Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Christmas... Peterson Style

With the Christmas season full on, things get a little crazy. I think that a special season like we have just shows the imbalance our society has every day. It's just my opinion, but I think our human nature is too prone to do everything to excess. Except serve God.

A few years ago we started looking for ways to change the emphasis of Christmas from GETTING to GIVING. Can you imagine how long it takes 9 children to open all the gifts on Christmas morning? Gifts aren't bad. I love giving gifts. I love receiving gifts. I love seeing my children enjoy gifts. But I hate the greediness which comes at this time of year.

We were already moving toward this train of thought two years ago when I went into labor shortly after church on Christmas eve. Interestingly enough, Mercy Noelle joined our family at 12:57 ET on Christmas Day (the time zone of the hospital, and therefore her birthday), but at 11:57 CT (the time zone we live in.)

So now we had a child with a birthday on Christmas day, we had the Christ child's birthday to celebrate, and we wanted to get away from the greediness of getting gifts being the emphasis. Sound like an impossibility?

So here's the traditions we have come up with... see what you think of them. We love them.

On Christmas Eve we celebrate the Christ Child's birth. We go to church for some acapella carols and a candlelight service. It is the children's favorite service of the year. This year I am going to add a birthday cake and ice cream when we get home, and a special breakfast. We also use our Nativity Set to tell the story of Christ's birth, with flashlights working as spotlights.

Christmas day is Mercy's birthday. She is only going to be two this year, so we will just do gifts and cake. As she gets older she will be able to pick her favorite meals to eat also. We do have friends over for a late afternoon dinner and usually the helicopter crew flies out to join us. I can't see that people should be lonely for Christmas. So Mercy is the only one of our children to get birthday parties with people outside of the family each year. How's that for lucky?!

No, we don't do gifts on Christmas day. We start gift giving and opening on the days following Christmas. Each family member gets their own day. So we open the grandparent's gifts on one day. Aunts and Uncle's gifts another. We assign a couple children per day on the days after. This enables all the children to get lots of attention, photos, and love on the days they GIVE their gifts, not on getting them. On Emma's day to give gifts, she gets a photo with each of her brothers and sisters, along with what she gave them. If you were the scrapbooking type (I'd like to be, but am not) you could make a scrapbook page for each child on the day they GIVE them.

We divide things up between the 6 days from the 26th to the 31st, with Eric's and my gifts (usually we spend between $30 and $50 per child... this year will be closer to the lower amount. Less if we can find nice gifts cheaper) being given on New Year's Eve.

Then it's New Year's Day. The children LOVE our New Year's Day traditions. We usually buy a couple games for them to open that day, and we play games and eat junk food all day. They are allowed to each pick their two favorite snack foods. We start the morning with donuts and cinnamon rolls. Warming them up is the only cooking I do all day. We have deli lunch meat (a treat for us all) and rolls for lunch. We eat junk the whole day. They love it.

I know that many of you have family nearby you need to work into the holiday schedule, and you share children, so things like this are not possible. But I encourage you to take a look at your traditions, think outside the box, and figure out how to put the emphasis on Christ and giving rather than on receiving a long laundry list of way overpriced gifts.

Now if I could just find the time to put up a tree and write a Christmas letter I'll be golden.


  1. I love how you extend the celebrations until New Years. I was always disappointed as a kid when the hype of Christmas morning was over and playing with my new gifts was over by dinner time.

  2. I think those are great traditions! I like the one with New Year's day!

  3. Great traditions! I am always interested in seeing what other big families do!
    Love the new blog! Great look!

  4. It is funny how similar some of our traditions are to yours! About five years ago we started the same idea of one person giving gift each day following Christmas. Each child gets a day to give theirs, my husband and I give our gifts to the children one day, then on the days that various relatives visit (we try to make this for a day between Christmas day and New Year's) the children will open the gifts from them. The family and friends out of town who send packages each get their own day as well. After opening packages we will then sit together and write thank notes and "blessings" to the sender for the New Year. We have found this is a great way to make sure no ones thoughtfullness is lost in the abundance of gift giving and receiving that comes with a family of 9 and it really helps to keep the focus of Christmas away from gifts and on our Saviour.

    We have always given games on New Years, too! We spend New Year's Eve playing games together and eating junk food and continue through New Year's day. In the evening of New year's Day we often have family and friends in to celebrate with us.

    Glad to meet you.