Minimalist Christmas | Mark’s Remarks

When I was a kid, we had pretty abundant Christmases. There would be several presents to unwrap, several things included in our stockings, and even more stuff from our grandparents later.

My paternal grandparents always bought us pajamas.  

But, I digress.

I am sure it wasn’t always easy to pull off a Christmas morning for kids. Parents have plenty of responsibilities, and even in the 1970s, money most likely was tight at times and some families couldn’t  afford a lot of extras.

Oftentimes, my grandmother would tell of Christmas time when she was a girl. She’d tell us that they usually had stockings filled with a small amount of candy. There would be nuts to crack and eat, and also, if they were lucky, a big orange to peel and eat.

Citrus fruit was a treat.

“Didn’t you have any toys?” my brother and I would ask, wide-eyed.

“Not really,” she would answer.

I’ve heard plenty of people who grew up in the 1920s and 30s tell of those days, and many of them would talk about getting one gift for Christmas.  They’d talk about how they cherished that gift, or talk about what good care they took of the toys they received because gifts didn’t come often or easy.

Furthermore, those folks didn’t seem to have any regrets or seem to have suffered from being “deprived.”

Having been a part of large family get-togethers for the past several years, I have often spoken up and said that we should just be glad to just get together and eat. Indeed, I think I look more forward to the food than I do the gifts.

Many will agree.

It’s easier to get along at Christmas when the kids grow up a little. They start to feel much like the adults do. When kids no longer depend on a jolly old elf to unpack a sack filled abundantly to the brim, they are a little more grounded.

The mother of a large number of kids once told Michelle and I that all of her kids received three gifts at Christmas: just like Jesus did. One of the gifts is something they asked for, and the other two are smaller, cheaper, necessity-type gifts.  

She told us that her kids had never balked or complained. It was something they’d always been used to, and most of them also looked forward to a special food or the traditional family game nights that always coincided with the holidays.

It would be interesting to see when the shift happened. I mean, when did the amount of presents under the tree double or triple? When did filling up an entire room with wrapped gifts start to be something that was strived for?

One Christmas, I think it would be fun to just give stocking stuffers. Or maybe designate one Christmas as a “handmade only” holiday, giving creative things we made ourselves.

What about spending the holidays visiting less fortunate folks with an armful of gifts, or caroling at an older person’s home, promising to come back on Dec. 26 with tools and a home repair crew?  

It might all be fun to try.

Of course, I’d still expect to have a good sugar cookie and maybe a piece or two of fudge.  

I mean, even as a would-be minimalist, I have my needs.

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Mark Tullis

Mark is a 25-year veteran teacher teaching in Columbia. Originally from Fairfield, Mark is married with four children. He enjoys reading, writing, and spending time with his family, and has been involved in various aspects of professional and community theater for many years and enjoys appearing in local productions. Mark has also written a "slice of life" style column for the Republic-Times since 2007.
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