The Scrooges celebrate Christmas.
December 27, 2011

I think that if most people looked at our family’s Christmas this year, they would proclaim us horrible failures.  No tree.  No tinsel.  No popcorn strings.  No stockings on our mantle.  No pile of gifts.  No lights on our house.  No pictures with Santa.  Really, it’s a good thing we live four houses away from grandparents with a festive spirit.

We only gave Charlotte one gift – a book – and although we bought the materials for Donald to craft a tricycle for her and for me to knit a doll for her and have an old entertainment center just begging to be converted into a play kitchen, none of those projects is finished.  When people asked what our daughter wanted for the holidays, I told them to take her to a park or donate to a children’s charity.

We cancelled all of our holiday gatherings and plans when Charlotte was diagnosed with whooping cough.  We did not take her to the beach, as per my family’s annual tradition, because we were worried about the sand and the cold air with her lungs.  (We have an appointment later today to see how she’s doing, but at this point everything indicates that she is recovering beautifully and we are just being overprotective for no good reason.)

Enjoying the easel my father crafted for her.  This is true love.  Also, my grandmother makes Charlotte a nightgown every year – click here if you would like to see Charlotte in last year’s nightgown.

But we had each other.  And in the end, I think that’s all that matters.

We woke up together in the morning and laughed and told stories and laughed some more.  We sang.  We boogied.  On a short afternoon walk, Charlotte found two empty snail shells to add to her collection.

We admired my parents’ tree and the stocking my mother cross-stitched for her when she was an infant.  We took a nap in the sunshine, all piled together in the bed exhausted after a morning of fun.  We stopped and chatted with our neighbors.  We saw the people who matter most to us in the world.

Something tells me that when I look back at my life, I won’t remember the gifts piled under a tree or how long it took us to make a play kitchen or the tinsel spread across a mantel nearly so much as I will remember that when my family had a few moments, we spent them happily together.

Our gift to Charlotte was a book - and countless hours of reading it!

Very happily indeed.

I hope that everyone is enjoying the happiest of holiday seasons.  Have you made any fun memories?

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  1. By Cindy A on December 27, 2011

    Good for you guys!  It is not the things that make the memories, but us whom make the memories.  Whatever memories you make are what you will remember :)  We did more traditional christmas things I suppose but still enjoyed being together as a family, because that is what counts.  <3

  2. By on December 27, 2011

    I love your Christmas it sounds perfect! We did it all, read the books that explained Santa, put up the tree, the lights, the stockings, left out the cookies and milk, everything. Then on Christmas morning Aiden woke up, came out into the living room and asked “WHO DID THIS?!?“ I answered “Santa came last night!!!“ he said “NOOOOOOO You did it mommy! THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU”. At least you said thank you right?

  3. By christy on December 27, 2011

    agree!  grandparents saved my child too.  all he was going to get was 3 hand-me-down toys and then santa decided to wait until like february to get those out; you know when 2 feet of snow is out there and we REALLY have cabin fever! 

    it is all about being with and playing with family on Christmas anyways!!

  4. By tara pollard pakosta on December 27, 2011

    I love that you guys just were TOGETHER, that’s all that matters!!! I have heard of this cute tradition and wish I would have started it with my girls. it goes like this, for Christmas they get 4 presents: “something to wear, something to read, something they want and something they need” LOVE that!!!
    My house is overrun by American Girl Doll stuff!!
    Glad you were together and she’s getting better!
    she’s got to be the cutest smartest little girl around!

  5. By Amber on December 27, 2011

    Sarah, this sounds perfect—all you need IS each other, and the snuggles and the laughter and the memories of togetherness!

    I have to admit that Christmas can be a bit of a lonely affair around my home. We are super broke, really busy trying to keep our business afloat and often it seems that we work into the wee hours every Christmas, and our tree, though gorgeous, is bare underneath. The great thing, though, is that we turn it all around with that togetherness you mention: on the couch, snuggling with three cats, turn on the fire ...

    ... plus, of course, I made “California Christmas Dinner” aka tacos, and I am not lying, my cooking can turn the tide! I treasure these days because I learned far too young that you can never count on having tomorrow with those you love the most. It is more important than ANYTHING ELSE to spend time with those you love, and to “turn that frown upside down” and appreciate the present moment.

    Anyway. Thanks for your comment on my blog this morning, it was much appreciated, and I am so glad Charlotte is recovering well from her whooping cough! :)

  6. By Mailis on December 27, 2011

    On the contrary.

    I think you’re doing it exactly right. Jude got lots of presents, got super overstimulated and stayed up way too late. 2 days in a row. Poor little guy is still not quite himself. Don’t get me wrong…he had an amazing time, but, I still think I may have to re-evaluate this Christmas thing and keep it simple next year. He had just as much fun with the empty boxes, as is generally the case with all children.

    Happy Holidays… :) Glad to see Charlotte is still on the mend.

  7. By Mailis on December 27, 2011

    Oh, and I totally recognize that book. As a direct result of that wonderful story, Jude thinks cats fly when we are not looking. I will never tell him otherwise.


  8. By on December 27, 2011

    I have so much admiration for the way you choose to celebrate Christmas!

  9. By carolina on December 27, 2011

    i think what you’re doing is awesome. charlotte will remember more the reading time and the night gowns and this blog over many many gifts. What was the book you chose to give her? How did you choose it?

  10. By Sarah Christensen on December 27, 2011

    Carolina - Let’s hope she only remembers the good parts of the blog! =P The book we chose to give her is actually not pictured here.  The book pictured here is Caramba, by Marie-Louise Gay (and autographed!  so cool!) and it’s one that my parents gave to Charlotte.

    The book we gave to her is a collection of Pere Castor stories in French.  I found it at Children’s Book World in Los Angeles and I’d heard of Pere Castor but never read any of the stories.  The first one I flipped to was about a zebra who was taunted because his stripes were in reverse - white stripes on black instead of black on white - and I was totally in love.  So it’s not a great story, but that’s how we picked that book for her!

  11. By Alicia S. on December 28, 2011

    You are such an inspiration to me in so many ways. And even though we’re very traditional in our holiday celebrations, I love to hear about yours, and the ways that other readers celebrate too. Growing up, it really never even dawned on me there could be so many different ways to celebrate within a person’s own culture.

    Ours have evolved so much in the past five years, just trying to figure out exactly which traditions fit our family best; cause the least stress; and pack the most fun for everyone. This year, for instance, instead of baking cookies for Santa - which is usually more stress than it is fun with three kids ranging from pre-teen to one - we spent Christmas Eve making jarred gifts (dry ingredients for gingerbread cookies, a bag of candy for decorating them, and a handful of cookie-cutters) for all of our family. It was a lot of work, but it helped to teach the kids a valuable lesson in how much effort everyone else puts into the gifts they give to them. Santa just had a jarful of red and green M&M’s left out for him, and carrot sticks for the reindeer. Way easier, and with the jar wrapped in a ribbon and jingle bells, it made for a cute decoration the next day too. It’s something we’ll definitely be doing next year as well!

  12. By on December 28, 2011

    I love the picture of Charlotte opening her presents!

  13. By Tara on December 28, 2011

    Your celebration sounds lovely. Being with the one’s you love is the best gift anyone (child or adult) could hope for.
    This was our first Christmas with our beautiful little boy and honestly, I was a little overwhelmed. Less is for sure more, but I was stubborn and insisted on making “the most” of the season and might have stretched us all a bit thin. I adore time with our family, but I think keeping it simple will be our motto from here on out in regards to holidays (especially ones involving gifts).

  14. By Sandra on December 29, 2011

    You hit the nail on the head! THAT is exactly what REALLY counts.

    Yesterday, my best friend called and told me about a person who died in their circle of friends shortly before Christmas.
    And we came to the same point: what really matters in the end is that we spend time together. Just a short call, even if it’s only to say a quick “hello” and “I miss you” - it’s that what really counts in life.

  15. By on December 30, 2011

    Sarah:  I’ve been reading your blog off and on for about 2 yrs now & I truly appreciate your perspective and the lovely photos you post of your life.  So glad to hear Charlotte is recovering…I know that must have been a very worrisome time. 
    To reflect on your Christmas post.  My son will be 2 yo in February and we too have been trying to create holiday tradition/birthday traditions which don’t emphasize quantity but value quality and simplicity.  I think trusting ourselves and knowing that we come from a place of love for our family, friends, community and world will guide us in making the traditions that are meaningful and sustainable and uplifting and joyous…you are trusting yourselves to make a beautiful life w. Charlotte and that is a blessing.  It is disheartening to realize that our economy is so dependent on consuming more stuff and not sustainable and it’s even harder to see that business is trying to instill consumerist values from cradle to grave.  It’s good to take some time out and reflect and wake up to the wonders in our lives.  Our children are a chance to make the life we dream of.  I really like the ideas of The Center for a New American Dream and this video The High Price of Materialism is eye-opening: $150 billion spent to place consumer msg into our lives…in most Years! It reminds me to stick to our path of exploring a simpler life…to trust ourselves to make if a great life!  Happy New Year!  Make it a great one.  In Joy, Ellen

  16. By Haley on January 02, 2012

    I know people think we’re nuts not to do presents at Christmas for our kids but…there it is. There are so many wonderful things to do during the Christmas season and we celebrate all 12 days up to Epiphany on January 6th. Our newborn obviously doesn’t care this year but our almost-3-year-old LOVES Christmas despite the lack of gifts. He really doesn’t need them and would much prefer making Christmas cookies, decorating the tree, etc. So good for you to keep the presents simple! Charlotte will have wonderful memories, I’m sure :)





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