For the last 7 years our family has looked at Christmas differently, and celebrated it differently. While at times the changes that we have made have felt like we were one in a million, the spirit and benefits for our family were well worth it.
Seven years ago, we moved to Missouri. A great place, but foreign to us at the time. We both had come from the 'city life' mentality, and always hired someone else to do anything that we needed, and had learned to do little for ourselves. We tried to keep up with the Jone's and give our children all the latest and greatest things, and have new cars, a new house, and things that we really could not afford. That way of life, really hurt our family in many ways.
When we first moved to Missouri, we lived in a little place called Buffalo. The population sign said that it was a town of 3800 approximately. We had many miraculous experiences, that resulted in immediately being offered housing to rent, and then soon after that land. The people that we met in that area changed our lives forever. Never had I seen such humble circumstances, nor kind and generous people that seemed to have very little. No matter how little they had, they always were going about doing good.
We learned to live with less because of their examples. To make it do, or do without. While it took quite some time for us to adjust to the different cultures we ran into, it was the best choice we had ever made for our family. We learned how to live a simple life. We didn't have a lot of stuff, a lot of anything really, other then love for each other, the land, and our neighbors. We had many struggles, ones that surprise people when we talk about them still, but they were blessings.
Being around humble people, and having made the commitment to not go into debt, we lived on a cash only basis. We learned how to make use of what we had, and tried to fix it before buying anything, and when we bought, we tried to make sure that it was high quality and used.
Our Christmas changed dramatically. We focused on Christ only. No Santa, No huge long wish lists, and we turned off the TV forever during this time too.
Our new tradition was to have a manager that was empty, and to add pieces of yarn each time we did something for someone else, or someone had done something that we thanked them for, and filled the manager with the love we have for each other. Then on Christmas Eve, we put a baby in the manager, all nestled and snug in the love that we had shared. The children made homemade gifts, cards, artwork,, and other creative things, one of my favorite was toilet paper roll dolls and paper crowns and jewelry. My husband and I would make homemade gifts as well. I sewed many things by hand, since I did not have a sewing machine. All of us learned how to make blankets, scarves and hats on weaving looms, and besides that, we would give our children a treat.
We taught our children that Santa Claus represents Christ. And also how Heavenly Father gave us the greatest gift, and that was His Only Begotten Son Jesus Christ. Who willing atoned for each and everyone of us, because he loves us. Santa also represents that we should share that love with others. Now our children will often respond to the question "What do you want for Christmas?" with an "I don't Know" because they have been focused on what they want to give to others. Recently, after returning to Utah, they have had something they will say they like, but it is generally a very touching answer. Our oldest daughter last night, was asked what she wants for Christmas by a man dressed as Santa, and she replied "A Happy Christmas" that would be the gift that she wants for everyone, that they have a happy Christmas.
This year, things are harder then they have been in a long while, but the children really do not realize it because they are able to still give, and they are also being given to by others. It is quite humbling, and a blessing at the same time to be where we are now, and experiencing what we are, but our trials have always turned out to be blessings.
May you have a Happy Christmas!