New Holiday Tradition

Posted by Dutchman Friday, December 18, 2009

This is our second year of a new Christmas tradition for my sons and I. We celebrate the gift giving part of the holiday in a different way. This is mostly for logistical reasons as well as a little bit of rebellion against the whole concept of "surprise" gift giving. Basically, we have removed Santa Claus and his Christmas delivery system from the equation.

Before I continue, I must warn any parents or adults reading this that you may want to close your eyes or leave the room, as this whole concept is not recommended for normal parents, and could have an adverse affect on your mental stability.

The modification of our Christmas celebration started back in 2002. That was the year that their mother left. Many of her influences left with her. The day after Thanksgiving, was when she usually opened up all the boxes of Christmas decorations, and assembled the "tree". I wanted to keep things as normal as possible for Zach and Tyler, so we did the same. I also put the white icicle lights out over the garage and across the roof over the front door. What we didn't do, was stick around to open gifts that year under the tree on Christmas morning. Instead, we travelled to Illinois to spend the holiday with my parents, sister and her family. Upon returning, it hit me how odd it was to have to set up all the decorations, when we weren't even there at Christmas. Of course, you could argue that we still need to get into the spirit of Christmas. Remember though, I was a single father with two young boys (age 5 and 7), worked a full time job and maintained a home. Any chore that wasn't all that necessary was candidate for elimination from a hectic lifestyle.

After Thanksgiving in 2003, I wondered if the decorating tradition was worth starting. I pulled out the icicle lights for the front of the house, but then asked the boys if they wanted to put them up. They both replied "no", stating that they never liked those white icicle lights. "Why can't we have colors?" Well, white was sort of their mother's thing. That year was also their mother's turn to have them at Christmas. Our logical conclusion was "why waste time putting up and taking down decorations". I should note here, that had there been a daughter, this would probably not have happened. But, we are GUYS. All the decorations remained packed away under the basement stairs. They have not seen the light of day since. In odd years, Zach and Tyler are at their mothers. Even years usually see us travelling to Illinois.

Gift giving, or more correctly, gift receiving changed also. Since most odd years, the boys have been with their mother on Christmas Eve and day, they can't open their gifts from me on Christmas morning. Every other year, we have to come up with an alternate day. The question becomes, should we pick a day before or after Christmas. A lot goes into this decision. You have to consider available weekends. Their mother has parenting time on the first and third weekends of the month. Weekdays are out, as what kid wants to open presents and then go to school. If not a weekend, you have to wait until school is out. You could celebrate on New Years or after they come home from their mother's place, but what kid wants to wait until after Christmas to open their gifts. So, in odd years, we've often ended up opening gifts as early as the second weekend of December.

Last year, an even numbered year, we planned on travelling to Illinois. The boys really didn't want to open gifts in Illinois, as they knew most of the things for which they were asking, would be of no use in Illinois. They wouldn't have their game consoles, guitar amps, DVD players, and other items. So, we opted to pick an earlier weekend. With our busy schedule of baseball lessons and practices, marching band and parades, school concerts, and basketball games, there just wasn't much time to go shopping. We spontaneously came up with a new idea. (Parents, quite reading here!) We got up on the second Saturday of the month, had the traditional cinnamon rolls and OJ for breakfast, and headed out to do our Christmas gift giving. I told the boys what limit of money I would spend and we would go out and purchase items off their Christmas wish lists until that amount was reached. This was quickly accomplished, as all the items they wanted could be found at either Best Buy or Guitar Center. These two stores are next to each other in Flint, Michigan, which was a 45 minute drive through the country. Thus, we fought no traffic, no crowds, made our purchases, and the boys were home enjoying their gifts by 1:00 p.m.

Yes, this would seem to spoil the whole concept and surprise of Christmas morning. But in even years, we still do that, usually at my parent's home in Illinois. In odd years they have Christmas morning with their mother and her parents. So, we haven't completely destroyed tradition. We've just made the whole shopping, waiting, waste of "wrapping paper and bows" thing go away. It is much easier, faster, and a lot more convenient. And don't most children end up getting the things on their lists as gifts anyway? Are they really all that surprised anymore?

This year, the boys go with their mother. I asked if they want to do the same as last year, and their resounding answer was "yes, sweet, excellent".

Last weekend, we went to Best Buy and the outlet mall at Great Lakes Crossing. Our home is a very popular place now. All their friends can come over and preview the video games, electronic devices, movies, etc. for which they have to wait until Christmas morning.

It works for us!


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I'm a middle aged divorced father living with my two sons. We like to canoe, bicycle, fish, camp, play baseball, and spend money when we want and where we want, without permission from anybody. HA!


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