When my dad was very small, his family of eight lived in a tin-top house in the Piney Woods of northeast Texas. I don't know if the house had electricity, but I know for sure there was no indoor toilet; he told stories of reading the Sears catalog in the outhouse and then using it as toilet paper. I'm sure he pored over the toy pages, just like any other kid.
When Santa came on Christmas Eve, he left apples, oranges (Dad's favorite,) a coconut, nuts, and sometimes hard candy. Some years there was a toy for each child, but there was only one and it was modest. Dad got a book of bible stories one year. He wrapped it in foil to protect the cover. A few years back, he gave it to my eldest daughter, the foil still intact.
There was no months long build-up to Christmas. No shopping frenzy. No Christmas overload. The tree went up right before Christmas and stayed up until after New Year's Day.
Dad told me that Christmas was his favorite holiday because that's when everyone came home to visit. My grandfather was one of fourteen children, and my grandmother had several siblings as well, so there were a lot of cousins to miss the rest of the year.
Dad's oldest brother was ten years older and he left home when Dad was still a kid. One year when he came home for the holiday, he brought Dad and his brothers a five pound box of chocolates. They ate themselves sick. Sick and happy.
My mom grew up in the same area and tells the same sort of story of an abbreviated, or rather non-extended, Christmas season with modest gifts and family as the focus.
That's what I want. I want a week of Christmas, not a month and a half. I want to buy my children a couple of presents, not borrow money to buy crap for the entire extended family. I don't want to send cards.
I DO want to continue our two-year-old tradition of caroling on Christmas Eve and eating a big Italian meal with homemade pasta on Christmas Day with Pajama Party Bingo afterwards. And I like putting up pretty Christmas lights in the yard.
I bought my first fake tree last year because I wanted to be able to put it up in Thanksgiving weekend and keep it up into the new year. It was nice in the beginning, but my kids called me a traitor and it just didn't feel right. We missed out on the annual trek to the tree lot.
I'm going back to a real tree this year. In honor of my dad, who passed away at the end of September, I'm goin' old school.