Recipe for a less stressful Christmas

Much as I like the theory of ‘Keep Christmas in December’, it’s an impractical notion when you have a big family and a busy life and so, for the purpose of Christmas planning and shopping (though definitely NOT for trees or decoration), I am happy to let it start in November. I ordered my cards  from Colitis & Crohns UK last weekend, ordered a few presents online and took a trip to Longbridge to the enormous M&S. Already I have made excellent inroads into the present list.

When my children were young I used to love filling their stockings and piling gifts under the tree. As they grew and then grandchildren came along I carried on the tradition of buying lots of little extras – novelty socks, chocolate, toiletries, a book, a cd or other bits and pieces that took my eye. But I have felt a growing weariness over these past few years as I’ve thought about what to buy, trailed around the shops and wrapped for our growing immediate family; Christmas was in danger of becoming a chore. There is no doubt that the season I had so enjoyed was becoming more of something to be endured. The cost was also getting out of hand – stressful in itself. What was once two full time salaries has been a pension and a part time job for some years now. We were saving all year to buy gifts for 26 even after we’d ‘knocked everyone else on the head’, so to speak.

Things had to change. Gone are all the ‘little extras’. Adults have been informed that they and the children have been allocated a reduced budget and each has been asked whether they want a particular gift or money. Parents of the smallest children have been asked to tell me what they’d like  me to get for them and most of those things are now bought. My children are all supportive of this; they have even agreed that they will no longer buy presents for each other and have set a small budget of £10 each for nieces and nephews. They all seem relieved at this and it makes me glad that I took the bull by the horns.

One of my favourite things ever is to have all my children and grandchildren together but to cook lunch for them all together (as I have done at times) is just too much. Having them all in the house at once is too stressful but the cost of going out for Christmas dinner is prohibitive for the young families. Anyway, I enjoy doing it at home – just not for everybody at once. So this year I am hosting two Christmases: the first with eldest son, daughter and their families a little earlier in December,  and the second for younger son and family.

So Christmas 2019 is to be different and, having made the decision, I already feel that a weight has been lifted.

X3

28 comments

  1. Quite a few years ago, the adults in our family elected to just give gifts to the children. Instead, we put a £5 limit (roughly) on what we spend and, if possible, to buy from charity shops. We also tend to make a lot of the presents and have become quite ingenious, I like to think! It certainly took away a lot of the stress, expense and turned out to be fun! My mum used to make a donation to a local children’s hospice, a tradition that we have carried on. I don’t have grandchildren, and I used to love Christmas when my sons were small. As a teacher, Christmas was always special, if exhausting! My sons are now in their twenties and were quite put out when I didn’t do stockings, one year. So, the stockings are back but, in truth, that is because I like doing them!
    Have enjoyed reading all the comments on this post.

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    • I’ve enjoyed the comm nuts on this post too. It’s been interesting, and a surprise, to find that I’m not alone in changing tradition. I loved doing the stockings for a long time, but there are so many of us now that I’m t really had become a chore. I didn’t think I’d ever feel that way but I do.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Oh yes, you are so right. Family is lovely and so is Christmas. But. It used to be our way of doing Christmas with the children small and all our own rituals, now it’s all about fitting in with their partner’s Christmas and how their family wants to do things. There’s a lot of compromise going on. And as for the expense and excess consumption it quite upsets me as they won’t do a Secret Santa.

    Soooo, this Christmas we are going to our daughter’s for Christmas Eve and our son is coming Boxing Day and for the first time for decades we are going to have a very quiet Christmas – just us. We shall go for a long walk by the sea and cook a little something in the evening. Because I absolutely hate that stuffed feeling from the ubiqutous huge lunch. I shall be so pleased to never cook a turkey ever again!!!!! Gosh am I looking forward to this!

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    • A walk by the sea after lunch sounds wonderful. I would love the sea to be closer to us (note that I don’t say I wish I was closer to the sea – that would mean living a long way from my children and I don’t want to – bad enough that two of the three live a distance away). I think the Secret Santa works if you are all together on Christmas Day but I wouldn’t want to do it when we almost never are (they have in-laws etc to share themselves among…and rightly so). I WANT to give my children and grandchildren a gift, but I’m glad to be stopping all the ‘stocking filler extras’.

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  3. Sounds like you’ve got things well under control when it comes to celebrating Christmas, Eloise. Yes, it can get expensive and hectic. I always laugh at myself because it is not even my own religious holiday to celebrate, but, I enjoy giving gifts. At one time, I had over 100 people on my gift list, as I used to give to all the children in my daughter’s class, all the teachers and staff at her school, all my colleagues at the office, etc. My gift list has shrunk down to about 35 now, and much more manageable. It helps to have a budget and plan ahead. I make a lot of the gifts I give and I shop the sales. In fact, I purchased the first two gifts, today, when I was out shopping. 🙂

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    • That’s still a lot of present buying/making! It’s so nice that you like to celebrate even though Christmas is not part of your religion. If only we were all so tolerant and inclusive of others’ beliefs, I’m sure the world would be a happier place

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  4. Our offspring can’t afford to provide expensive presents for the family and so we have told them only really small presents are the order of the day for everyone. It seems silly and spendthrift to simply ‘go mad’ with expensive presents that no one neither needs nor can afford to buy. Grandson will have some presents, he’s the only grandson – if we had more grandchildren the budget would be pruned, of course, to be shared among them all. I think Christmas dinner will be with one of our sons and wife/partner, and we are all going to contribute to the feast so that one person doesn’t end up doing all the work. I will soon make my Christmas present list, buy much of what we need online, maybe order cards online, buy the 2nd class stamps (I printed the address labels last year, I did two lots to make it easier this year – talk about forward planning!) and I will get the ingredients for the cake on my next Waitrose order (or the items I don’t have in the food cupboard already). I won’t buy crackers (the waste from them goes to landfill) and I won’t buy any decorations except perhaps one well-made one but only if I see one I like, I won’t go hunting for one specially. Decorations are always only the tree, flowers, fruit, nuts, cards we receive and, eventually, the cake. Who needs more than that?
    Margaret P

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    • Likewise I tell the children (if one can refer to adults in their 30s and 40s as such) to rein in their spending. Apart from a few little bits that sit on the mantlepiece and were bought many years ago, it’s only the tree that gets decorated. I always use my apple cake recipe for the Christmas cake and decorate it with fruit and nuts – we’re not bothered about thick royal icing. I do get crackers for the little ones and shall look for paper, rather than foil ones. Being with the people we love and having good food in a warm house makes us luckier than many. Sounds a cliche but it’s true.

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  5. We made the decision years ago not to buy presents for the adults in the family and re the children (anyone under 18), we all put together and then the parents tell us what the children would like. It means the kids get one big present that they really want, it takes some of the financial pressure off the parents and also means there isn’t that mass of cheap tat all over the house after unwrapping lol! As regards the adults, instead of presents we each give one nominated person (usually me but I don’t mind) £10 a month) and then in that tired part of the year, beg Feb, we find a really nice hotel deal, just overnight and local and all the grown ups go to that. Children get farmed out to in laws so we have a nice family meal on the Friday night, lazy start on the Saturday morning and if we’re lucky in where we’ve managed to book, maybe a game of golf for the guys and spa access for us girls. Then usually a late bar lunch before we all head off home. As it’s planned in advance it’s the one time of year we know we can all get together, love it.

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    • Well, what a fabulous idea, Savannah! As you rightly say, February is not a nice time of year so it’s lovely that you have something to look forward to

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      • Our family away day in Feb started out of a conversation along the lines of ‘we’re going to work to earn money to buy presents for you who are going to work to earn money to buy presents for us!’ I think there might have been a bit of a rude word in front of ‘presents’ but it was said in fun and thankfully prompted a serious conversation about how stressful and expensive the whole thing was becoming. This year I’m putting some money into the pots for: a new laptop, 2 bicycles, a scooter, a new pair of trainers. So all five of the littlies get a lovely big present from ‘everyone in the family’ plus the two moms and dads only have to buy one other big present and then some little bits and pieces.

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  6. I haven’t yet started my Christmas planning this year, although it has become so much more enjoyable since I simplified everything and I now buy gifts for my immediate family only. I hadn’t realised how stressful it had all become until I made the change. X

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  7. I’ve long given up on the idea of a perfect Christmas. I was for a while trying to emulate the British way of Christmas so that my children wouldn’t feel they are different from their friends but have since reverted to the more sedate affair that is Christmas in Switzerland. It is a bit early to wish you a happy Christmas but I hope your plans work out for the best. It is sometimes difficult to break with previous traditions but good for us, too.

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    • Thank you for joining in, Christina. You’re right, tradition can be hard to move away from, but it’s nice to start new traditions . I hope you’ll enjoy your Swedish Christmas

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  8. I am pleased to hear that you have made decisions that will make your celebrations less stressful. When my husband and I retired 7 years ago we stopped buying any presents for anyone who was not at school and this includes birthday gifts. Of course we asked the family not to buy gifts for us (this part does not work so well). I can’t tell you what a relief it has been not to have the worry of finding suitable gifts. Each Boxing Day we have a big family get together in a family members house but everyone takes a dish and a dessert or cheese and we eat buffet style.

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    • Sounds like you have it nailed, Pam! I think the stress of finding suitable gifts is underrated. It makes me smile when magazines talk of ‘stocking fillers’ at £30, £50 etc! Stocking fillers to me always meant the likes of chocolate coins!

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  9. I agree Eloise! Our daughter’s and eldest grand-daughter’s birthdays are both in November, so it was an expensive time for us.

    We have whittled Christmas down over the years with full agreement from family members.Then last year our daughter suggested that we and her partner’s parents should only buy for our grand-daughters. So that is what we did which makes it much easier and more affordable and the only other person we buy for is my husband’s mother. We don’t buy for each other, haven’t done so in years as it was just buying for the sake of it. All of this combined leaves us with a stress free Christmas.

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    • Most people agree that the only expense is a pain! It’s about finding what works for each family and enjoying spending time with ech other

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  10. Your Christmas meals sounds like a wise and lovely plan, Eloise. I have three adult children who have in-laws, and children, and it is just too much for them to fit everyone in on Christmas Day. We have secret santa. It started at $100 and very quickly went down in price the following year. (chuckle)

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  11. Hello there,
    Yes totally “get ” this! Our family is forever growing – 3 grown kids plus their other halves, 2 grandchildren with another due in the New Year – so last year we started Secret Santa for the adults and normal gift buying for the children. It was definitely a success – in fact we’re doing it again this year. As for dinner on the big day, it’s my turn this year and tbh I’m not relishing it. 10 adults plus 2 littles is hard work in a small house!!

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    • A big family is a lovely thing but it is expensive. My husband was one of ten children….imagine that! I like the Secret Santa idea but would only want to do that if we were all together on the day.

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