An Old-fashioned Christmas for an Old-Fashioned Girl

[Previous Rural Farmgirl, April 2009 – May 2010]
I am just an old-fashioned girl that is for sure, especially around the holidays. I love sloshing through the snow to find the perfect tree, taking sleigh rides, driving around viewing all the lighted homes, and sitting around the fireplace drinking hot chocolate.

I have concluded that my interpretation of what the holidays are about may be vastly different from what even some of my best friends think that the holidays are about. Not that either is right or wrong—we just really see it differently.
I am not one for the likes of Black Friday. I guess I do not fully understand the draw. I see it like this: On Thanksgiving Thursday my pocketbook is full and I am in the black. Then comes Black Friday and I am supposed to hand over all my money to the department stores AND be happy about it, just so that they can be in the black. Oh, and not just hand over my money, but be shoved around, fight with other shoppers, and get up at some ungodly hour to spend time with a bunch of people who aren’t really at their best…am I missing something?
I suppose it is only fair to mention that I am not a huge shopper to begin with, nor do I like big stores on a normal day, so I may be starting this whole shopping thing in the hole. I do, however, love little mom-and-pop shops. I love finding out-of-the-way small towns whose main street store owners have ensured that each store in their community offers unique items.
When I think of the holidays, I do not see them through the lens of “shopping ‘til I drop” or meeting the wants of everyone on my wish list. I would even go so far as to say that I resent the commercialism of a time that should be relaxing to families instead of stressful.
While listening to the news this week, I overheard the anchors talking about debt and how badly some families get into debt this time of the year. To strengthen their point, they interviewed a couple who were still paying off last year’s Christmas, while preparing to use the plastic to ensure a great Christmas this year. WHAT?!? How does that equate to a “great” Christmas? I was up on my feet in utter disbelief when I saw this woman burst into tears at the advisor’s mere suggestion to put herself on a $5,000 (cash) Christmas budget. It is moments like this when I want to reach into that silver box, grab “my sista” by her shoulders, and shake her madly. I literally grabbed my soapbox, planted my feet firmly on it, and yelled, “They will think that you have finally found your sanity!” when she had the audacity to ask the advisor, “But what will people think?
You may be surprised to learn that I do not own a credit card. My hubby and I decided several years ago that if we did not have the money for an item, then we did not need it that bad. I have spent more time being grateful for that decision than I have feeling bad about it. Sure, there are times when it seems like we missed the deal of the century or could not do something we may have wished we could…but we are still standing. It has not killed us yet.
I do not mind spending big money on quality items, as long as I am prepared to do so. I have discovered that when you live on a budget, you learn to be smarter about your gift choices. I have found that by taking the time to really know my friends and family, I can find great deals all year on the things that mean the most to them and not settle on whatever I can find in the mad rush between November and December. When I buy according to their passions, I do not need to rely on “what I can find.” Rather, I can take all 12 months, and when I find just the perfect thing…I can open up my Christmas money envelope and cross them off the list. As my hubby would say, this way our money is working for us.
I do not fault my friends who love the marathon shopping that begins with Black Friday. I do have a couple of gal pals who even truly love the experience. They are so elated and they cannot wait to share all the treasures that they find, and their gifts are just as thoughtful as the ones I have carefully chosen over time. I am just so grateful that they get that shopping that way is not my cup of tea.
In the month before Christmas, you can find me away from the crowds. I’m the one taking in all the great little Christmas festivals in the small towns around our home, sipping cocoa, pressing my nose up against the glass of some quaint gift boutique, hunting down some perfect stocking stuffers, and working in my craft room putting finishing touches on the homemade things I love to create.
As long as we are truly enjoying the season, there is not a right way or a wrong way to experience the holidays. But for this old-fashioned farmgirl…I want an old-fashioned Christmas.

  1. April says:

    Loved this post! I too love finding things throughout the year for my family! It’s such a great feeling to have things stashed away for the big reveal on Christmas day! This year I have been making more handmade items than ever and I love how special it feels to do so! They are labors of love for sure!

  2. Debra says:

    Oh Rene – I do believe we were cut from the same cloth!!! You put it beautifully…in addition to shopping through the year, and keeping things simple (all on a "cash only" basis), I spend a week baking for our friends and family. German Stollen, Italian Panettone, assorted cookies and home-made hot chocolate mix. Then, on the Saturday before Christmas (the 19th this year) we’ll have an "open house" for neighbors to share an afternoon around the camp fire with home made venison chili, hot spiced cider, and assorted treats. Simple things, but the best of things – good conversation, and sharing good times with our neighbors here on Rock Creek, in western Montana…

  3. karen bates (kpaints) says:

    Right on, sister!

  4. Mary says:

    Thank you so much. I echo your sentiments. I think it has all gotten out of hand. I remember days as a child when we took the time to help grandma and grandpa put up their their tree and then making cookies with Grandma.

    We just have to keep the traditions going and make them important in our families.

  5. Barb says:

    I am so with you on the Black Friday thing! I was going to avoid the nearby "big" town at all costs that day but had to succumb when I discovered that I was too low on llama and chicken feed to wait until the weekend was over. I did however wait until 2 p.m., drove to the edge of the "city", got my feed and decided since I was there to go downtown and get a wee skein of cashmere to knit my daughter a cowl for Christmas. There… whole Black Friday…at the feed store and a little "mom and pop" yarn store. Life is good at times like that. Thanks so much for your post. It is good to know there are kindred spirits out there. Ok, back to knitting on the cowl before heading to work. Have a blessed holiday season.

  6. Matilda says:

    BRAVO FOR YOU!! I feel the same way, while I do have a couple of cards, gas and Home Depot, I once was a credit card person. All it did was get me in trouble and now I feel the same, if I can’t pay cash, I don’t need it. While I bought items for my great-grandchildren, I also knitted them hats. I’ve cut back on the decorating this year, less to deal with after. I decorate for myself and the children, I feel it keeps the Christmas spirit alive and it’s fun. Have a wonderful Christmas and prosperous New Year.

  7. katmom~Grace says:

    ok Rene,,,
    here is one for you,,,,one of my favorite things to do around Thanksgiving time, to "Kick off" the festivites of the Season….is buy a bag of mini marshmellows, open them up & purposely let them dry out….why you ask? haha! cuz my favorite thing to put in my hot cocoa is…dried mini marshmellows…it makes me feel like I can conqure the the crowds, the weather and the world…or at least that’s how the little girl in me feels! lol!
    And now to go make me a cup of cocoa & head down to my craft room, you will be happy to know, looks like an explosion went off….oh wait…it always looks like that! lol!
    Hugz & snowballs

  8. meredith says:

    I am with you! I live outside a small town and love to support the local small shops- not only am I helping to keep a vibrant downtown but I get to know my town neighbors as well. I think most folks have lost the true meaning of Christmas anyway- its not really about the gifts, is it.Merry Christmas and enjoy the true meaning of the season.-Meredith

  9. Gary says:

    Well said Rene…!
    Christmas is best spent enjoying what we have and sharing it and spending time with those we Love. I like gift giving, and when I reflect on gifts I have been given, the only ones I treasure are the ones with "stories" attached to them, because someone I Love gave it to me.
    We can learn a LOT from our Critters about Joy and gifts. I gave my Cat "Midnight" a BIG apple box for his Birthday… empty. I am certain that he never sits and wishes there had been "stuff" in the box… nooo… He LOVES his box.
    To me Thanksgiving is about the act of Thanks and Gratutude, and Christmas is about the Joy that dwells in the Spirit of that act.
    GodSpeed to Y’all…!
    in Tampa

  10. loreta Hazel says:

    I don’t like this idea of black friday either. and I hope that we all remember that Jesus is the reason for this Christmas season.

  11. Forrest says:

    I am right there with you. I worked retail for years and Christmas was the worst time of the year. And trust me Black Friday was just that Dark and Scarry. Now I go down to the thrift store and buy baskits. And fill them with all the handmade and homemade treats I work on through out the year. Stuffing in last minute baked good the morning of delivery. Far, far away from any black top parking lot. Sipping Cocoa, listening to Nat’s warm voice and enjoying my christmas tree and kids.

  12. Cindy says:

    Oh my darling country girl, I whole heartedly agree! The way I handle gift giving is to buy things throughout the year, perfect little gifts I see here and there, and mostly in little shops. They must be symbolic for the receiver and nothing too expensive. Big bucks are just not necessary in finding the right gift. I also make gifts by hand and I start that in early summer. I also bake, so my friends get "goody baskets" left on their porches, or as parting gifts when they come over for get-togethers. I would really rather spend money on wonderful ingredients and whip up some homemade holiday cheer then stand in line in a department store any day! For me and my family, we revel in snowfall, caroling in our neighborhood, playing board games by the fire and donating to the local food bank. We simply love being together and taking the time to slow down and relax at Christmas. I think us "country girls" have the right idea! Merry Christmas to you and yours!

  13. I’m with you there has not been any day after Thanksgiving shopping for me for quite a while. I did go a couple of time when my children were younger but I do not enjoy getting elbowed or shoved while I am trying to pick out a gift. I did go for a little while the Sunday afternoon that weekend but it was mostly just because I needed to start somewhere. Last year I did a lot of homemade gifts but I worked more hours this year and just did not get it together. I also have six grandchildren that I am trying to help fill in a few things on their Christmas list since their parents are having a lean year. My husband and I have been blessed that our jobs are secure and we do not do a lot of spending on ourselves. Although I do love the crafts stores and the same type of small town shops you enjoy. I hope you have a wonderful old fashioned Christmas and enjoy the celebration of the birth of Jesus.

  14. Kimberly says:

    I agree with you, I am not into "Black Friday" either and do not have a credit card, learned the hard way but I did learn if I don’t have the cash I don’t buy it. And love the little stores in small towns. I live near a small town and love this little store they have. Its sad that the woman in the news was more worried about what people would think if she didn’t spend more than $5000.00, boy I wouldn’t know what to do with a budget of $5000.00 LOL! I grew up with a Christmas account putting a dollar away every week, it taught me two things, budget and savings.

    Merry Christmas!

  15. mollybee says:

    I’m with you Rene. I refuse to do the Black Friday shopping. This year I am making scarves and pot holders for the women on my list. The guys are getting cookies and candy. I also like the shops away from the heavy traffic and pushing and shoving that comes with Christmas shopping. Merry Christmas to you and your family.

  16. Erin R. says:

    I agree that not having a credit card it wonderful. Every year we only spend what we have available in cash to spend at Christmas and we have NO layover debt after the holiday. What a great feeling. Happy Holidays!

  17. Cori in Boise, ID says:

    Amen, sista!

  18. Amy in CdA says:

    Hi Rene. What a great post…and just what I needed to read. My beliefs are similar to yours, but I always have this nagging sense of "I should be doing more". A little panic always sets in the last week or two before Christmas, so thank you for you reassuring words. I was also wondering where your picture was taken? What a cute building.

    Looking forward to an ‘old fashioned Christmas’ in North Idaho. Now, if we could just get a little snow! Merry Christmas!


  19. O'Dell says:

    Hi Rene’,
    I agree that shopping is not what the holiday is about. I’m also a "non-shopper" during regular times. I love creating things to give as gifts. I’ve made embroidered pictures, and needlepointed ones for my grandchildren the past few years. In the past I’ve given quilts, too. And nowadays I love making cookies with my little granddaughters. I do the Christmas cards and call friends who may not have families to visit with and if I can’t see them I make it a point to call them more often, and send notes. One of our best Christmas’s was the time my ex and I took the kids shopping (they were about 7-10 yrs. old) for toys to give to a family who’s dad had just lost his job, and the gran was dying. It would have been a very sad time too, if those little children had no new toys. My kids said it was their best Christmas too, and even talk about it now, years later. So, tho your friends love to shop, I think you’ve got the "real" Christmas spirit! keep up the good work!
    The very best Christmas to you and yours!

  20. Cindy Bennett says:

    I am the same Rene’. I live in a small town of 6400 people and we line our Main Street with lights and all hover together while the Christmas parade comes down the lane. We still have Jesus in so many of the floats. They haven’t edged Him out. This Christmas is simple, gathering presents for Moms that cant make ends meet. Givign food boxes to families that would go without. Christmas this year… going to be just what it needs to be. Loving~

  21. Marilynne Adams says:

    I fully agree with you! I fail to understand the excitement of "Black Friday"! Our Turkey Day is a full weekend of family staying over, and I would hate to spoil it all by getting up at an ungodly hour to go 40 mi in the cold and wait in line to get in the door to…what?…SPEND MONEY!!!?
    I would rather spend hours in my cozy sewing room, making as many gifts as possible for my friends and relatives. Let the CEO’s of big companies (with all the money) spend on Christmas and support the economy. I will spend time with my family.

  22. Selina says:

    How wonderful that you put into words what I have been trying to explain to my family for years!! Even my husband does understand that I shop and try to get things done before Thanksgiving, but not the normal Christmas gifts but items that I think about and hunt around for that would be useful, green, and to bring back the slower more cherished Christmas’ I remember. Away from the electronics and materialism that seems to have racked this society in debt and "Keeping up with the Jones’!"

  23. Mary Ann says:

    Hooray! The voice of reason! Thanks Rene’!

  24. JaneS says:

    So often when reading your blog, I think to myself, "wow, I feel the same way!" I despise the holiday shopping frenzy. Our family finally figured out a few years ago that exchanging gifts just for the sake of exchanging just wasn’t meaningful. Now, we enjoy a holiday concert, or go out to a nice dinner, etc. Without the stress of shopping, I enjoy the holidays so much more. I dont’ go crazy decorating either. I’ve decided a few decorations are fine, and that I don’t have to display every single piece of holiday decor that I own. It took me a while to realize simpler is better…but it is true. A lot less stressful too.

  25. Jamie says:

    I am right there with you honey. I am not one for big crowds either, but will say that I did venture out this black friday. Walmart had a computer on sale for $198 and I needed one to start college with in Jan. So, I bought it, with cash of course, but had to wait in line for 4 hours to get it. That will be the last time I do that! I was exhausted when I finally got home.

  26. carol branum says:

    hi,loved the post,and all of the comments too.I agree,I have done the credit card thing in the past,and never again.Its an old fashioned christmas for me too.hugs,MERRY CHRISTMAS!hugs,blessed be,Carol Branum,Lamar Mo.

  27. MMMMMMMmmmmmmmmm…. that sounds so cozy and nice. I was longing for the Christmas you just mentioned – festivals, cold nose pressed against the windowpane of a quaint boutique… Well, guess what? The Lord saw to it that I will get this wish, because I am now pulled away from the bustle and will get to ENJOY the season, being with my husband on his biz trip… So… cocoa, here I come!

  28. Alice says:

    I love an I used to like Christmas shopping. Not the Black Friday kind, but the kind where you take your time to find just the right gift. But even that has turned into a hassle as holiday shopping seems to creep earlier into the year, and I have taken on more tasks that don’t allow for taking my sweet time to shop.

    We do have a credit card mainly for convenience. But we do budget everything, and track every purchase. Also, we pay off our credit card in full each month–no debt. Wow, I can’t imagine spending $5,000 on Christmas gifts–I think that would send me over the edge.

  29. Marilynne Adams says:

    I cannot imagine how anyone could spend $5000 on Christmas! I did see ads on TV for gifting a BMW or Lexus or some such car at Christmas. Guess we are in a different league, huh?

  30. Kay says:

    I am so with you on everything that you said!!! I don’t have a credit card and will never have one. I hate to shop – imagine a woman saying that! If I do shop it’s at small shops that specialize in local, handmade thing. I would rather be at home with my family enjoying a good Christmas movie together than shopping til I drop. Have a very Merry Christmas!!

  31. Nancy says:

    Wonderful story. I love to hear about people who are not out rushing around in the malls, but rather supporting small businesses. I feel that is so important, not only at Christmas, but year round. We live in a small town with a few shops and do have a Wal-Mart about 30 minutes away. We made a decision last year not to buy anything at Wal-Mart, but to support the few local stores that we have. It has worked out really well for us, and we feel good about our purchases. When we buy on line we try to buy from people that make their own products, little cottage shops.

  32. Bonnie says:

    How wonderfully put! I got rid of my credit card 10 years ago and am so thankful for that decision. I am still working on retraining myself to shop throughout the year…and not make this mad rush the week before Christmas!

  33. Kay Lodahl says:

    what a wonderful fun blog site. thank you!! I am an Eastern Washington transplant from the West Side.

  34. Diane Van Horn says:

    I couldn’t agree with you more, Rene’. I made all of my Christmas gifts this year and kept the decorating down to a minimum. A very nice, quiet and no stress holiday and no interest to pay on the almighty plastic. We don’t use credit cards either and I try to buy from local small shops just like you. Thank you for your blog, I always find it very heartwarming.

  35. Donna says:

    Wow Rene’…Thought it was just me, Thanks for letting me know that this "Sunny Florida Farm Girl" is in a category
    of our own…Luv your pics!

  36. Kris says:

    I do the all my loose change in the coffee can thing. When the can gets heavy I take it to the bank. I keep the cash the teller gives me for the coin in my car. This allows me to do my Christmas shopping throughout the year. I have almost sixty-seven dollars left over from last year stashed in my car right now. I can do antique shows, quilt shops, clever boutiques, craft shows and cute little towns that I stumble on by accident. All my shopping is usually done by Halloween except for that must-have toy, that a grandchild doesn’t realize he needs until those pesky catalogs come. I do wish I had all my craft gifts made that early. Then all I would have to do in December is baking.

  37. Juanita Massey says:

    I agree with you 100% about the shopping and the holiday season, Enjoy the Blog, keep up the good work, Juanita

  38. ladylocust says:

    I too love the simpler way and the true meaning of Christmas. I was at Dayton with my two children and my brother and his family. They are from the central Oregon desert. The 5 kiddos got to be together and enjoy the festivities. It was wonderful!

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