Saturday, December 18, 2010

Simplifying Christmas

I know. I know. Christmas is only seven short days away.  Kinda late to be simplifying anything at this point.

I just skimmed through Simplify Your Christmas (Elaine St. James Little Books), a book I first read a couple years ago.  It had some good tips and reminders that I am thinking about right now. 

Here are my (not so organized) thoughts on the book:

* Embrace what you love about the season, reject/eliminate the parts you don't. *

Personally, I love the decorations, music, shopping, baking, eating... the traditions are what make Christmas special for me.  Now that I have my own family, I am really enjoying creating new traditions and passing down old ones.  I love the time to really focus on the gift of Christ... a time to celebrate Him.
What I don't love?  Feeling rushed, pressure to attend every (family) event, not having enough money to buy everything I want to give and trying to come up with gifts for people who never seem to appreciate what you do give.  (I'm sure we all have a few of those peeps on our list.  This year I gave up and they are getting gift cards... like it or lump it!) 

* Cut back on expectations... for gifts, for food, for whatever is stressing you out. *

We have gotten pretty good at saying "No."
Since our first child was born, we decided that Christmas morning is just for us. We make a big breakfast and take our time with the presents.  We will not travel on Christmas Day. We spent years before that driving to three different houses on Christmas Day after being out somewhere Christmas Eve. It was not an enjoyable way to spend the holiday. And there is absolutely no way my kids would be up to that. I would encourage you do to the same: Carve out a special time to enjoy the holiday with just your immediate family... be it Christmas Eve or Christmas morning or the day after... whenever works.

* Examine your motives. *

Do you shop because you are bored or unsatisfied with your life?  In the book she says
Shopping has become America's pastime.  On average, we now spend six hours a week in a mall and only 40 minutes a week playing with our children.
Yikes.  What better excuse to feed our shopping addiction than Christmas!
I am really liking the three gifts rule we are putting in place for the kids this year.  (Three gifts under the tree, one to represent each wiseman.  Each gift with a different theme.)
Some years, the gifts might be more expensive than others, but it is a good limit for me. Otherwise I tend to feel like I need "just one more" thing and before you know it I've gone overboard.  I'm already trying to cheat on my own system by cramming extra little pressies in the stockings.  :)  I figure that will be my wiggle room on the "good" years.
I love shopping and will spend hours and hours "window shopping" on-line.  I fully realize it is an escape.  I love getting packages in the mail!  It gives me something little to look forward to. 
Perhaps this is not an issue for you, but it is something I need to keep in check.

* Simplifying doesn't always equal "less time consuming."  *

Ok some of the ideas St. James mentions might take more time, such as personally responding to each Christmas card you receive instead of sending a mass mailing of cards yourself.  But there is no right or wrong way for your family to celebrate the holiday.  Focusing on the "meaningful" is going look different in each family.  Taking the time to ask yourself "Why am I really doing this?" might lead to some big changes in how you celebrate.  By eliminating the obligations and pressures we put on ourselves, we give ourselves the time and room to make Christmas more meaningful and memorable.

Anyway, I definitely recommend picking up Simplify Your Christmas (Elaine St. James Little Books). (It's out of print so maybe try the library.)  It covers topics including cards, kids, giving, holiday spending, decorating, food, and plenty of ideas for creating a simpler, more meaningful Christmas for you and yours.

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