Christmas is hard, you guys.
I absolutely love the holiday season, but navigating the month of December as a stay-at-home mom whose budget is already stretched just a bit too thin…
Let’s just say I’m stress-eating a lot of tree-shaped butter cookies. (Seriously, why are they SO GOOD?)
I’m stressed because our budget doesn’t have to cover just gifts anymore. Now it’s family photos and Christmas cards and toy drives and class parties and holiday outings, and while all of these things are good, they’re also just downright expensive.
My husband already works two jobs to keep me home with our girls, but when we sat down recently to review our holiday expenses, he simply sighed and said, “I’ll pick up as many hours as possible over the next month. I probably won’t see the girls much, but at least I’ll be able to cover their gifts.”
I probably won’t see the girls much…
As the full weight of that phrase sunk in, something inside me snapped.
“No,” I said slowly. “NO. I am not willing to trade our time with you for things.
“I am not willing to watch you work yourself to death just so we can acquire more STUFF we don’t even need.
“I’m calling for a hard candy Christmas.”
One thing is for certain: Dolly Parton’s sorrowful warbling gave the term a bad rap. (For those wondering, “hard candy Christmas” originally described a holiday where a family was so poor they could only afford a penny bag of hard candy for their children.) But once we made the decision to radically alter our perspective on holiday spending, my husband and I were shocked to discover that we didn’t feel limited or discouraged by our tight budget; we felt liberated by it.
Because the characteristics of the old-fashioned confection reveal 3 reasons why a hard candy Christmas can be a beautiful thing:
1. Hard candy is reminiscent of years gone by
When I see a bowl of hard candy, I immediately think of my grandparents. All it takes is the rustle of a Werther’s wrapper and I’m three years old again, wearing matching, holiday-themed sweat suits with my cousins. (Yep. That happened.)
I even had a coworker years ago who kept butterscotch discs in her desk drawer simply because they reminded her of her grandmother (who referred to them as “yella’ discs.” I DIE.)
Our world grows louder and more complicated by the day, and our holiday expectations invariably follow suit. But a hard candy Christmas says it’s okay to slow down and remember the simpler times, to savor the traditions that made us who we are, and to emulate the disciplines our grandparents valued: buying only what we can afford, making the rest, and keeping the focus on experience over excess.
2. Hard candy reminds us that *just enough* is perfect
I’m not a big fan of hard candy. I much prefer a dark chocolate to indulge my sweet tooth, but the problem is I can’t eat just one. I reach for piece after piece until the floor is littered with wrappers and I’m lying prostrate in a sugar coma.
Sounds a bit like Christmas morning, doesn’t it?
Sure, the gooey, melt-in-your-mouth treats are the ones we all want, because they’re packaged more beautifully, advertised more enticingly. But they’re also the ones that create an overwhelming desire for more, the ones that lead us to stuff our mouths and fill our bellies until we’re sick. (How often have you seen a child sitting dazed in a pile of wrapping paper, strung out on the shocking amount of “sugar” he’s just opened?)
A piece of hard candy may not be our first choice, but ultimately, it still satisfies the sweet tooth – without turning us into raving gimme-monsters. It requires discipline to reach for the proverbial hard candy over the chocolate, but we are better for it in the end.
3. Hard candy lasts longer
While a fancy chocolate can be eaten in a matter of seconds, hard candy takes much longer to consume. And while my memory pretty much fails me regarding the scores of Christmas gifts I received throughout my childhood, I can instantly recall every non-material experience that made up our family culture: sipping egg nog malts while viewing local Christmas lights, decorating the tree while “Home Alone” played in the background… Our simplest (and cheapest) Christmas activities were always my favorite. And they are the ones that have lasted through the years. (Take that, Pinterest.)
So this year we’re doing Christmas a bit differently. We’re bringing back the concept of creating a budget and sticking to it (which means fewer and less expensive gifts for everyone); we’re rejecting the idea of maxing out credit cards or working ourselves to exhaustion just so we can accumulate more stuff; and we’re re-centering our focus on the simple but beautiful joy of celebrating our Lord’s birth.
I have a feeling it will take a little time to detox from all the sugar we’ve consumed in years gone by.
But I, for one, am looking forward to some good, old-fashioned hard candy.
How are you taking the focus off of *stuff* this Christmas?