All is calm: celebrating the simple beauty of Christmas
It’s the crazy time of year! Well, so everyone reminds you throughout the busy days of December. The malls all want your money and everyone else wants your time (and a plate of your best Christmas baking, while you’re at it). Stress and feelings of overwhelm seem almost inevitable, but wherever you sit on the faith spectrum, surely stress shouldn’t have the last word in the Christmas story!?
Former Ohbaby! Magazine editor Ellie Gwilliam took a deep breath and jotted down five ways to keep calm and celebrate the simple beauty of Christmas.
1. Babies don’t need presents
Without sounding like the Grinch, babies and even toddlers under two actually won’t remember their Christmas presents – nor care how much you spent on them. Of course it is in a parent’s nature to want to give gifts to their beloved children, but there really is no need spend a lot of money – nor any money at all, if we’re really honest! Sure, baby’s first Christmas stocking looks super cute hanging by the fireplace – but you, I mean Santa, could simply fill it with pegs, pretty pieces of fabric, plastic cups for stacking, a tennis ball, a shaker made out of a plastic bottle (filled with dried beans or lentils, maybe even some glitter, and with the lid glued on tight)… cheap and cheerful! Besides, there’s a high chance doting grandparents will deliver gifts of the store-bought variety, and if you yourself really can’t resist the pull of the toy aisle, why not buy something for an older child and donate it to a charity organising gifts for under-privileged kids?
It’s funny looking back – our firstborn had all sorts of things to unwrap (and forget about amongst the excitement of the moment in which ripping paper was encouraged!) on her first ever Christmas morning. Four years later our youngest had a shaker I upcycled from a plastic bottle and a stuffed toy snake I made out of fabric scraps. (I can’t remember what the middle child got, and neither can she – I guarantee it!). All three are loved completely equally though.
2. Have candle-lit dinners (out of reach of little hands, of course!)
Pinterest is glistening with all sorts of lovely festive decorations you can create for every corner of your house. Some years I manage extra trimmings, but other years I’m all good intentions, very little follow-through. What I do always make sure we have plenty of in December though are candles. Any meal can be made all the more special when you light a candle or two. I also have a pretty little wreath that sits in the middle of the table, with some candles in the centre. It gives me that high-achieving Pinterest feel every time we sit down to leftovers, but it really takes no effort at all. And sarcasm aside, the gentle flickering light of a candle flame is genuinely calming, and family mealtimes are often where we need that influence the most!
And for more on this sentiment, check out Lisa-Jo Baker's blog on the topic of simplifying Christmas
3. Christmas movie date nights
A side effect of Christmas seems to be that my husband is more tolerant of chick-flick movies, and – more honesty – I’ve made a tradition of exploiting that. We spend a lot of December rushing from one thing to the next, but one of my favourite things to do when there's a spare evening is turn on the Christmas tree lights and snuggle up on the couch with hubby and Love Actually, The Holiday or Bridget Jones… plus a plate of Christmas treats of course.
4. Grandparents love homemade
I spend hours each year trying to think of the perfect Christmas gifts for my parents and in-laws, only to realise that they pretty much have everything they need and, generally speaking, don’t want clutter. What they can never get enough of, however, is anything made by or starring their precious grandchildren! Framed kindy art, photo albums or calendars created online, and kid-made bead necklaces and Christmas decorations have been some of the highlights under our family Christmas tree in recent years.
5. Away in a manger
Our Christmas decoration boxes also contain a pile of Christmas picture books that we pile up on the coffee table every December. Reading to my children is a great way to slow down and cuddle-up. It’s also a great way to mull over the big questions – like what is Christmas all about?
While Santa has a pretty efficient PR department working on his behalf, the truly life-changing events of the original Christmas get far less air-time these days. Children are curious and most will have at least a vague notion of an over-booked inn and a baby born in a manger. We’ve made a tradition of re-telling the nativity story at our place each year, and setting up nativity scenes using a wide range of materials – from Lego to dolls 'house funriture. It’s always such a delight to see how the nativity scene gets re-arranged in the lead-up to Christmas – step aside gold, frankincense and myrrh, this year Jesus has had some Shopkins delivered to the stable.
Merry Christmas! May your family enjoy a calm and bright festive season.