Christmas 2023 highlights

7 min read

I am not a huge Christmas person. Not in a grinch-like-I-hate-Christmas kind of way. More in a “wow this is a lot” way. There are so many expectations. So much concentrated time with family. Such full schedules and so many things to spend money on. So many emotions. Etc.

In some ways this feels even truer since becoming a mother. There are even more things on the calendar now, more expectations, more pressure. However, somehow I managed to escape all that this year. We did a fair few festive things – I made an Advent calendar for SJ, we went to some Christmas-related events, got a Christmas tree, decorated and even baked cookies.

But all of those things brought me joy. I think so often we do things because we feel obligated to make Christmas magical for our families. Rather than because we enjoy them. I feel super grateful for a very festive but chill Christmas season.

One thing that I found particularly helpful to keep stress levels to a minimum, was a rather minimal approach to presents.

Minimal presents

This year, we decided as a family (my parents, brother and sister in law) to not give each other Christmas gifts. We only bought things for each other’s children. In recent years we often ended up just getting things of wish lists or exchanged a bunch of vouchers which felt a bit pointless. So, this was really a great decision. Buying gifts for children is a lot more fun than for adults anyway!

Another thing that helps me not stress about Christmas presents is that I generally don’t take responsibility for getting gifts for my in-laws. Edd and I might discuss ideas but he makes the final decision and is responsible for buying and sending the gifts.

Also, this year Edd and I decided to only give each other books but nothing else. I love researching books for Edd and picking out stories I think he will enjoy. Even better when I can get what I booked through our book store. I support a local business and they wrap the present. Winning!

For SJ we got one big present (some knock-off Magna tiles). Edd got her two books while he was in England and I also bought her a Montessori chopping set. That was all. And most of it was sorted before December even started.

I know that some people absolutely love giving gifts. I do when I have a good idea. However, often I don’t and then it is just so stressful. Plus, buying something for so many people in one month always puts quite a strain on our already rather tight budget. Going minimal on presents really took a lot of pressure off and kept worries about money to a minimum.

Some things that brought me joy during the Christmas period

SJs re-used advent calendar

I shared in a previous post that I made an Advent calendar for SJ. When my brother and I were kids my mum sewed 24 little gift bags that she then filled for our family. They were hung on a pinboard by our dining table. As we opened the gift bags each day, the board became emptier. The bare spaces were then filled with Christmas cards we received.

I always loved this idea so did exactly that – with the same gift bags that my mum made around 25 years ago. Reusing our old family Advent calendar felt very wise in terms of budgeting and also environmentally friendly. So that made me rather happy!

Taking the principle of “reuse, reduce, recycle” even furhter, I got out an old playmobil set that I played with as a child – a little stable with a bunch of animals. Each day SJ would find another animal in her calendar that she could then add to the stable. It was so much fun for both of us. It was super easy and stress-free for me to put together and really special for her.

Celebrating St. Nikolaus day

In Germany, St. Nikolaus Day, which happens on the sixth of December is widely celebrated. Children put their shoes out the night before and they then get filled by Nikolaus with apples, nuts, oranges and sweets. The local Catholic church hosted an events on the day for children where they told the story of St. Nikolaus and sang songs about him. Doing all that was already pretty magical for my 2-year old! But then St. Nikolaus himself turned up and he had a gift for every single child. It was pretty awesome.

Also, I gave some Nikolaus treats to a couple of our neighbours and it was just really fun to play Nikolaus myself and do something nice for others.

Taking SJ to a Christmas concert

Another highlight was taking SJ to a concert by Daniel Kallauch. He is a Christian singer who makes music for children. He was already around when I was little and I used to be a huge fan – especailly of his Christmas album. My parents still tell me how we had to listen to it in the car one year on our way to our summer vacation.

I found out that Daniel Kallauch was still active and that he was giving a concert in a nearby town. Me and a friend took our girls there and it was just so special. They both loved it and he played some of his old songs which made me very happy.

Also, I saw a bunch of people I had seen last around 15 years ago at youth services and now they were all there with their kids. It felt very much like a full-circle moment.

Reading the Christmas story

I read a number of different versions of the Christmas story to SJ and it was really interesting seeing it through her eyes and thinking about what she might notice, hearing this story that I know so well for the very first time.

Two things in particular struck me in a fresh way. One: the fact that animals get mentioned so much. Jesus came to save and redeem all of creation. Humans in particular, but animals are also affected and blessed by his intervention in our world. Two: if someone told me today that they had discerned some truth by studying the position of the stars I would shake my head and dismiss it as new-agey astrology. However, the three wise men did exactly that. Most likely they had never heard about the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. And yet they came and worshiped baby Jesus as King. How amazing that Jesus lets himself be found through so many different ways.

A relaxed family Christmas

We had a lovely Advent but our Christmas celebrations were also very lovely. We spent Christmas eve with my parents, brother, sister-in law and our nephews. It was a lot of fun but also loud and chaotic – so very Christmas-like indeed! I love my family so much and feel so grateful to live so close to all of them.

Christmas day was super relaxed. We spent the day just as the three of us. We had sourdough waffles for breakfast, video-called Edd’s family, opened and enjoyed our presents, went for a walk and had some good food (that I had pre-cooked a few weeks ago and then put in the freezer).

On boxing day we went to the Zoo together with my dad. We had dinner with my parents and played. It was really nice.

I hope your Christmas was also relaxed and full of joy. And if not – it’s done now! You made it through. Easier times are coming.

This post is day 3 of my 12 days of blogmas challenge. You can learn more about it here.

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