DOWN TO EARTH SIMPLE LIVING FORUMS

DOWN TO EARTH SIMPLE LIVING FORUMS
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2 December 2013

Getting ready for Christmas

We're coming into the danger zone, a time when we all have to watch what we do, stop listening to the incessant Christmas advertising about buying the biggest and the best, and commit, again, to living true to our values. Of all the times of the year for falling off our frugal wagons, this is the worst. Those Christmas advertisements portray loving families, happy children and attentive parents but they're using those images to pull the money right out of your pocket; and they have no shame, they know it works. Christmas has stopped being about religion or family for many people and has become a free for all, with a lot of showing off afterwards. I think it stinks.

Last year's Christmas cake.

Christmas is about family for me and this year we'll have two Christmasses. We'll have a family lunch on Christmas day with Kerry, Sunny, Jamie, Jens, Cathy and her mother Kathleen, then visit Shane, Sarndra and Alex a few days after to enjoy it all over again. Now we have grandchildren the fun has come back to Christmas because we see it all through their eyes. We don't go to church, we gather together and enjoy each others' company. We always have a family lunch, usually with the foods we all love and have grown up with - ham, chicken, roast pork, potato salad, garden salad and home preserves. Along with the beer and wine we'll also have homemade cordial. Dessert will be a tropical fruit pavlova and there is always Christmas cake, heavy with fruit and nuts. I'm hoping to make that in the next day or two; I've had the fruit soaking in brandy for three weeks.

The day after Christmas we have another tradition to enjoy - the Boxing Day Cricket Test Match at the Melbourne Cricket Ground; we watch it on TV. The test goes for five days and it's one of the highlights of the sporting year in Australia. Boxing Day is also the day the sales begin. It's many, many years since I took part in the post-Christmas sales. I always keep an eye on whether we will need towels, sheets or pillows during the coming year and if we do, I'll buy them at the Christmas sales, but I'll go sometime in January and I'm usually in and out of the shop in under an hour. I don't go looking for things to buy.

For us, Christmas is the time we celebrate our own family, we share good food, add some spectator sport, I take note of the sales but I'm not obsessed by them and our focus is on family rather than on commerce. We'll put up our tree and lights in the next week and start wrapping presents. It's a little bit early for us but I want Jamie to enjoy not just Christmas day but the season as well. He's been learning about Santa at kindy and this is the first year he's felt the excitement and wonder of it all. I think Alex will be the same and I'm looking forward to him telling me about Santa when we visit. I doubt I'll be here to see Jamie and Alex with their own children so I intend to take pleasure in every bit of the lead up to Christmas, the day itself and our Christmas visiting.  What are your plans?


34 comments:

  1. Hi Rhonda. I abhor the frantic January sales and feel frustrated that people stress and spend so much time preparing for Christmas but instead of then sitting back and enjoying the period with family and friends, they rush back to the malls and buy more things. I think this is a very sad state of affairs. We love Christmas and I intend for the four of us to be cosy and enjoy simple things like walks in the woods and board games by a cosy coal fire. I have made Christmas puddings and a cake which I will share with my Mum. Hope you have a good week. Lily. xxx

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  2. Our plans for xmas are as follows this will be the first time in our married life 42years that we will wake up and it will be only hubby and me. We will have an easy breakfast fresh fruit and yoghurt then we are going out to my sisters to have lunch with her and my mum, then it is home to have tea just salads and ham with our children 4 and their partners and 4 grandkids, the sad part is that our eldest son wont be here he now lives in London.

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  3. Rhonda I agree, my husband had to go into our town yesterday. It was heaving, I'm glad I don't like shopping & only go when I have a reason. I guess all yesterday's shoppers would say they did have a reason!
    Best wishes,
    Angela (south England) UK

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  4. We love Christmas. This year we will do Christmas Day and the Grandparents will come to us. We haven't decided on hot or cold fare yet but will probably go with cold and avoid a hot kitchen. If we do go with hot, the meat will be cooked the day before and placed in gravy so it doesn't dry out leaving just the potatoes and veg to cook on the day. I cooked our Christmas cake last night while we had the Grandparents round and we all decorated the tree; it's become a tradition, and then my Husband always places the angel on top. We are behind with present shopping this year due to health reasons and will probably do that in 2/3 short shifts this year ! We have set a budget and it was useful to look back to last years list on Excel and see what we bought and how much we spent. On Boxing Day we will go over to the Grandparents and like you Rhonda, do it all over again! I try to ignore the commercialism and most of the junk mail goes straight into the wheelie bin without ever making it into our home! I think twice about all purchases but it never seems to affect us having a great day. We go to Church on Christmas Eve and enjoy Carols by Candlelight.

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  5. I agree with your sentiments about the disgusting commercialism that Christmas has become for a lot of people. I love all the preparation and making small gifts for friends, and usually enjoy an "orphans Christmas".....getting together with a bunch of friends who like me have family and grandchildren in far flung places if my son's not joining me. Sadly my daughter and grandchildren are in USA, so our Christmases together are few and far between. I'm waiting for the grandkids to be old enough to fly on their own and come visit me! I like the idea that children learn Christmas is a season, not just a day. My daughter does this with her 4, she's baked with them since they were little, or they made gifts as they got bigger, and through Advent and until 6th January, they would visit elderly neighbours, women's and homeless shelters and give out their gifts. The kids have learnt it's not all about the one day when they get a pile of presents they don't really need. They still get as excited about the planning for who they'll visit and what they'll take.

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  6. Hi Rhonda

    You make some fine points about not getting caught up in the crass commercial that masquerades as Christmas. It is important to have family traditions that reflect your values and to stay true to them.

    This Christmas will be a little diffeernt for us. We will be travelling to Melbourne to spend a few days with our younger daughter who lives there. My mother will be coming with us.

    Like you, we also have the opportunity to delight in the joy of the season through the eyes of a child. Our granddaughters will be 6 and 4 this year so are heavily involved in some of the lead-up activities. They will be spending Christmas this year with their father so we will not see them until a few days later when we come home from Melbourne.

    As an aside, I am interested in how other people handle the issue of birthdays close to Christmas. My elder granddaughter will be 6 tomorrow and her mother has made a very conscious and considered decision that there will be no Christmas activities until after Miss O's birthday. Obviously, she cannot control outside events but I think that it is admirable that she has chosen to focus clearly on the birthday celebration and significance that it holds.

    Wishing you and Hanno a peaceful and loving Christmas as you share it with your family.

    Fairy xx

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    1. Fairy, I'm delighted to read of "no Christmas activities" until after your granddaughter's birthday. Growing up we never put up the tree or any decorations until after my dear dad's birthday on the 16th. This year he will be 83 (!). I head up to Tauranga to stay with them on the 13th and come home on the 30th.

      Rhonda - ours will be a quiet Christmas with me taking over my Folks' kitchen while I'm there. Dad and I have each had a rough year with our health so Mum, Dad and I will be taking it easily and enjoying each others company. We too will watch the Boxing Day test from across the ditch only, being Kiwis, we'll be cheering on England!

      I hope you all have a happy and joyful time, Michelle in Wellington

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    2. Hi Mickle. I'm sorry to read you and your dad have been ill. I hope you're both on the road to recovery. I hope your cat is fine as well. Take care.

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  7. I observe the Winter Solstice, which this year falls on a weekend at last. We do have a special meal on Christmas Day, but that's as much down to having the time to ourselves as anything else. We met on New Year's Eve, so that's a special day too in our house.

    So three fancy dinners here.

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  8. I have a young daughter, 6 yrs old, and I love the magic that is Christmas through her eyes. I've always loved the day, being with my family and sharing a meal and a few presents. I did try and convince my almost 90 yr old nan (they matriarch :) ) that we should stop all the presents of things we don't need and do a Kris Kindle, she wouldn't have it. So, I've decided for the majority of the gifts I will make them this year. Shortbread, fruit mince tarts, mini christmas cakes, rosemary salt and duck fat (I will render down from a roasted duck), and spiced nuts . All the presents will be wrapped with my daughters art work from through out the year and if time permits an appreciation note in their christmas cards. I am avoiding at all costs the frantic, self induced business of previous years and feel quite calm and relaxed knowing I'm prepared. My family is quite sentimental, so I know they will be surprised but pleased with my 'new' gift ideas.

    A sale is not a sale nor a bargain if it isn't required!

    For anyone who can fit one more thing into December, I'm starting a Decluttering Challenge for December on my blog www.agluttonouswife.blogspot.com It is a copy of the one Rhonda held in August. I'd love company!

    Warm regards
    Jan

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    Replies
    1. Oh Jan how marvellous - all those home-made, hand-made gifts sound a treat. Lucky people receiving those gifts. Hope you manage to find the time to do it all - good luck. Mariana x

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  9. Family time again for us. I’ve picked up some lovely books through the year for the kids and some little presents that I know they will use (for longer then a week!). From halfway November it’s time to stay away from the shops and malls, preferably supermarkets too. The things bought after this date I’ve only regretted. No radio or television in our home to tell us what we need. Family time with games, some fresh meals and rockmelons straight out of the garden, some home baking and doing some crafts with the kids. I’m looking forward to do something special about the Summer Solstice, the longest night.

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  10. Because I made all the gifts early I feel I'm kinda safe. I have been seeing "specials" on the tv and I think ohh that will make a nice present for so and so, then I remember already made them something. So I think I have already saved myself about $100.00. And that's not taking into account the money I saved by making everything. Score!

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  11. We'll be spending Christmas at home with family. We have made our own traditions, such as a New Year's Day walk with friends which always finishes with tea and cakes in our kitchen. We've scaled right back and this year, almost all the presents are home made and consumable. None of us need any more 'stuff'. Like you, I feel deeply uncomfortable with the commercialisation of Christmas.

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  12. Hi Rhonda!
    We'll be arriving into Australia from freezing Germany next week (12/12) just in time to get settled in and spend Christmas with the family. A small group of us this year but no doubt full of love.
    Hope you're well.
    Bec

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  13. Due to DB`s earlier redundancy in April this year, and still being unable to find a work placement, we are keeping our Christmas frugal, fairly low key and easy. I`m decorating the living room with my recycled deccies from last year, as it all looked so elegant, then. I don`t find anything wrong with repeating the same theme for this year. It also means that I can keep things child friendly and save, as on Christmas Eve we shall have a visit from my youngest son, his wife and baby daughter. Little Alyssa is now 9 month old and will enjoy her first small Christmas presents we can give. I`ll be making short bread biscuits and a chocolate log roll filled with whip cream and cherries as treats for afternoon tea. There will be a buffet style dinner for all of us that night, consisting of home made bread rolls, a few different cheeses and ham. We are no alcohol lovers, so I shall prepare my non-alcoholic mixed berry punch for us. Christmas day is going to be a quiet affair in my home. But, there will be a small turkey to roast to feed DB, his son and myself. Nobody likes traditional British Christmas cake or even plum pudding, so I shall prepare a simple dessert made with whip cream and crushed meringues, drizzled with my festive plum couli, instead. We will possibly watch a little TV during the afternoon if the weather is nasty, otherwise I might well take a walk on the wild side to work off the turkey meal. Dinner will consist of another small buffet and then we might be in bed by 10pm. Boxing day we shall have a late brunch and then will look forward to a rare evening at a restaurant. Stepson is treating us to it, so how could we refuse? That pretty much concludes all our Christmas activities and food consumptions. We just look forward to spending quality time with family and loved ones. My daughter and eldest son live further away but we shall be in contact through phone calls over Christmas. After that it`ll be back to business as per usual.

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    1. Looks like you'll be having scrumptious food, lovely company, restful & peaceful christmas. Enjoy.

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  14. Rhonda, Christmas is a quiet time for us since our daughter left home and since my mother died a few years ago as we always made the annual drive on Christmas Day to have lunch with her. My grandchildren won't be here so there won't be any excited littlies running around. So Christmas Day will start with church and then a simple lunch with my elderly sister. Now that the shops are getting so ridiculously busy, I will be only visiting them first thing in the morning or in the late afternoon. I'm really not into the whole 'buy this buy that' mindset and never have been.

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  15. Rhonda I have just sat down with morning coffee after making six little Christmas cakes for gifts this year. They'll go to all sorts of people from my elderly neighbour Joy to my young nearly nephew who is in a big share house, I'm well over the annual commercialism. Tony was here when I opened your post and he says "Yum yum slightly overcooked edges -- I love the crunchy bits."

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    1. I think Christmas cakes are one of the best gifts. For people who love fruit cake, there is nothing better than a home made one. Tell Tony I always have slightly burnt edges because I think it's too much to put the newspaper around the cake tin. And like him, I love the crunchy bits.

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  16. Well, yes, Christmas has definitely been hijacked by the merchants here in the U.S. But so has Thanksgiving Day. The past couple of years stores began opening around 8:00 P.M. on thanksgiving day and this year most were open by 1:00 P.M or so and a good number were open all day. I've read in a couple of newspapers that that this is because of consumer demand but I just don't believe it. People go because the stores are open and the stores open because they assume that people will spend more with an extra day of shopping available but my guess is that it will just spread out whatever buying that was going to happen anyway and not produce any additional revenue. So sad.

    Victoria
    Indiana USA

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  17. Christmas in our house is all about fun fun fun, games, giggles and a good food. I have a Christmas budget and stick to it. What money allocated to that family member I haven't used buying or making gifts, I make money envelopes for with left scrapbooking supplies and give them the left over money, therefore no searching for or stressing about presents. My dad retired last year and even though he has a very comfortable retirement fund, he still like to live the simple life. Last Christmas I bought my dad bulk supplies of toilet paper, clothes washing liquid etc and he loved the idea. I do my dad's present shopping for him and because he is retired now I halved his gift budget. I thought it was a good lesson to teach my kids about life changes and stages. Merry Christmas All

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  18. Christmas holds an image of sentimental value to many people. Business try and corner in on that "feeling" by portraying all you could ever want and all that Christmas is, problem with that is all of your Christmas sentiment boils down mostly tradition ( you make those memories) you can't buy those things and a lot of people feel rushed and empty trying to attain something by price rather than by building ( building tradition, memory, meaning and value)
    Ok, you can buy everything but it will have no value unless it has try meaning. I don't think on the other hand people should demonise Christmas because of the wastefulness and excessive consumerism of others, it can truly be a time of peace and reflection

    Bottom line is

    It's up to you
    It's what you make it.

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  19. I'm looking forward to Christmas this year as I am no longer working in retail! It used to suck the love, fun and happiness right out of this period for me. The over-commercialisation, the advertising, the falseness.... This year it will be relaxing with the family. I've asked friends and family not to buy presents for Christmas of my birthday which is on Boxing Day. If they want to I've asked for World Vision and Animal Shelter donations instead of gifts. I've decided to gift things like home made ginger cordial, cakes, biscuits, artwork an such.

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  20. You describe a real challenge. I think we have to tell ourselves that we decide for ourselves. We can decide to close our eyes to the outside pressure. It is really challenging with older children, but I feel that we have made a good platform for them through the years, always showing them what we feel that life - and Christmas - should be about. That we MAKE Christmas, here at home; we do not go out and buy it! We do a lot of crafting with the children in December, I knit and sew some of the presents, we bake and cook - and we go out in my family's forest to find our Christmas tree.

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  21. Just the two of us for Christmas here. We put up the tree a week before Christmas, but otherwise don't decorate the house other than with cards we've been sent. I make mince pies from about the same time, and shortbread. I will have bought a few other "sweet" treats as well (and hidden them from the chocolate addict in the house). We have a "traditional" meal in the evening, with all the trimmings. As we live far away from the rest of the family our gifts are of the voucher or cash variety, so that "giftees" can buy what they like. For too many years our Christmas was frantically busy as we worked until the last moment, and then catered for the family. While it is sad that we don't see family members at Christmas now we treasure the time we have together.

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  22. Thank you for this dose of sanity and reserve. I've struggled more with the holiday hype this year than any other. I'm working up to blog about it, but you said it so well. Thank you!

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  23. I was just talking about this commercialism and opportunity for retail shops the other day. I think it is on a lot of people's minds. We always celebrate Christmas at home. I always cook traditional foods, and we buy our Christmas gifts with thought: who really would appreciate or needs what; and those little gifts that make life pleasant. But there is no overspending or frantic worrying about goods. I get sad at this time of year for those who do not have much and have to feel that they must rush out and get what they need at those horrible hoops the retailers make them jump through: opening up at ridiculous times and their having to go to get just what they need at a decent price they otherwise could not afford. But it is also a happy time of year, and it points to those unfortunates people who are waiting our help. If I did not know who they were; I could not get the chance to help make a difference in their lives. My Christmas wish is for everyone to have a happy home, enough to eat, and some friends to share with.

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  24. I am increasingly uncomfortable with the spend, spend, spend Christmases. We have cut right back on presents and expenditure. Like another reader, I too suggested that we cut out adult presents in the family but neither of our mothers were happy with it, so I feel under pressure to return presents to them. This year, I have made their presents and will again stress the message that we are not comfortable receiving so many gifts. We have everything we need (as do they) and a lot of presents seem to end up in charity shops or are just not used; very wasteful in my frugal view!

    I love having a family day together with no distractions of school or work, enjoying lovely food, nice bottle of wine and playing some daft board games.

    Christmas can be a lovely time enjoyed in a simple, frugal way with the people we love.

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  25. I love your idea of Christmas , last year we went to Melbourne and spent Christmas with our family ,well most of them. It was a magical time and one I will remember for a long time, this year will be a very quiet Christmas as I'm going into hospital for surgery on the 18th and be there for 5 days. However we have Skype and we can see and talk to the family on Christmas. We live in Tasmania and they are in Melbourne and Brisbane , so I wish you all a very happy Christmas and a safe and healthy New Year .

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  26. As I sit here alone writing this comment I realise all I want is for my immediate family to be around me and to hear the incessant chatter with the kids, the laughter,playing the outdoor badminton or table tennis like in the old days. Hubby has been in India for a business trip the last two weeks, youngest daughter has been in Europe for the last three months, I haven't seen eldest daughter in Melbourne since August nor my wonderful son managing his father's outback property since July!

    I see my quirky wallaroo lying on the doorstep, my feisty orphan calf through the window (growing up nicely) the 'pensioner chickens' following me and chatting to me as I let them out and I realise I'm not that alone.

    I plan and hope for a beautifully laden table with all the bells and whistles, very few gifts, and the opportunity to show and tell my kids how very proud and pleased I am for the choices they're making in their lives. And to spoil them terribly with lots of food on offer.

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  27. This year we are having a family get together and having a BBQ Christmas lunch. I only buy for the kids, my husband and my mother. I set a budget and stick to it. I search the net for sales and buy online. I tend to get more for my money that way. :-) But yes Christmas is more about family, not what present you get. I like to buy what people need rather than just buying anything. Or give the kids cash...which they usually prefer. Have a great Christmas with your family. This year has gone so quick. :-)

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  28. Long overdue in catching up on my blog reading, but even though its not so timely I wanted to say how much I enjoyed this short and sweet post. I am often so perplexed by the commercial nature of Christmas as it is so frequently now acted out. You're right. It stinks. Matt and I had a lovely holiday with family and I was so pleased that our homemade gifts were received with such good spirit. As it should be, I think.

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