How Being Broke On Christmas Strengthened My Family Traditions

This Christmas, I am tempted to give my 8-month-old a nice box filled with plastic bags and tissue paper.

I can only imagine how much pleasure she will derive from the crinkling sound when she takes out the contents of the box.

Why stress my already financially-strapped self?

She’ll receive larger-than-life gifts from everyone else in our family anyway.

More importantly, she won’t even remember a thing.

When she’s older, I can just claim to have given her a beautiful playhouse, complete with a Japanese-style toilet.

Then, guilt strikes.

This is not how Christmas is supposed to be.

My childhood memories of the holidays are so magical.

I feel the pressure to give my baby the same kind of holiday experience.

While reviewing the numbers in my bank account, I question what message I want to send my daughter.

How do I want her to understand Christmas?

Like any other parent, I want to give my child nothing but the biggest and shiniest gifts.

If I had a bottomless bank account, I shamelessly would.

Unfortunately, I don’t have Santa’s budget. I don’t have elves and reindeers to work for me.

To my adult self, Christmas is almost synonymous with spending.

I don’t know when or how it happened.

I guess it's a grown-up reality we all deal with at one point in our lives.

As the simplicity of childhood wanes, a lot of things become all about the money.

The nice thing about being almost broke is it forces me to go back to the basics.

I can’t rely on materialism and Christmas commercialism to make this season special.

So instead of teaching my child to associate Christmas with expensive gifts, I’m going to try to make her associate it with something much more down-to-earth: family traditions.

I love traditions because they show intentional effort to nourish relationships, in spite of the whirlwind that is everyday life.

This is a good opportunity for me to create a positive family culture about Christmas and giving.

Looking back, I guess it wasn’t really the gifts that made my own childhood holidays so memorable.

It was the conscious effort of my family to make Christmas special through our own traditions.

I remember writing my letters to Santa and leaving them by my bedroom window.

I remember baking goodies in batches to give our neighbors gifts with a personal touch.

I remember braving malls in spite of the huge crowds and exhausting traffic, just to find the perfect gift for my grandparents.

I hope my baby grows up with an appreciation of Christmas magic, even if we don’t get her the most expensive items from the toy store.

I just want her to indulge in the sparkling lights, the delicious Christmas frosting and the knowledge that she is loved by her family.

I know she is only 8 months old, but that shouldn’t stop me from exerting effort.

Thankfully, my husband seems to be more excited than I am about starting our own family Christmas traditions.

We’re already planning our matching outfits for our Christmas Eve dinner.

We've also planned our very simple holiday vacation for some much-needed quality bonding.

In case you're wondering, I still got my baby a gift this Christmas.

It's a nice and simple hoodie.

I got her dad the same thing, in his size.

I think it perfectly captures what I learned about Christmas this year: We should try our best to make one another feel cared for, despite being almost broke.