Homemade Christmas

The Christmas season is well and truly upon us. A couple of weeks ago the streets of Sanlúcar were decorated with three strings of lights (!) and last week a light-tree was placed in the village square at Alcoutim, and local businesses decorated with lights. The lights of Alcoutim haven’t been lit yet, but as we took the dinghy upriver back to Carina last night (after a wonderful evening aboard the boat of newfound friends) we saw the lights of Sanlúcar for the first time, and very pretty they looked too.

The girls have been doing Christmas activities at school, learning about the Three Kings (who, in Spain, are far more important than Santa Claus. It is they who come on the night of January 5th with presents for children, which is great for Santa, because it means a little less work for him). Lily and Katie have been colouring in Nativity scenes and pictures of the Three Kings and I hope they’ll learn some Spanish Christmas songs soon.

There is an ex-pat choir in Sanlúcar which is preparing for carol singing events on both sides of the river in the coming weeks. And the local shops are now selling small selections of Christmas foods.

The girls and I made Advent calendars last weekend and are planning on making decorations for the boat this weekend, to add to those we made last year. My mother and sister are joining us in Alcoutim for Christmas, so there is great excitement as we anticipate their arrival.

On Wednesday I took the early morning bus down to Vila Real de Santo Antonio for a day of Christmas shopping. In this larger town down by the coast the shops were decorated for the season and well stocked with Christmassy things. I bought the presents I wanted to get for Lily and Katie and I stocked up on baking ingredients. I love baking for Christmas!

What I am enjoying about this Christmas season already is that it feels more understated than usual. Here on this remote river there are few opportunities for frenzied Christmas shopping. No Black Fridays here, no 8th of December shopping madness, that’s for sure.

I’ve written before here and here about my unease with the material excesses of Christmas. This year, given the hundreds of thousands of dispossessed and desperate people who have come to our shores seeking refuge, families who have lost all their worldly possessions, children without even one comforting toy or memento of home, the material excesses of Christmas sit even more uneasily with me.

Santa Claus will come to my girls on Christmas Eve. He is part of the magic of Christmas. But the magic of Christmas also lies in making decorations and home-baked gifts to give to our neighbours and friends, carol singing and community events, special foods and time spent with family. I don’t want the loot under the tree on Christmas morning to be the focus of Christmas for my children.

Who needs the material excess of Christmas with its stresses of running around in overcrowded overpriced overheated stores, running down your bank account and running up debts, worrying how people will react to the presents you’ve given them? Other than the shop owners and the banks, no-one needs that sort of Christmas.

Instead Christmas can be a time for family and for reaching out beyond family. For spending time not money; for giving of yourself, not your bank account; for enjoying, not stressing; and for being grateful and thankful for the many riches in your life, rather than feeling disappointed by the unwanted presents under the tree.

My Christmas shopping, what little it was, is done now, and I’m looking forward to a weekend of making felt stars and snowmen and Santa Clauses, writing cards to far-distant friends, making the first batch of tiffin, and drinking lots of hot chocolate with my girls.

I wish you all a gentle and relaxed Christmas.


4 thoughts on “Homemade Christmas

  1. What a breath of fresh air !! Your Christmas planning sounds lovely and gentle and enjoyable . Your thoughts about the newly arrived to our shores refugees spot -on . We all have so much and Christmas should be a time of giving small stuff to our families and friends but also for thinking of and helping the less fortunate amongst us . You have a good soul Martina . Wishing you , Julian , Lily and Katie a very Happy Christmas with Bridget and Antoinette xxxxxx

  2. I love homemade stuff at Christmas, and the waste and excess at this time of year bothers me as well. Not just because of the way it highlights how little others have, but it highlights how much we DON’T need. I also don’t like the idea of setting ourselves up for overwhelming expectations from the children. They need to understand that there is a limit to what we can (and want to) buy them, and too much at this age means it just ups the ante later.

    Love the sound of what the girls are doing in school. And how great that you’ll have your mum and sister there to celebrate with you soon ♥

    • I agree with you about those overwhelming expectations. And it’s not just from children either. When I was about 18 years old my dad lost his job and that Christmas had to say to all our extended family that we wouldn’t be giving them presents that year and we didn’t want them to give us presents either. The result? A more chilled, relaxed Christmas for everyone, with far fewer presents to buy. We’ve kept the presents to a minimum ever since.
      As for the girls at school…Lily is a shepherd in her class play and Katie Rudolph (I think they’re all Rudolph). Today Lily had to bring a white sock and half a kilo of rice to school. I am wildly confused!!!

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