Or ‘The Spawning of a new Christmas Myth and the Death of Tradition’
Christmas is my absolute favourite time of year. I love everything about it. The lights, the decorations and, most importantly, the surprises. I love shopping for people and planning menus. There isn’t anything I don’t like about it.
Okay, that is not technically true. There are several things I don’t like. I am not fond of having the same conversation every year with my hubby.
“What do you want for Christmas, My Love?”
“Besides sleep, what do you want for Christmas?”
Seriously, you could use that conversation as a fixed point in time. No passage through the Space-Time Vortex can change this one moment in our year.
And I don’t love haemorrhaging money. How expensive has Christmas become? The pressure the media put on us to give more and be perfect examples of domestic goddesses at this time of year is becoming unfathomable. Stores start advertising Christmas earlier and earlier, trying to get us to part with more and more money. And I cannot say I am immune. I love to give gifts. Watching people’s faces light up when opening something I have meticulously chosen because I think they will love it is a wonderful feeling.
The Death of Tradition
Fair warning here, if you are looking for Christmas ideas that involve a traditional roast lunch with brussels sprouts followed by getting drunk and starting a family argument, you’re not going to find it here.
For starters, I live in Australia. There is no other day that you would think, ‘it’s so hot outside that the countryside is melting in a Dali-esque manner, I think I’ll turn the oven on and heat the house up. A hot meal is exactly what we all need and I’ll feel so much more festive, relaxed and refreshed after standing next to a 180 degree oven making gravy.’
For me, Christmas is a time to share some fun, bonding time with my family. To flex my imagination and plan a day I know everyone will enjoy and file away in their bank of happy memories to look back on.
Growing up my mother gave us wonderful Christmas’ full of fun and joy. Traditional, but with one difference to all the other family Christmas’ I have been lucky enough to participate in over the years. And it is a tradition I have brought forward to my own family.
As children, presents lasted all day for us. Not because there were so many or because we had lots of money. Farmers in South Australia are not likely to top the highest earners list any time soon. It is because we did not open all our presents at once.
Before breakfast we got to wake our parents up and find out what Santa had brought us in our Christmas stocking. Then we would share breakfast as a family, always something a little fancy rather than the usual farm fare, and afterwards we were allowed to open our gifts from Mum and Dad. While we played and enjoyed what we had been given, Mum would prepare lunch and, if it was a late harvest, sometimes Dad would have to go out and work until lunch time.
After a huge, traditional roast lunch we would be allowed to open the gifts from extended family.
So this conversation happened one Christmas lunch on a farm far, far away –
Me, fussy eater, about 12 years old “I don’t like turkey”
Mum, genius, great cook and master manipulator, “You haven’t tried it before. It tastes like chicken.”
“I don’t like it.”
“Well that’s why I cooked a chicken and put some slices down the bottom just for you.”
Me – happily takes my ‘chicken’.
Grown ups – silently in awe of my mother.
To add to this gradual opening of presents, we took turns opening the gifts under our tree one at a time. One child played ‘Santa’s helper’ and handed out the gifts under the tree to people and each one was opened and appreciated before the next gift was opened. This little slice of delayed gratification was wonderful in that we not only learned early on to feel excited when other people are happy and to be a part of each other’s joy, but learned to appreciate each gift and the person who gave it.
For years I had no idea that other families opened all their presents first thing in the morning and then it was just lunch, rellies and napping for the rest of the day. Last year I mentioned to my mother that I loved that she did this and she told me she had started it because she felt bad that it was often just the four of us for Christmas. The majority of our family lived a six hour drive away and we couldn’t leave the farm unattended at that time of year. Potential bushfires, stock and harvest time all formed a perfect trifecta of reasons we were housebound on Christmas Day. I am so appreciative that she found a way to make us feel like Christmas lasted all day even if we weren’t travelling around to spend time with family like so many other people.
A Present Free Christmas Sarcastic Whimsy style.
Two years ago our children, masters of patience and delayed gratification, decided that they would like to go without gifts for two years in order to put the money we would usually spend on Christmas on another family cruise. Have I ever mentioned that I love them? They are fucking awesome! No seriously. They are bloody brilliant.
No gifts, huh? How do you do Christmas without gifts? I started thinking and came up with a genius idea. It was pure brilliance. It was perfect… it was also not to be. Just as I started putting all the pieces in place for my no-present joyfest, we got notice that we needed to move house and all our energies were put into that. Once settled I quickly realised that our new place was not suited to this idea. In fact, we soon realised that our new abode was not suited to us in general. Too small, too ugly, too falling down. But I digress as usual. I was talking about my idea. An I idea that I am keeping quiet about because I am certain I will use it at some stage all all and sundry will continue to be amazed by my brilliant idea.
After much thinking, I settled on my new no present Christmas idea. I can tell you that there is a lot of pressure in finding an idea that will make everyone in our diverse clan happy for Christmas without spending much money.
I cancelled Christmas.
Yes, you heard me.
I cancelled Christmas.
As you know, I have teens. Teens are notorious for sleeping in and being lazy. And I have a husband who isn’t particularly occasiony. That conversation we have every year pretty much sums up his attitude to Christmas. He is the antithesis of me. The yin to my yang. The Bert to my Ernie. The Lano to my Woodley. The Grinch to my Cindy-Lou. You get the idea. He’s the sensible one in our relationship that makes sure I don’t get hit by a bus when crossing the road. Road crossing can be dangerous when you’ve been distracted by butterflies.
As discussed, every year when I ask him what he wants for Christmas, he answers “sleep”. And when I push him, because that’s a crap answer, he responds “nothing.” And while my children are fun and wonderful people, I feel that his influence on them is not altogether good. When asked what they want for Christmas, my girls often respond “sleep”. BASTARDS! The lot of them! Spoiling all my Christmassy excitement. Seriously, I am the first one awake on Christmas, waiting for my children to get up and discover what I have done for them. I am so excited that it is hard not to jump on them the way they used to jump on me at 5:30 am on Christmas Past.
The Spawning of a New Christmas Myth
Without gifts to deliver, Santa wasn’t actually necessary to the equation.
So without further adieu, I would like to introduce <underwhelming fanfare please>
The Christmas Sloth fully supports sleeping in and doing nothing all day.
Present Free Christmas
My children woke up to letters left outside their doors from the Christmas Sloth explaining that Christmas was cancelled. Santa had been… detained and with any luck would be able to visit in time to bring them their cruise in a couple of years.
In the spirit of spending the entire day slothing around, I made personalised pyjama t-shirts to celebrate the newly created holiday. Five dollar white t-shirts from Big W, some iron on transfer paper from eBay (much cheaper than buying it at Officeworks), a little googling (original image found here) and some photoshopping went in to making everyone their own Slothsmas 2016 t-shirts.
I love that my almost grown girls stepped over their letters and t-shirts because they were more excited about surprising me like they used to as tiny children. I’m using the word ‘surprising’ loosely. Two very noticeable lumps (actually, there were four very noticeable lumps on top of two daughter sized lumps) gave away their presence under my duvet when I stepped out of the shower. And just like I used to ten years ago, I pretended not to know they were there and loudly made a to-do over the fact I was tired and would just lay across my bed to nap. Quarter of an hour of giggling and snuggling later, the girls had still not made a move towards the doorway surprises they had walked past earlier.
Unfortunately, at this point Hubby was nowhere to be seen as his pager had been rather uncouth by piercingly summoning him to a fire call before the girls had woken from their holiday slumber.
After making their way back to their rooms to get dressed and discover what was awaiting them outside their doors, it was time for breakfast.
Walking out to the living area, the children found a box from the Christmas sloth. This is where the term ‘present free’ gets a little hazy, but I still stand by it as this is less of a present and more of a box-o-relaxation-and-happiness. Ours was a low-spend day, not a no-spend day.
The girls, who are much more patient and amazing than I am, did not make a move to open the large box wrapped in plain brown paper and string. Personally, if I had seen a mystery box filled with potentially mystical things at their age, I would have been dying to open it. Who are we kidding, if I had seen that yesterday I would have been dying to open it.
But those children are better humans than I am. They were waiting for their Daddy to get home so he wouldn’t miss out on any Slothsmas surprises he had helped orchestrate. Knowing that our favourite Grinch would feel bad thinking everyone had put their morning on hold waiting for him to get home from his call out, I told the girls that they were amazing and thoughtful, but to go ahead and open the box.
Inside were things like paper plates, plastic cutlery and glasses, popcorn kernels and paper popcorn cups, a few dvds they’d been dying to watch, a bottle of Baileys (well, my favourite Aldi knock-off that costs $14 instead of $40), a cheap puzzle and a pack of cards and teaspoons. Everything had been purchased at the $2 store with the exception of the DVDs and $10 jigsaw puzzle. All in all, this box cost $106. And most of that was DVDs, our family love watching movies.
While they opened their box of goodies and took selfies with custard (I kid you not), I made breakfast. I had already made all the food we were going to need for the day and had used disposable bowls and trays to serve it on. We had everything we needed for a day free of work, including dishes and cooking. With all the preparation done the day before, I only needed to reheat the croissants and take the fruit platter and spreads out of the fridge. Served on paper plates and disposable trays, there were no dishes to be done at the end of the meal. Everything went straight into the waiting bin liner.
There could be only one thing more relaxing than a chore free day in front of the TV with food laid on. And that would be if that chore free day had a swim up pool bar included.
Fear not! The Christmas Sloth had thought of everything. Upon opening the blinds to the back patio, the children were met with this:
What’s a good Aussie Christmas without a swim? We don’t have a pool, but that was not going to stop me from giving everyone a swim up pool bar. A tiny wading pool, a blow up palm tree, leis and flamingo fairy lights from Kmart all came together to create the most giggle inducing tropical swim up pool bar you could imagine. Twenty-four dollars well spent.
So there you have it. Not counting food, our entire Christmas without presents cost us $160. It was a day full of joy, laughter, and abject laziness. Hubby’s parents came over for lunch, bringing cold roasted turkey and ham with them. I had done all the preparation possible for the accompanying salads the day before, needing only to cut a few last minute fruits and vegetables up and drizzle dressing over our fresh feast. A languidly slothful day had by all enjoying each others company.
And now, Christmas is upon us for another year. And the stores are still pressuring us months in advance to buy, buy, buy. So in the spirit of Slothsmas, I am going to be posting more Low Spend Christmas ideas in the weeks to come. Last year the Christmas Sloth ripped a hole in the fabric of space and time and we ended up stuck in the 80’s for the day. This year I have a True Blue idea that will knock their socks off and give the Christmas Sloth an excuse to drop the F bomb several times.
Merry (Impending) Slothsmas!