Grandma's Simple Christmas

12 Blogs of Christmas with M. L. Gardner

When I was young I remember spending more than one holiday season at my grandmother’s house. I remember long evenings with homemade cookies, lots of chocolate pudding and watching claymation Christmas specials under blankets that she crocheted. What I don’t remember is the hustle and bustle holiday madness that I experienced later in life. After I grew up and began the planning, cooking and shopping for my family, it quickly became a headache laced chore to get everything done, not to mention the stress and worry of financially pulling off a ‘perfect’ Christmas. I’m not sure whether I am just more susceptible to the stress or if it’s truly gotten out of hand for all of us. What I do know is that it steals the joy and peace of the season from my family and I. As each year passed, my family noticed that I decorated a little less, baked a little less, basically did a little less of everything so I could fit it all in. And worst of all, I was glad when it was all over, and I could take a rest. I don’t ever remember my grandmother being glad Christmas was over. In fact, she was a little sad as she put away the decorations and the blue and white china nativity set that I now own.

For years I didn’t know how my grandmother managed to pull it off, tree, gifts, food, shows, games and fun, all without breaking a sweat. Luckily, I had a chance to ask her before she passed away.

Grandma worked her whole life as a waitress. She never amassed a fortune and lived on a very small retirement check. She had to plan carefully so that her grandchildren received a little something special from her on Christmas Day.

Grandma never showed up empty handed. She'd begin her Christmas shopping on January 1st buying one small gift (or two if there was a good after Christmas sale) and putting it in her Christmas closet. It was actually her clothes closet, but the top shelf was reserved for Christmas presents year-round. After paying her bills each month, she would add to this shelf, tracking which child she’d bought for and keeping an eye out for other affordable gifts. She'd buy the last gift December 1st and then spend one afternoon wrapping. The rest of the month was for family, baking, relaxing and watching those adorable claymation shows that I still look forward to every year.

She never acknowledged that this 'system' allowed her to keep the season simple and relatively stress free. Instead, she lived and breathed the Christmas spirit year-round. As a child, I remember that joyful spark in her eyes when she excitedly told me, at Easter, that she’d bought my Christmas present. It didn't matter that Christmas was months away because for my Grandma, it was always in her present.

I’m sad to say that I've yet to recreate Grandma’s version of a stress free Christmas. I’ve tried for several years and started out well, buying in January and February. But usually by March I get distracted, there are projects and planting and trips to plan for summer. The magic of Christmas gets lost as the temperature grows warm, and I have yet to hold on to it all year. Then, Thanksgiving rolls around and the madness ensues.

I think this year I might not pack away her blue and white china Nativity. Perhaps if I look at it through the spring and summer months, I’ll be reminded of a holiday season where family, food, and claymation Christmas specials take center stage and do a better job of planning for it. That’s my Christmas wish, anyway.

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