manitoba3 This is the first Christmas in 38 years that I’ll be away from my family. It’s kind of a weird thing, and I find myself feeling a little bit emotional about it. I am still going to be around family – hubby and I are going to Winnipeg to spend Christmas with his family. But the fact that I won’t be spending Christmas morning with my parents, and having dinner with them and my brother and his family, does change things up a bit for me. With this big change, I’ve decided to take this opportunity make some changes in the way I celebrate Christmas.

Less Stuff. I love giving people presents. However, I have always found the process of Christmas shopping to be quite stressful. I hate malls. I hate big box stores. I find other shoppers to be exceptionally rude in a lot of cases, which is ironic, given that we’re supposed to be all peace, love and happiness this time of year. I hate the fact that we are so consumed with the “stuff” of Christmas. Everyone is rushing around, spending all kinds of money they don’t have, because they feel some sense of obligation to be the one to get the biggest, best stuff. It makes me not want to bother with Christmas at all.

This year, I’m changing my tactic. First, I’m only going to buy targeted, specific gifts for people. Instead of buying each person 3 to 5 things that they won’t even remember in 3 weeks’ time, I’m going to get each person one, maybe two things that are really special, that I know they will enjoy. Second, I’m doing the bulk of my shopping online. This allows me to do two things – I don’t have to go to a mall and end up hostile and grumpy. I also find I am more strategic in my spending when I do it online. With these simple changes, I can take pleasure in giving again. This way, it’s not about the amount of stuff people are getting. It’s about the process of giving.

Enjoy the Simple Things. In fact, we are not going to be in Winnipeg proper for the holidays – we’re going to be in a town about an hour outside the city, with a population of 965. Yup. 965 people. My in-laws don’t have the Internet (gasp.) I am reasonably sure there is no Internet cafe or free wifi to be found in the town. What does this mean for me? No blogs. No Twitter. No Facebook, LinkedIn, or Instant Messaging. Oh, and did I mention no Twitter?

This too, is an opportunity. Between work and play time, I probably spend upwards of 7-9 hours online every day. Without the Internet as an option, I know already what I’m going to do. I’m going to relax. Read some books. Do some personal writing (like, in an actual notebook, with a pen). Listen to music. Sit with a cup of hot tea and stare out at the cold, windy Manitoba terrain and be thankful for the blessed life I have.

It’s Not Just One Day. Christmas is December 25th, but really, it’s just a day. As soon as I start to get a bit sniffly about the fact that I’m not going to spend that day with my parents and brother this year, I remember that we get to have two Christmases this year. When hubby and I get back from Winnipeg we will be having Christmas with my family. Just like always, except it will be a different day. I’ll still get to see my nephews’ excited faces when they open their gifts. I’ll still get to hug and kiss everyone and smile and feel good to be around them.

I feel as if the world has gotten so caught up in the commercialism of Christmas that we’ve really forgotten what this time of year is supposed to be about. It’s about taking a pause from our hectic lives, slowing down for a while and getting centred again on what is most important…our family and friends. It’s about reflecting on the year that’s been and what we have to look forward to in 2009. It’s about hope, and happy thoughts, and enjoying your life.

How are you planning to spend the holidays? What is most important to you this time of year? I’d love to hear your stories in the comments.

Photo by Across and Down on Flickr.