Answering Christmas Questions

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Good morning! I'm mining the archives today to answer one of the questions that keeps popping up. Before we get to that, a quick answer to another.

Do you decorate your house and put up your tree for Christmas before Christmas, during Advent?

And the answer is: Yes. Yes, I definitely do. When I am expecting a baby, I ready the environment well before my due date. I wash and fold tiny clothes. I freshen the co-sleeper. I find the carseat inserts. I rearrange bedrooms or dressers, as necessary. And I pretty much clean my house from top to bottom and stock the freezer and pantry. It's what I do. I do it knowing that I labor far more peacefully and my postpartum is much smoother when I have prepared my environment. On December 25, our family welcomes the Baby. Hearts and homes are prepared well in advance.

How do you do gifts and shopping and stuff for a family that big?

Wait! One more thing before we get to that answer. This advent is busier than ever for us, because we have a Christmas wedding sparkling on the horizon December 29. And my thyroid has decided this is a great time to flare, so, I'm going light on first-time content here in the next few weeks. But...I'm happy to find things I've shared in the past and freshen them with new photos, especially if they answer your questions right now. So keep asking please! Now, onto to the shopping and gifting strategy:

I buy for nine children, several godchildren, several nieces and nephews, three sets of grandparents, and assorted other people. But I think what you want to know about is how the Foss family handles Christmas presents in its own household.

I am a minimalist. Sort of.

Until 8 years ago, every child got a stocking and then three gifts (in honor of the wise kings bringing the Holy Infant three gifts). Eight years ago, we moved into this house the week before Christmas. That year, I had six children twelve and under, including a nursing baby, and we moved ourselves. I had to pack the entire household, move it, and unpack it again. If I held to three gift plan, I'd be hiding and then transporting 18 gifts for the children alone. The chance that something would be lost was keeping me up at night. The idea that all those piles had to be just right according to the formula struck me as ridiculous. As our family grew, keeping the numbers "fair and balanced" had started to take away from the meaningfulness of the gifts I was choosing. In an intentional effort to simplify, streamline, and become even more thoughtful, we made a decision to buy each child one meaningful (and a bit more costly gift) each instead of several gifts each. A tradition was born of necessity that year.

There is no towering mountain of presents on Christmas morning for my children to tear into with reckless abandon. But I am not a Scrooge. Far from it. We celebrate wholeheartedly.

And generously.

We fill stockings on St. Nicholas Eve and open them to celebrate his feast.Every child receives gifts from godparents and grandparents, most of which are opened at a big, extended family party in our home. Every child draws the name of a sibling for whom to buy a gift (with some help from Mama if they are small) and those are opened before dinner on Christmas Eve.Finally, there is one thoughtful gift for each child awaiting them when we return from Midnight Mass early Christmas morning.

Despite the numbers, I am not overwhelmed. More importantly, they are not overwhelmed. I don't encourage a big, long "I want" list. No effort is made to be sure that everyone's "pile" is equal in monetary value. Instead, Mike and I choose one gift that we know will speak to the child--one thing that we are sure will make them smile and let them know they were carefully considered in the choosing and the buying. It's a plan that works for us because we've found it to be beautiful in its simplicity.

 (psst: Those ties on the new drapes? The drapes are in training so they'll hang properly;-)