Monday, November 29, 2010

Handmade Holiday - How our journey began

Post Edit...I have made a few explanations throughout this post to answer some emails...
As I mentioned yesterday, this is our 3rd year doing Handmade holiday. We are still evolving with this event and so far, I really like where it is going. Let me give you a bit of the background on how we got to where we are today.... This is a long Christmas story.....

I LOVE Christmas...I mean, I REALLY LOVE decorate my little house (approx. 3000 sq. ft)  with at least 5 Christmas trees...change all the dishes in the kitchen over to holiday decorations...etc.

I DESPISE commercialized Christmas....I hadn't been to the mall or to the big box stores during Christmas for over 1 1/2 years until last year. When my older 3 children were little we went over the top every year with their gifts ~ and I always felt awful about it. I always felt like it was too much..and it was!..Yes, I am aware that it was my choice to buy those gifts....

My husband and I have always taught our Children (based on his Ukrainian heritage and my German/Irish heritage) about the story of St. Nicholas, the Magic of Christmas, the Christmas Spirit, and the gift of Giving.

As the years progressed with the older 3, we began to alter our gift giving strategy because we didn't like the excess and the 5 foot Christmas list (literally...) of toys that they didn't really need or want, but had seen commercials that made them crazy for that toy! We began to explain to them, that they could make their list as long as they wanted, but to really highlight the TOP 3 because ~ St. Nicholas brought children 1 present and it was always a handmade toy...and Jesus only received 3 gifts from the, they would only be receiving 3 "toy" gifts from Santa and the rest will be Mommy/Daddy presents.

Fast forward to 3 years ago when we were fast approaching Christmas and all commercial toys were looking the same to me and my babies (Lily was just over 1 at the time) toys were all being recalled! Ta Da ~ handmade Christmas emerged into our lives...I had been reading in blogland about this concept and I adopted it and adapted it to our family.

We have tweaked it each year and thrown in a few challenges here and NO big box store purchases last year....that was fun, and it didn't work because two kids wanted electronic items that we were forced to purchase at a major retailer!
Part 2 of our Story...The Gig is Up~Santa
As I mentioned earlier in this post, we have always taught our children about the real meaning of Christmas, and tried not to just focus on the Big Guy in a red suit! Last year I read a book called The Glass Castle, which is a true story and very moving. It brought a deep dark fear/belief of mine to a head for me no~my fear is NOT that I am crazy!....the mother who was TRULY crazy in this story had what I believed to be, a moment of brilliance, when she explained to her children that just because "Santa" didn't bring them tons of toys or ANY toys, it wasn't because they were less deserving or bad kids.  She popped the Santa bubble for them because they were VERY poor and couldn't provide for their children what other children were being given. BUT she wanted her children to know without doubt, that they were worthy of the best in life. I give this woman credit for nothing more than the explanation of Santa For me...It brought to light the fact that I didn't want my children to think they were less worthy or bad because they didn't get TONS of presents from "Santa". I didn't want to go into debt to keep up with the Jones...I saw that at times we bought for our kids because we wanted them to have what "other kids" were getting - to be equal - to not feel like they were not as worthy. Our financial situation is obviously much better than the family in the book, but I don't like the way people put themselves into debt to give to their children, and I refuse to do so.... The recession brought a new twist to many families and for our growing family, with a small business in a small town, this was no different.

My older kids had already started to not believe, based on school and their age...So...I sat my three older children down and we talked about Christmas and Santa.... I never came out and said that Santa didn't exist, but we talked about whether or not we believed that Santa was a big guy in a red suit who came down the chimney? Did Santa bring their friends BIGGER gifts (say a pinball machine) because they were a better kid? ...Or was it just luck of the draw? ....Or was it because their parent had more means than we did? In the end we came to the conclusion that The Spirit of Christmas is where the real magic is, and spending countless hours as a family, making crafts and foods together ~ to share ~ is truly the beauty of Christmas.I recently mentioned in conversation that our older kids know the "truth" about Santa and one of the women I was talking to had the saddest look on her face and said "Awww..." but honestly, the truth has been quite wonderful. To me, to see my kids really embrace the spirit of Christmas and make it magical for the ones that they love ~ especially their little sister has been quite wonderful.

So we focus on Handmade, we give 3 Santa gifts, Mom and Dad give gifts that they may want and may one is missing out! Etsy has been a wonderful treat for handmade shopping! Sometimes Santa and his little elves have to visit the box stores to produce one of their gifts - but Santa really loves the Internet so much better than the actual store!

PLUS...this is the reaction you get when you are really committed to your Christmas list!

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