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Jayme M

Getting Ready For Baby’s First Christmas

The winter holidays are less than two months away, so it's time to put my Christmas thinking cap on. I might need the whole month of November to get ready! As a first-time parent, I'm in uncharted territory. Because my munchkin is young and won't remember this holiday, it might be a good time to try some new things. If we try something and don't like it, or want to change how we handle the holidays after this, he won't ever know! I've started thinking about how we'll handle the holiday — particularly about gifts, family time and traditions.

Gifts My husband and I don't exchange Christmas gifts with each other. We give gifts to other people, but he doesn't buy me a gift and I don't buy him one. (Takes a lot of stress off me!) But this won't be our strategy with our children! They can definitely expect gifts as part of Christmas. But how many gifts? Is it the number of gifts that matter? Or should we choose a specific amount of money to spend? Growing up, we had huge Christmases! "Santa" brought some big stuff; my parents gave us a lot of other things, too; each set of grandparents gave us a gift; we did a name exchange on each side of the family as well, so two different cousins would give us a gift, plus us three kids each bought each other a gift. Christmas was a huge influx of toys and clothes and books for me growing up!

Do I want to do the same with my kid(s)? All the gifts certainly added to the "magical" nature of the holiday, but I don't think I want to go as "all out" as I had when I was a child. I've read on a few different blogs about families with a simpler gift giving philosophy. They give four gifts to each child: Something you want. Something you need. Something to wear. Something to read. I, personally, love that idea. Maybe it's because "Something to read" is in the list and I adore reading! Anything that involves buying a child a book is something I can get on board with!

Family time When we got married, we naturally fell into a "Christmas with his family this year, Christmas with her family next year" schedule. Our families live 90 minutes away from each other, and we didn't want to split our time between two houses on the same day, so we determined that we wouldn't — even as newlyweds with no kids. We do the same thing for Easter and Thanksgiving. Having a kid hasn't changed our philosophy, but for some families, it might. Maybe both Grandmas really want to see baby on Christmas Day. Luckily, I don't think that's how our family is. Both sets of family want to see us and celebrate with us, but they aren't too demanding that it be on December 25th. The weekend before is just as good.

Traditions Sometime after Thanksgiving, Mom would tell us that it was time to decorate. We'd all head to the basement and bring up box after box after box. Some held wreaths for the outside. Some held lights and ornaments for the tree. We had stockings to dig out, Santas to display around the house and a nativity scene to set up. We also had lights that look like candles to put in each front window. It announced that Christmas was coming!

As a child, we went to my mom's parent's house on Christmas Eve, ate chili (or oyster stew for the adults!), opened presents there, then came home. My mom would tell us what time we would be allowed to get out of bed the next morning. We'd do our best to fall asleep and eventually we would. We'd wake up in the morning, watch the clock until the appointed time, then rush into the hallway. The three of us kids would wait at the top of the staircase, while mom got the video camera. She'd video tape us, asking us to say our name and how old we are. When she gave us the okay, we'd run down the steps, turn the corner and rush into the living room where Santa had deposited gifts! We'd rush to our pile while mom videotaped us. Wrapping paper would fly everywhere! Eventually things would calm down and mom would make us breakfast - usually something special with hot chocolate made on the stove. Later on, we'd get dressed (probably in new clothes) and go to Christmas dinner at Grandma's house.

Those are fabulous memories for me! What kind of traditions do I want to do with my family? Some will probably be the same. We'll probably pick up some traditions from my husband's childhood. We'll make some new ones. Things that I've heard of: Elf on a Shelf (where you hide a little Elf in different spots around the house for children to find), reading a different Christmas story each night through the month of December, baking goodies for neighbors, using an Advent calendar, or maybe a special box opened on Christmas Eve with a movie and new pajamas. There are all kinds of good things that we could do!

Now, obviously, whatever we do with our less-than-one-year-old for this Christmas isn't what we need to do every year going forward, regardless of the number of kids we have or our financial situation, but this is a good time in our life to start thinking about what Christmas might mean for us.

What are you planning for baby's first Christmas?

PHOTO: iStock