(See if you can spot the part of the tree my kids decorated)
Today I thought I’d share with you a few of the ways we keep our holidays simple. Our way is not the only way — this list isn’t intended for that. It’s merely intended to show you that we don’t try to do everything, and that it’s possible to have a purposefully simple, joyful holiday season.
- Christmas decorations are simple. Some of you love, love to decorate for Christmas. Others find it a chore and just do it because you feel like it’s expected or don’t want to let your kids down. I think our family falls somewhere in the middle. We have an artificial tree (for no other reason than because it’s just simpler) and all of our decorations fit into two boxes.
We can set everything up in an hour, and take it down on January 2nd in the same amount of time. I don’t decorate every room of my house. I don’t make centerpieces for my table. I plain stop looking at Pinterest in December so I won’t feel guilty for how un-decorated my house it and how un-crafty my wrapped gifts look. Would we enjoy having outside lights? Yes of course. Do either of us want to spend the time hanging said lights? No. So, we don’t.
- We don’t do special advent devotions or crafts. We tried to make this work for a couple of years, we really did. I printed out advent pictures and made elaborate laminated decorations hung with gold string and hunted for sticks for our Jesse tree. But it ended up becoming a burden. This tradition just doesn’t fit our family. Instead we learn and recite Luke 2:1-14 around the dinner table.
- We don’t exchange gifts with extended family. This was a choice made together by members of our families. In addition, I don’t make or buy gifts for friends/neighbors/etc. We don’t send out a yearly Christmas card. I love the idea of all of these things, but the times I’ve added them in I’ve felt stressed. Again, I’m not telling you this is the right way, it’s just how we roll.
- We only give our children a couple of Christmas gifts. They get one present from each set of grandparents, and a gift from a couple of others. They usually each end up with 5 or 6 gifts total, and believe me, that is plenty.
- We don’t do Christmas-y activities. We don’t go to the lights at the zoo. We don’t go to any church Christmas programs. This year I didn’t take Amie to The Nutcracker. We’ve done all of these things in the past and they’re fun traditions. But we realized we were exhausted by squeezing these activities in, often keeping the kids up late at night, and sitting in lots of traffic. In the end, we just don’t need these activities to enjoy each other during the Christmas season.
- Our church does very few Christmas activities. We have a church staff dinner that David and I host, and we have a Christmas Eve service. This year a friend planned a church ladies’ $5 gift exchange party. Because we just do a couple of things, we enjoy them immensely.
So many “don’t’s” What do we do, you ask?
- We spend time together. We bake together. We have Christmas movie nights. We do a little Christmas shopping, mostly online. We whisper Christmas-gift secrets and make art work and have fire pits.
- We spend time with friends and family. Our December is filled with people, but we’re strategic about what things we say “yes” too. We choose gatherings that allow for building up relationships old and new, and for including outsiders. We schedule in “down nights” for rest between all the fun.
- We go to the Great Wolf Lodge. We have a December tradition of an overnight at the Great Wolf Lodge. This is our third year, and it’s always one of our family’s favorite memories. We laugh a lot and join in the Great Wolf Lodge Christmas pajama party, and mostly go on lots and lots of water slides.
- I choose one Christmas craft to do with the kids. Last year it was salt-dough ornaments. I’m still thinking up one for this year. My mom is great in this arena and supplies them with fun Christmas projects during the month. I’ll admit I found a simple Christmas ornament project on Pinterest for myself and I’ve loved pulling out my little craft box and hot glue gun in the evenings.
- We read books. David and I always have a stack of books we’re reading on our own, but we also recently started reading aloud as a family. Last December it was The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. Right now we’re reading the Little House on the Prairie series, and all of us enjoy it.
- We save money. I don’t think spending money to celebrate Christmas is wrong. But I don’t think anyone should go into debt for it. There are so many ways to celebrate and make the holidays special without spending a lot of money.
If exchanging gifts with lots of people or even your own kids is breaking the bank this year, have a frank conversation with them. Tell them you’d love to buy gifts but it’s just not possible right now. Don’t try to keep up with the people around you, figure out what’s possible for your family.
Ask to draw names rather than buy gifts for everyone. There are some great ideas on Pinterest for low-cost gifts or stocking-stuffers. Offer babysitting for date nights or another creative chore. We had some “leaner” Christmases in my house growing up and I was not in the least bit traumatized.
- We don’t burn ourselves out. Once Christmas Day comes we aren’t complete exhausted running to and fro saying “yes” to anything good that comes our way. Instead we spend our day at peace and rested, with family and friends.