As you've probably already heard, we decided to try something new this year and spent December 22nd-24th with limited electricity. No lights, tv, computers, phones, electronic games, etc for 3 days (we did use the heater, stove, and oven). Here's how it went.
The night of the 21st we put the tv in the living room away, partly to prepare for the fast but also because we planned to put the tree where the tv was. Bug (2y) had a total breakdown. "Where are you taking Justin?!?" (his favorite show is Justin Time). It was ugly. I realized that although we'd been talking about this for a month, we hadn't explicitly let him know what was about to happen.
We set candles and lighters up in each room, and just before bed Papa and I locked our phones away in a toy safe Josh (9y) has so we would all hear the loud beeping if anyone tried to sneak a peak. I didn't think it would be hard to do that, but it was! I suddenly got really nervous about the whole idea.
The morning of the 22nd Papa got up before everyone else, as usual, and didn't know what to do with himself at first. Our normal routine is to check emails and newsfeeds before the kids get up. He ended up reading a book. When I first woke up I accidentally turned on the light in the bathroom, and Josh was there, instantaneously knocking to remind me to turn it off. That earned him the title of "Old Timey Holiday Sheriff".
At dinner we realized you can't cook or clean very well by candlelight. No wonder there were sanitation issues back in the day. Dinner the next two nights would need to be earlier. We occupied our day making snowflakes, playing board games, making up games, and having conversations. The realization that we couldn't look up recipes online hit us, so we read through some recipe books. By 8pm (2.5 hours of darkness) Papa and I were tired and ready for bed. The boys' sleep habits were not at all affected, and they charged on playing with their toys until 10:30pm or so. Bug had a hard time getting to sleep that night.
The 23rd we jumped into cookie making mode to try and finish before dark. We made three kinds of cookies, barely finishing before dusk, and delivered a set to each of our neighbors. I found it strangely satisfying to cream butter and sugar by hand instead of using a mixer. We also acted out movies, sang songs, chased each other around the house, pretended the chairs were cars and drove on dates, and played more games. I also read Ender's Game aloud, and we got through 1/3 of the book in one day.
The 24th my in-laws came over to visit, so we spent the morning making treats and cleaning up the house a bit. We threw our yule log in the fire place and had a fun time visiting. They got the boys puppies for Christmas, so things were lively. They stayed over until almost 11pm, and by the time we got the kids to bed it was midnight. Papa and I excitedly got our phones to see what we had missed. Nothing. It was really quite a let down. We checked all our emails, notifications, feeds, etc for the past 3 days and it hardly took 15 minutes.
Some things we realized- We commit less to memory when we know we can look things up anytime. I ate less, though I'm not sure if that was due to not using electronics, lower stress levels, or something else entirely. We were surprised none of us slept better. I've seen tons of studies about melatonin productions disrupted by artificial lights, but we all stayed up and slept as long as usual. I enjoyed the rhythm of working hard and rushing during daylight, then relaxing in the dim light all evening. We all connected and strengthened our bonds, which was the goal, and that was awesome. The kids were largely unaffected. Josh said he missed playing his Wii once the first day. Bug asked once to watch Justin Time the first day as well. After that they didn't seem to miss or even notice the lack of screen time.
After dinner the 25th Papa and I wanted to watch a movie, so we pulled the tv back out. It ended up being really stressful. The boys didn't want to watch with us and kept playing between us and the tv. The puppies needed to go out. Bug needed to potty. Josh wanted to show us something. We were putting way too much effort into trying to sit and watch the movie, and it caused way too much stress for everyone, so we decided to get rid of it for good. We are now a tv free home, and we love it so far.
Overall it was a wonderful experience. We learned a lot about ourselves, I think we made some positive changes, and most importantly we had three fun filled days focused on family. I look forward to doing it again next year.