This year, my Christmas was a bit different than all my prior Christmases. A whole lot was different, actually.

The first difference – our Christmas tree. It’s tradition in most families to put up a tree for Christmas. We’re one of those families, however, this year we did something much different. Our Christmas “tree” was just a wooden pallet, painted white. We put up a cloth and pinned it so it looked like a triangular shaped pine tree. Then, we put nails in the wood and hung ornaments on those. We only used cheap non-shatterable ornaments, because for  two weeks leading up to Christmas, we were puppysitting. The puppy had a wide swing with her tail, and we needed to have a plan. We had to compromise – give and take – we were lucky to have Kona here and enjoy her puppiness, but we had to give up having our traditional tree and all of our memory ornaments and trimmings throughout the house.  It was fine by me – puppies are exciting, and we were making memories this year. I figured we didn’t need to put all the ornaments up to remind us of the past years and be in fear of them being broken. It was fun to compromise this year with our pallet tree, and I enjoyed having a puppy in the house. In the end, I sort of did miss the traditional tree and all our ornaments, but I know that they will all return next year.

The second difference – Christmas Dinner.  Another tradition in our family is for us to host Christmas dinner at our home. The entire family comes up and we exchange presents around the big tree and then we all eat and laugh and play games. This year though, we didn’t host dinner. Instead, we spent Christmas day and had Christmas dinner at my grandparent’s house. It was fun, enjoyable, and filled with food and family,  and lots of laughing. We didn’t host Christmas at our house in part due to not having our place all decorated for Christmas, and in part due to our house being a mini construction zone. In addition to puppysitting, we were also in the middle of putting new wood floors in, and of course the puppy was trying to help. So, we really were not prepared to host a huge holiday dinner, and it was absolutley fine to change it up this year. Oh, and we now permanently have a little dog hair under our floor, which will be another memory for the years to come.

The third difference – Gifting. We didn’t buy presents for people this year. Well, we bought some presents, but most of the presents we gifted to friends and family were ones that we made for them. We baked cookies, brownies, and, for the first time, we actually made fudge. The fudge gave us a scare, since it started out as chocolate soup; good thing we were able to save it.  It was easy to form memories as we made holiday treats, and we did it all together, as a family.  (well, one of us was mostly a taste-tester…wonder where all the egg-nog donuts went!?)
We didn’t ask for a whole bunch of stuff, and didn’t create wish lists of “things” that someone could get us if they couldn’t think of anything. (Except for me and my ever-growing list of books that I wish for.) My mom sent out an email to family and friends, explaining that we were not exchanging gifts with the adults (just the young kids this year), and instead we were suggesting a donation exchange. She asked friends and family to donate to one of our favorite charities or to donate and help a local family in need; Those donations were their gifts to us. In turn, we donated to one of their favorite charities or helped local families in our community, as our gift to them. Knowing that several elderly people in the community had their Christmas wishes fulfilled, when otherwise they would have no Christmas to speak of, really made me feel like we were actually living the spirit of Christmas.

For the three of us here in our house, we created a “four gift list.” Here’s what the four gift list is:

Something I Want
Something I Need
Something to Wear
Something to Read

This isn’t as easy as it appears. You have to spend time and think about what “one” item you really do “want”, and really do “need”. Having to examine the difference between a “want” and a “need” was something that could help us see the spirit of Christmas more clearly. I had a bit of trouble with this, but I was able to put the higher priority item in need and lower priority in want. For each category, we would list one item under it. (Except for me, in Something to Read…I really couldn’t just chose “one” thing to read ) Here’s what I came up with for my List:

Something I Want: An iPad (This is just a want – but it is useful for many things in my life, such as school.) Something I Need: Writing Music / iTunes gift cards (I never thought I would *need* music, but I realized it helps my writing and creativity.)
Something to Wear: Jeans
Something to Read: Any of the following
Warrior Cats Series
Septimus Heap Series Books 4 – 7
Glasruhen Gate
The Curious World of Calpurnia Tate
Conflict and Courage (Planet Wolf Book #2)
Homage and Honour (Planet Wolf Book #3)

What I got was…
Well, what I got really doesn’t matter. I had an amazing Christmas and can say that the gifts I received and the memories I made filled my life, my heart, and even my Christmas stocking! I liked this way of doing a “four gift list” because it doesn’t focus on, “I want this,” or  “I have to have this latest thingy,” but it narrows it down to the four things that you want, need, want to wear, and want to read.

For us, because we’re planning to move in the next few years, it was also beneficial, since we really don’t need much more stuff around the house.  We are trying to simplify, trying to make more by hand, and unclutter our lives and our home.

Another reason I liked this new way of gifting, is that instead of just buying stuff for people and getting stuff, we helped people in our community who needed it, and we spent time making memories that will last forever.

So, like I said at the start, my Christmas was a bit different this year. Even with all the differences, I believe I would celebrate Christmas like this again next year. The chaos levels were much lower, and it was fun, not stressful, while preparing for Christmas.

Note: I would like to put up our real tree next year, and maybe we can save the pallet tree to put up outside for the chickens or goats.

The title of this post is Christmas and 2016, so I guess I am not done yet. 🙂

I can’t leave out one of the most important events that follows soon after Christmas – The New Year!
2016 is coming, but before it does, I have time to look back on 2015.

2015 has been a huge year for me, with large amounts of personal growth. This year I turned ten, I entered double-digits, I joined 4-H, I started high school, I took college classes and earned college credits, I took on the responsibility of raising chickens, I joined a group of writing peers, I wrote my first novel, and I won NanoWrimo with 30,008 words on November 29th.  Wow, I had a huge year, and I just realized I also started my blog in 2015!

So, I hope everyone had a Merry Christmas, ( if you don’t celebrate Christmas, I hope you had a great day), and I wish you all a Happy New Year!!! I hope for great things in 2016.

Wait, the heck with “hoping” for great things in 2016! I am going to make great things happen in 2016!!!!

Photo Credit: Uncharted Journey Blog