Even with that heavy on our hearts, we still wanted to move deeper into a more spiritual and less worldly celebration this year. We talked for many months about how different we wanted to do things this year. We spent much less actual money and gave more of our time. We put a large focus on handmade gifts. Though that did stress me out because I didn't budget my time early enough, it was still a highlight of our season. We spent the entire month of December doing an advent focus with the kids. Instead of just reading/telling the story once or twice...it was daily. The kids TREASURED that time. I thought after the third or fourth day they would be reluctant. I was pleasantly surprised with how much they actually looked forward to that time. We didn't travel. That was hard at times, but it was the right decision for us. It did feel VERY strange at times to see large family gatherings and not be involved in one ourselves, but not having that extra stress was just what we needed. We didn't get caught up in the rushing around wearing ourselves too thin.
Of course, not rushing around and traveling paid off when the majority of our house came down with flu like symptoms. Thank goodness we didn't have to deal with the disappointment of cancelling plans! That would have REALLY been tough!
Though we did make very big strides in making this year have a more holy focus and "simple", I'm sure there are things we will want to add or subtract next year. However, there is something else we did this year that pleasantly surprised me with how well it went.
We said goodbye to Santa.
I said it. Yikes. No hate mail, please! :)
Bradlee is absolutely at a perfect age to have fully enjoyed that tradition. It would have be fun and I'm sure he would have had some sweet moments, memory makers for sure.
We just couldn't take that approach in our family any longer.
Now let me say this: we DID do Santa with the other kids. We loved the "magic" of Christmas Eve and Christmas morning. The sparkle in their eyes was adorable.
Yet, the lies were convicting. It took bigger lies to "keep" our little kids believing. I couldn't do it any longer.
Bradlee is one of those VERY deep thinkers (for those of you that REALLY know him, you know exactly what I'm talking about). I KNEW that even at age 5, I was going to have to tell some pretty big lies to make him believe for more than one year!
I (we) also had the problem of how much "Santa" distracts from the real meaning of the season. Years ago, I don't believe it was as much of an issue. Times were much more simple. You could TRULY embrace both aspects and do a good job of balancing them. But now....the push of greed, "give me more", etc.. is just too overwhelming. We are seeking to change our mindsets to that of contentment, less greed, more giving, less "wants", and being less like the world. To push that as our focus and THEN turn around and push Santa on him just didn't feel right in our hearts. I would cringe every single time I heard someone say "Santa is watching" or "if you do that, Santa won't come".
It was a tough decision. I REALLY struggled with it. Such sweet memories of our older kids on Christmas morning. I didn't want to not have those with him. I didn't want to rob him of any childhood memories, imagination, or "magical moments" (of course I don't really mean magic, I just don't know how else to word it!). I don't even have a problem with the majority of the world having Santa visit their house. It just wasn't for us. We didn't tell Bradlee that Santa doesn't exist....we just didn't bring it into focus. We focused so much on the real meaning that to be honest the "Santa" version really didn't interest him. He made a couple of comments through the season, but it was as if he already saw it as "just another way" of doing things.
I should have not worried. I should have embraced the peace that came with our decision long ago.
He didn't miss a thing. He had the most joyous Christmas morning. His enthusiasm was contagious. His laughter still pierced our ears. His eyes sparkled. Oh yes, they sparkled!
We still had presents. Instead of from Santa, they were from us. Instead of being countless gifts that would get lost within week, we focused on one main gift and two very small ones. (Bradlee's main gift was MUCH cheaper than the big kids, so he also got some school books/games to make up the difference. Though he didn't care so much about those. LOL!)
They still had their gifts to each other.
Laughter didn't lack. The excitement of going to bed on Christmas Eve with new jammies and "wonder" of what they would open still was there.
The rest of the day was spent serving dinner to well over 300 individuals that would otherwise have been alone that day. They loved serving. I, unfortunately, was heart broken to have to miss and watch through pictures since I was still running a fever. Even today, they are still talking about people they met and the things they observed.
The rest of the night was enjoyable as well. Out came their new board games that we played as a family. It might have got just "a WEE bit" competitive at times. Laughter might have been just a tad contagious. Eyes sparkled.
It didn't take the man in the red suit.
We ended the day with a special birthday party. A birthday party for Jesus. The boys were VERY proud of doing the cake themselves. Yes, they made a mess....but it was priceless. There were also two special cupcakes. One for my Dad celebrating in heaven. One for Kevin's Mom celebrating in heaven AND celebrating her birthday as well.
Christmas looked different this year. I loved it. Yes, I had some moments of a VERY heavy heart....but that was unavoidable. Yes, I most GLADLY could have skipped having the flu visit! Otherwise, it was the most wonderful time of the year! Simple Christmas-----mission accomplished! Not once did it have to come from the man in the red suit!