This is how our Christmas tree looked on Christmas Eve.
These were the gifts for my two teenage sons and my husband. There are two gifts in the back behind the pile to the right that were for me.
Each boy got six things. Son 1 (age 17) got a plastic french coffee press for when he goes camping, a pair of gloves, a knife, ear buds, a video game, and a ticket to a concert in March. Son 2 (age 14) got slippers, a video game, a t-shirt, two DVDs, and a ticket to the same concert. My husband also gave them some cash to put away for when they go to Disney World in April for four days with the school band.
Son 1 was most thrilled with his coffee press and made himself two cups on Christmas morning. Son 2 was speechless when he saw the concert ticket because it's for his favorite band. My husband and I exchanged gifts but nothing too extravagant.
I am thrilled that the boys were so pleased, and also that they seem to be getting the idea that it's the quality of the gift rather than the quantity that counts. They have to wait two months for the concert but I think they will love it. They also have to wait for Disney, but they are okay with that too, especially since they know that it is an expensive trip and they are lucky to be able to go.
This year we still had to get gifts for a few family members but we strived to be practical. We only received one gift that adds clutter to our house. I may just regift that next year, if I don't donate it first. However, next year I am going to start telling family members early on that we prefer not to exchange presents, at least when it comes to my husband and me and my in-laws. I don't know how that will be received, but I can't worry about that now. I just know that next December, I don't want to be scratching my head wondering what to get my father-in-law that he doesn't already have.
Despite our success this year with the boys, we still were not able to capture that "Christmas spirit." We are not very religious at the moment, so Jesus being the reason for the season does not have an impact on us. I wish that I could be more spiritual, but I just don't know how; I sometimes envy those who are. A very large reason the holidays can be stressful is because my husband has worked many, many Christmas Eves and Days, and trying to spend time with family around his schedule is maddening.
My dream is to experience Christmas somewhere else...perhaps in a different state (with lots of snow) or maybe in Europe. I would do everything I could to make that happen, except my husband is not the senior guy in his squad, so he never gets first pick for vacation. And he works with a selfish asshole who thinks he's entitled to the holiday week every year, so a Christmas getaway is unlikely. My husband won't be guaranteed that week off until he retires.
Anyway, while we were able to materially simplify the holiday, it still remains very complicated. Perhaps next year.