When my kids were very small, our family resided far away from “home” where we had grown up and where our families lived (Arkansas). It was a near-sacred tradition that we be home with our extended families on Christmas, but like all young families, we also wanted to create our own family traditions and have our own Christmas with just our little brood. Obviously we couldn’t be two places at once, so we would have our family Christmas before leaving for Arkansas—a few days before Christmas. The funny thing is, we moved back to Arkansas when the kids were young, but we continued our tradition of having our family Christmas two to three days before the 25th. We still gathered with extended family on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, so we still celebrated to some extent on the actual holidays, but the majority of our gifts were opened in time to make returns before others had even opened their gifts!
Little did I know when this early-Christmas tradition began what a favor it would be for the whole family. Fast forward ten, fifteen, twenty years. My children started getting married and, wouldn’t you know it, their spouses’ families also had a ‘sacred’ expectation that all their kids gather for Christmas (or Christmas Eve). Again, the kids couldn’t be two places at the same time, BUT they didn’t need to be. Our Christmas NEVER conflicted with anyone else’s! Talk about a stress reliever!
We still celebrate Christmas early (that’s how we are able to get reservations to a nice restaurant as mentioned in the the Simplifying post on gift-giving; we’re not going out on the actual holiday when most businesses are closed). This year my family gathers on the 22nd. More than likely, by the time you celebrate Christmas, we will have made any necessary returns, taken down the Christmas tree and all the decorations, cleaned the house and be working on plans for the New Year.
Pros and Cons
There are only two cons that I have encountered in the 30-something years I have been celebrating Christmas early. Con #1 is you have less shopping days when you celebrate early. This week I was actually about to order a gift online because the site promised delivery by Christmas. In my mind, it is so settled that “Christmas is whenever you make it,” that I thought the order would arrive before the 22nd. Thankfully, I came to my senses and did not order the gift. The solution to this con is obvious. Regardless of when you exchange gifts, there are always going to be those last-minute purchases. For me, “last minute” just comes sooner than for most. I don’t really consider this a con, but rather a fact of life.
The other con is a brand new one I never encountered before last year. On Christmas Day I got on Facebook to peruse what was going on amongst my friends, and there were posts and pictures about family gatherings that were going to take place that day, about hurried preparations for those gatherings, and the proverbial Christmas morning pictures of little ones getting their first glimpse of their gifts. Strangely, it left a kind of empty feeling in me. All my Christmases before last year were spent engrossed in making plans for the new year and reading and doing whatever else I wanted to do because the world at large was pretty silent. I don’t suppose I had ever been much into Facebook before, and so last Christmas was the first time I had ever experienced that sense of everyone-but-me-is-having-fun-with-their-families-today. The solution? Stay off Facebook on Christmas and maybe even on Christmas Eve. Simple enough, don’t you think?
As for pros…
- The main pro is that your Christmas will generally not conflict with other family Christmas gatherings. Scheduling is a breeze. Your in-laws and their families will love you for this!
- Not having to work around numerous other events is a great stress-reducer.
- Some families accommodate the stress of “where to spend Christmas?” by alternating between families on Thanksgiving and Christmas—”Thanksgiving with my parents this year, Christmas with yours. Next year, the opposite.” I always have my children and grandchildren on Christmas because there are no conflicts (I believe there may have been a couple of exceptions, but it wasn’t due to scheduling).
- Because you celebrate early, you can make any necessary returns while others are still shopping!
- Because of the previous fact, you will also avoid the long lines for making returns.
- Christmas Day is all yours! The rest of the world will be busy. Do something wild and crazy. Last year, Steve and I drove about an hour from our house and went on a nice hike. I spent my day with the guy who had no other priorities but me!
One last thought. Just think how much money you could save if you celebrated Christmas AFTER the 25th?
Have I challenged a “sacred cow” in this post? Would you be comfortable celebrating Christmas on a day other than the 25th? Or are you wed to the actual day? Leave a comment!