A Frugally Stoic Christmas
This year my boys were about 2½ years old for Christmas, providing an interesting setting to reconcile my views and values surrounding the holiday.
I have lots of fond childhood memories around the magic of Christmas and getting presents; so given my recent philosophical changes how should I approach this topic with my family? Well, now that it’s the New Year, why not reflect upon it?
Leading up to Christmas
The boys started singing and requesting Christmas songs pretty early in December, or late November. We stuck to classics such as Jingle Bells, Frosty the Snowman, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and Deck the Halls. I was pretty amazed actually at their ability to learn and recite songs; this was a fun part of Christmas for sure. Daily we would sing Jingle Bells together in the car on the way home for the day.
I like to push decorating as last as possible, usually mid-December. I grew up in a house where we would get a tree a week or two before Chistmas day and my Dad would ceremoniously toss it out the front door on New Year’s Day. Our decorations are quite modest; consisting of a few strings of lights outside, a small tree and any cards received and other decorations we’ve received as gifts. We don’t like a lot of clutter in general, so we take a pretty minimalist appraoch.
The boys got one gift each and a stocking full of little toys and things from Santa. Our families have free reign to give them what they want, but we do encourage them to keep it moderate. My wife and I actually forgot to get them something specifically from us, which was our plan. That being said, the boys received more than enough gifts from family. My wife has a wonderful habit of purging toys occassionally, storing some, giving some away and cycling previously stored toys into rotation. There is no need for more toys at any point.
When we discussed this topic last year, before the boys were really talking, we both agreed that ideally we wouldn’t even bother with the myth of Santa. We came around thankfully, remembering the magic we each experienced as kids. Our compromise is that we agreed Santa would bring one wrapped gift per child each year along with a stocking full of trinkets and useful items.
Wrapping it up
As rational and logical as I am; this year feeding off of the excitement of my children I got more into the Christmas spirit than usual. My wife and I even broke our rule of not buying gifts for each other and exchanged stockings.
Since Christmas I reached out to get some insight into some other Stoic approaches to Christmas from the Stoicism Group on Facebook. From this, my wife and I agree that moving forward we want to incorporate more charity and community spirit into the holidays; hopefully volunteering at shelters, retirement homes or anything with people, nurturing compassion in our children.
The point of all of this is to hopefully allow my children to enjoy Christmas, but to value what we feel to be important. That is, spending time with and appreciating your family and community first, then experience some sense of wonder and magic. I don’t want my boys having meltdowns over the newest toys or feeling entitled to receive excessive material possessions that they don’t need and don’t truly contribute to their long term happiness.