Hi there– A friend asked me to give a little seminar a couple weeks ago. My topic– Simplifying Christmas. So, first thing, I googled just that. And you’d be astonished how many people have written on Simple Christmas!! So I gathered up ideas from here and there and here’s a just a few I found to make Christmas a little simpler and most of all, more meaningful:
#1. It starts with a budget. I read that 2/3 of American families have no idea exactly how much they spend on Christmas. Decide how much you want to spend on each area of Christmas (gifts, decorations, entertaining, meals, cards, donations travel…) and keep totals as you go. Then stick to it (the hard part)!
#2. And budget your time as well. Open your calendar early on and budget how you really want to spend those precious December days. I read about one family who finished shopping, baking decorating… by December 13th and then went on to spend the “12 days of Christmas” enjoying a simpler quieter Christmas time together…
#3. Take a pre-Christmas family survey. Around the table, or by email, ask your family, “What 3 things make it a good Christmas for you? What could we skip and not miss? What should we change?” Last Christmas I realized I did not actually have to bake 12 kinds of Christmas cookies, so I emailed my kids and asked which they’d like to see in the kitchen when they came home– and just baked up their favorites. Better!
#4. Can you be the brave one in the family to suggest drawing names or just buying gift for children? Saves time, shopping anxiety and money!
#5. Give events as gifts, not things in boxes– for example: craft pamphlet for a January “Girl’s Day” out with your mom and sisters, or plan an individual date with a grandchild. How about a January scrapbook date with kids to chronicle 2014? Or tickets to the zoo, a museum, bowling, the movies… Last year for Christmas we invited our kids to a February dinner at Bar Jules and a night at the SF symphony– great fun! (and no gift shopping or wrapping involved!)
#6. With our extended family–we pass a basket and in lieu of gifts everyone can slip in some cash to send to World Vision to buy a donkey for a family in need in another country, to buy mosquito nets, a flock of ducks or vaccinations for children–or to send $35 it takes for a child in a third world country to go to school…
#7. While you wrap up gifts for friends and family, take a minute to pray for that person as you tape up the package and tie the bow…
#8. I love Elizabeth Elliot’s idea to save the gifts until Epiphany (King’s Day) –January 6th and keep the focus on the real meaning of the day on Christmas.
#9. Keep wrapping supplies tucked in a shopping bag. Pull it out and wrap as you bring gifts home. Don’t save them all for a Christmas Eve wrap-a-thon!
#10. To decorate the house– don’t shop! Use what you have. And if you just need fresh Christmas things, invite friends to coffee along with their used Christmas items and have a decoration exchange!
#11. Cut greenery from your yard (it doesn’t have to be pine, any green is pretty)– and spread it around to decorate. I planted a holly bush a few years back so I could trim it and bring those shiny leaves and red berries into the house in December.
#12. Decorate your coffee table with a stack of colorful children’s Christmas books– Don’t buy them– hit the library! ( This comes in handy for cozy times with kids in the house)
#13. Limit the space you allow for Christmas storage (like my smallish upper hall cupboard)– so if you get something new– you have to throw something away to make it all fit.
#14. Instead of the time and expense of Christmas cards to 100 people– send 5 handwritten notes to the ones you love the most. Or just send a photo-laden Christmas email out. Or opt for Thanksgiving cards, a New Year’s letter or Valentines!!!– to stay in touch with people you care for.
#15. Feeding people is one of my favorite parts of Christmas!! But sometimes the simplest meals are the best. A friend went through a difficult divorce one Christmas time. All she had on hand for Christmas Eve supper for her and the kids was cans of Clam Chowder. But the next year, remembering that dear time together, they decided to do the same– and now it’s become their tradition. My family lived in Spain for 12 years, so Christmas night after all the hub-bub is past, the girls and I set out simple tapas on the coffee table by the fire place. It’s my favorite Christmas time meal.
#16. If you must throw a big Christmas party– make it pot luck!! Let everyone chip in. Or save the party time with friends for New Year’s Eve or a Super Bowl soup-fest when life isn’t so busy.
#17. Allow your self to gain 2 pounds over the holidays so you don’t anguish over every bite you take. January’s privations are around the corner!
#18. Christmas carols– play them at home, in the car, at work… They are free and simple and set your heart to the joy of Christmas!
#19. Set out the nativity scene together as the first part of your Christmas– I read of one family that wrapped all the nativity figures in Christmas paper and set them at the dinner table. Then each person unwrapped their figure, explained who/what it was and placed it in the stable.
#20. Celebrate Advent with your family– each Sunday until Christmas– or, if you’re not altogether until the week of Christmas, read and sing and light the candles all in one day. Here’s a link to an advent idea: Christmas Advent
#21. Simple tradition– Have Grandfather or perhaps the oldest grandchild read the Christmas story from Luke 2 before you open your gifts.
#21. As your gift to Jesus this Christmas, memorize a bit of scripture– Luke 2:8-14 (the Angels announcing to the shepherds) or Isaiah 9:6 & 7 (For unto us a child is born…) or sections of Psalm 86 (my favorite Psalm of devotion)
#23. With your extended family have a Christmas Night Talent Show!– our line up in the past included– 5 red nosed family members whistling Rudolph! Silly Christmas poems, the arrival of the world’s skinniest Santa, “What Child is This?” solo on the flute by a 9 year old, the 12 Days of Christmas rewritten to poke fun at family members, and the Nativity Tableau of little cousins all dressed in bathrobes and sheets (great for photos!).
#24. Just sit and watch your family. That’s who you are doing this all for– Skip basting the turkey again, leave the dishes in the sink. Just sit. And watch the kids explore a new Christmas toy, study the curve of their cheek, watch your older kids sit and talk over cups of coffee, your mom cut into the chocolate pie, your husband carry in a load of fire wood. Be present with the people that you love.
#25. Read through the book of Luke as your own personal Advent. There are 24 chapters, one for each day leading up to Christmas. Jesus the newborn babe, the child, the man, the Savior…
As you make your Christmas plans– ask yourself– Does this make Christmas more meaningful for my family? Does it add joy, not stress to the holiday? Does it honor the Lord we are celebrating?
Hoping you and your family have a warm and wonderful Christmas time together– simple and beautiful– with lots of hugs, chuckles and good food!