Tamera Schlueter Schleuterville declares bare-bones holiday

The holidays are here. Haul out the credit card. Ring in the cheer. Box it. Wrap it. Stuff it ‘neath a tree. It’s part of being a happy family. The older I get, the more I wonder if that can possibly be true. Are the trappings, chaos and expense we endure truly necessary to experience a joyful holiday season? This year I’m going to find out.

I’ve declared this to be a bare-bones holiday; a season as simple and basic as warm, buttered bread.

I long for quiet contemplation and time to appreciate my many blessings; to savor the sound of Christmas carols without considering them reminders of all I have yet to do. I’m tired of obsessing over finding perfect gifts for the loved ones on my list. I’d rather write them thoughtful notes, expressing how much they fill my heart.

So I notified my family and closest friends that this holiday would be different. I want to welcome them into a home that is comfortable instead of showy, rich in spirit instead of flowing with gifts.

I want us to shirk the pressure of gadgets and stuff, credit card statements and financial stress. I want us to set my beat-up table with vintage china and mismatched cups, and load it with food that sticks to ribs and feeds the soul.

I want us to thank God for all we have, and recall the rich, rewarding joy of a busy year, which featured one son starting graduate school, and the other becoming a husband. We’ll laugh about backyard weddings, moose encounters on Colorado trails and exploding air mattresses during a late fall campout.

We’ll drop some dough into a red kettle without robbing Peter to pay Paul. What little we do spend will be invested locally, in shops with bells on the door and people who know us by name.

We’ll forget about gifts of the expensive, glitzy kind. Perhaps instead there will be photographs shared and recipes traded, and we’ll watch “It’s a Wonderful Life” for the umpteenth time. Afterward we’ll take a Christmas light tour through town, or gun the engine of Hunka Burnin’ Hubby’s diesel truck and cut cookies on abandoned, iceslicked parking lots.

Laughter is required through the whole shebang; great belly-shaking snort-laughs that make you bawl. Laughter, you see, is free. Hot chocolate and popcorn enjoyed before a blazing fireplace are easy and cheap. It’s the act of shirking the norm that takes effort.

We’ll go to candlelight service and “Noel” our brains out, wearing well-loved sweaters and Converse sneakers. We’ll gaze misty-eyed at the manger, and reflect upon the reason for the season, which is often forgotten in an alltoo- secular world.

And when it’s time to bid adieu, I hope we’ll have created memories of a holiday that was sincerely grand. We’ll still have room in our closets. The trash bin won’t overflow with boxes and paper. Nobody will have received the wrong color or size, or something they’ll never use. We’ll all be able to pay the heating bill without selling a kidney.

The average American family spends roughly $750 on the gifts and trappings of Christmas. I hope to buck that trend by a long shot. We’ll see how it goes.

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