How our family celebrates Christmas in a slow, simple and meaningful way without stress, and overspending on gifts.
The Christmas season can be overwhelming, filled with anxiety, and a dreadful time of the year for some families. Massive sales, shopping guides, and daily commercials for the latest must have gadgets or toys floods our phones, computers and television. We are surrounded by the commercialism of Christmas, and it can leave us feeling less than enough if we aren’t able to afford that most wanted gift that someone really wants. Families go into debt to purchase the gifts on the list and then spend the rest of the year working hard to pay off that debt. It doesn’t have to be this way. It is okay to go against what Christmas has become, to say no to the stress, the gifts, the debt and the anxiety of the season. Here are some of my thoughts on ways that our family celebrates Christmas in a slow, simple, yet memorable way.
HOW TO HAVE A SIMPLE CHRISTMAS
I was raised most of my life by a single mother. I had four other siblings in the home and Christmas wasn’t really celebrated. If we had a tree, it was a tiny one in the corner, and one year we had a Charlie Brown Christmas tree. There was no abundance of gifts, and I imagine what we did get, my mother had to miss paying a bill in order to purchase. Yet, Christmas was a magical time in our home and I never felt like I missed out on Christmas. When I got married, and started having children of my own, Christmas became a much different season. I began feeling the pressure to shop on Black Friday, participate in all the holiday things and fulfill the list of things that my children wanted.
Then, one year that all changed. We took a family vacation to Colorado, Montana, and Wyoming with some dear friends of ours. It was a vacation that my children talked about for a very long time and one that they still talk about. It was then that I realized that their lives were made up of more memories than it was gifts. That is the year that my focus on the Christmas season changed. The Christmas season became about starting traditions and continuing some traditions that we had already been doing.
CREATE SLOW, SIMPLE AND MEANINGFUL CHRISTMAS TRADITIONS
Christmas Meal Gatherings: Our family celebrates with both my husbands side of the family and my side. On my side of the family, I host a Christmas dinner. To take some of the burden off of fixing an entire dinner, I assign different families to bring a dish. I provide the turkey and they bring the side dishes and desserts. My husbands side of the family gathers every Christmas Eve at his grandparents home, with all of the aunts, uncles, in-laws and cousins there will be be over 50 people packed into their home. Each family brings side dishes, desserts and we enjoy a meal together crowded into a small home with standing room only. After the meal, we gather together, sing some carols and have a time of reading the Christmas story. It’s simple, yet memorable.
Decorating the Tree: Every year after Thanksgiving is over, our Christmas tree goes up. It is a time that the children and I look forward to with great anticipation. Our tree is decorated very simply, some years with just white lights and other years with handmade ornaments and dried fruit. One year, after the Christmas season was over, I purchased 4 tiny trees for each of our children when they were marked down to 70% off. So, now each child has their own tree that they get to put in their room and decorate as they wish. The children look forward to being able to do this and it adds a bit of Christmas cheer to their room.
Quality Christmas Crafts: There are so many Christmas crafts that can be made at this time of year that will take up what I like to call busy time, yet, so many will end up in a forgotten pile or even trashed after the Christmas season. I like to focus on crafts and activities that can be saved, or reused after the season. Salt dough ornaments can be saved for many years, made and given as gifts, used as ornaments, and even used on gift wrapping. Dried oranges or other citrus fruits can be used as holiday decor and then made into bird feeders to hang outside.
Baking Night with Grandparents: One thing that I remember so well about the Christmas season as a child is baking with my mom. We made fudge, peanut butter cookies, and peanut butter balls every season. We would spend the entire day baking and then divide it all up into separate containers to give as gifts. Do you know how many people looked forward to that gift each year? A lot of people did! It was homemade with someones precious time and it was a truly treasured gift. My mother now comes to my home every Christmas season to bake with my children and let me tell you dear friends, that is a most treasured time of the season for me and my children.
Christmas Parades: As a child, I grew up going to multiple Christmas parades. It was one way that we celebrated that I remember most. There was something about bundling up in layers gathering Christmas candy thrown from Christmas floats, listening to the bands perform and simply being together as a family. This is now a tradition that we carry on with our children. They look forward to going to parades, and I look forward to taking them and watching their excitement.
Holiday Lights: A Christmas tradition that I loved as a child was going to see all the holiday drive thru light displays. Mom would load us children up, turn the radio to Christmas music and we would spend the evening driving through multiple light displays. Now that I have children of my own, we do the same thing. Each year we load up in the vehicle and take them to see the Christmas lights. Millions of lights and Christmas carols just has a way of creating a Christmas spirit that you won’t soon forget.
Simple Acts of Kindness: I feel like we should always be doing simple acts of kindness but during the Christmas season, there are so many who just need that extra bit of kindness. Simple acts like shoveling someones driveway if it snows, checking in on your elderly neighbor, or even taking them a basket of Christmas cookies. A simple random act of kindness is a way to spread some Christmas cheer.
SIMPLE HANDMADE CHRISTMAS IDEAS
“When we recall Christmas past, we usually find that the simplest things – not the great occasions – give off the greatest glow of happiness.” – Bob Hope
DECORATE WITH SIMPLE CHRISTMAS DECOR
For several years now, I have taken a much more simple approach to Christmas decorating. I use a lot of natural greenery, pine cones, dried citrus fruit, and handmade wreaths. I love creating a cozy and inviting home for our family as well as those who visit, but I don’t feel like I have to have a lot of totes stored away with Christmas decor to do this each year. The glow of Christmas lights, window candles, the fireplace burning, and beeswax candles all create a cozy feel in our home this time of the year.
SIMPLE CHRISTMAS DECORATING IDEAS
SIMPLE GIFT GIVING FOR CHILDREN
In our home, Christmas gift giving is so simple because we focus on time and creating memories more than gifts. As a family we enjoy the parades, light displays, going to small shops that have Christmas open houses, and we even go to places like our local Bass Pro because they are completely decked out for the Christmas season. In years past we have taken them to Silver Dollar City, purchased tickets to a show at Springfield Little Theatre and we usually take them out to dinner and movie one night. It seems like little things but Christmas is truly treasured and enjoyed in our home. We do stockings for each of our children and I focus on putting in items that are useful to their lives. The boys love being outside and in nature so things like a compass, small pocket knife, twine, and even small notebooks are things that they enjoy. The girls love art supplies, homemade body products, and journals. The gifts vary each year but they are always gifts that are useful to their lives.
I hope that this gives you a bit of insight into our Christmas season as a family. Christmas is so much more than what is under the tree or what is in the stocking. Someday, those items will be gone or forgotten but memories are one thing that will forever be treasured. What traditions do you celebrate as a family?