and eaves are just as pretty for their simplicity. Plus, I can carry a mug of hot chocolate with me and go home the minute I get too cold. Perfect.
Sugar & Spice
If you aren’t a regular baker you might need to buy some groceries for this one, so it might not be totally free. But it’s still cheap good fun, and most of what you need will probably already be in your home. Everyone loves gingerbread people and there’s something magical about decorating them with icing and candy bits. Some of my first baking successes were taking over the making of gingerbread from my mother. The recipe is simple and easy to follow, the ingredients are usually what you’ve got on hand.
And best of all (for me)? There is absolutely zero need for artistic ability when decorating. Forget about Martha Stewart and Pinterest for heaven sake. Just have fun. There’s no fancy royal icing clothing here, or perfectly drawn faces. We’re talking raisins and redhots glued onto these cookies with goopy, sickly sweet icing. It’s the way Mrs Clause intended Christmas fun to be!
Get my Grandma’s super simple (and seriously yummy) gingerbread cookie recipe below.
Board Game & Movie Night
This last one may be my favorite Christmas tradition. It’s so simple, and so much fun. And it gives you an excuse to spend a whole day in your PJs. Christmas Eve and Christmas day are often pretty hectic. So my second day of Christmas tradition is what we call our “Boxing Day Chill.” (OK I’m the only one who calls it that, my husband refuses to play along. Spoil sport!) Here’s how it works. On
the second day of Christmas (December 26th) I refuse to leave the house. I stay in my pajamas all day, we bake, and make a big pot of soup and other cozy things to eat. We play board games and read books and watch holiday movies (the 1966 How the Grinch Who Stole Christmas is my favorite, I’m listening to the soundtrack right now!)
It is a day for chill. While other folks are returning presents (ugh, malls), and shopping (again) I’m eating cookies and being a totally gracious winner at board games. Ahem. It’s a lot of fun, it’s low key, and it doesn’t cost us anything to spend a cuddly day at home just enjoying one another. Modify as you see fit but keep it low key and easy!
So that’s it folks. Those are my favorite Christmas traditions that cost absolutely nothing. What about you? What’s your favorite free/cheap Christmas tradition? Drop it in the comments so we all get to have more fun!