278 Responses to “Fight Holiday Spending with a Simplicity Challenge”

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  1. Sandy

    My family brings me the most happiness during the holiday season. Even if it’s just my created family of friends because my biological family lives so far away. I enjoyed so much about last years 31 gifts but mostly the reminder that little things like soothing music or deep breaths can really affect my mindset and day. I think my favorite though was making snowflakes out of post-it notes to hang around my desk.

  2. Pamela

    This sounds amazing! I didn’t know about this last year, but am eager to participate in 2013.

    My greatest happiness at the holidays come froom:
    gazing at the tree in the dark and just relaxing
    fires in the fireplace and candles
    getting together with friends and family
    Christmas Eve church when we each hold a single candle and sing
    anytime it snows, especially at night!

  3. Love this. I’m participating in a show on Black Friday about this very topic, and love how it is becoming a theme in my life.

    The things that bring me the most joy:
    Playing with my nieces
    Spending time with friends and family
    Holiday music!
    Seeing the Christmas ships.
    The quietness of snow in the city.

  4. Karen F.

    The “things” that bring me true joy and happiness during the holiday season are experiences : spending time with friends and family or visiting on the phone with folks I don’t see regularly. I also enjoy going to special holiday performances. That costs $ but I don’t have to physically store the ‘product’ in my house.

  5. lin

    My joy at Christmas is my family together. Tiny traditions and everlasting memories. My children are grown now, and are bringing their intendeds to join our circle; what a lesson in the expansive nature of love!

  6. Betty

    I enjoy the music and watching my grandchildren have fun. it’s not about the stuff.

    Betty

  7. Tracey

    Things that bring me joy during the holiday season include family, friends, good food, driving around to look at Christmas lights, and holiday music :)

  8. My family brings me the most happiness during the Christmas season. That often requires paring down the schedule to spend more time together.

  9. yeah Courtney, this sounds so cool!

    My favorite Christmas time growing up was spending every Christmas Eve at my cousins’ house watching Christmas Vacation and The Christmas Story…I love those movies but the best part was listening to everyone laugh and repeat the lines to each other. My Aunt has the best laugh.

    Now it’s fun to build those same traditions with my kids. They love to watch Disney’s Prep & Landing (100 times at least) and lucky for me it’s pretty good show with some really great lines to repeat. Oh and this year my daughter is SO into Charlie Brown and is already starting to repeat lines from the show. It’s so funny to hear her say “so there’s this cute little red-headed girl in my kindergarten class…”

  10. Xanthi

    things that bring me joy during the holidays, are the past meeting the present and looking forward for future moments alike, great laughter with my son near the tree while discussing about everything,
    Last year’s 31 gifts I had a December month filled with those private moments during the so longed email!!!and I have to admit that every now and then I go and randomly open 1-3 days back from the list, I savoure the moment and continue with my routine!!!!can t wait for the new edition!!!

  11. Robin

    how peaceful it is when it snows, especially at night, in December – that’s what gives me joy! :)

  12. Kim

    I love this! My husband and I have 2 young daughters and the most precious gift for all of us is time spend together! I am always in need of helpful ideas on how to spend time and not money! We are pretty good about not buying things but always find ourselves bored when it comes to the time we have together and boredom leads to spending money, ie, lets go eat or lets go thrifting or lets see a movie…So excited to find our more about 31 days!

    Thanks,
    Kim

  13. alissa

    some friends and I already plan on playing the Minimalist Game. I’m curious to see how it goes and I’m looking forward to having fun while simplifying.

  14. Good advice as always. I wish more people would realize that spending is not what makes us happier. Giving makes us happier and in the long term we will be happier about our situation if we base it on things that cannot be bought for money.

    Best,
    Anders Hasselstrøm

  15. My husband and I have been making plans to dramatically cut back on the gift-giving. We’ve already decided for sure to eliminate stockings this year (our youngest is 13 now anyway). We’re still trying to decide how to handle the rest – should the rule be nothing bought? Or perhaps second hand? The tricky part is trying to figure out what method will irritate the kids the least, LOL.

  16. Shelley

    This is an excellent reminder! I’m so thankful to have a family that doesn’t want a lot of things. The past few years of simplifying – no tree, minimal decorating, no need to go through all the flyers to get the best price on those ‘cool’ gifts – have been so much fun! We have found some great new ways to spend time together.

  17. I easily manifest the holiday spirit with smell & sound. I like smelly candles & my Pandora holiday music station. That and the lights on the tree are enough to me – especially in the morning when it’s still dark, & I’m the only one awake with my coffee :^)

  18. Maria

    I love getting dressed in many layers so that I’m comfortably warm and then taking long walks with my family when it’s cold and snowy outside. I’m convinced that walks create the best conversations and I love looking back on all the walks and hikes that I got to enjoy with my parents over the years and the love for nature they have passed on to me :)

  19. Cheryl

    Being able to spend quality time with my daughter brings me joy. She doesn’t care what we do or how much money we spend. She just cares that she has her mom’s undivided attention. :)

  20. APal68

    Spending time w my children brings me joy, whether we make cookies, decorate the tree or attend mass, times w the kids are the best holiday moments.

  21. Carol

    Holiday treats for me are:
    ~ relaxing in bed with a good book and hot chocolate
    ~ listening to Christmas songs and music
    ~ talking on the phone with family and friends far away
    ~ gathering for a potluck meal with friends
    ~ walking in the crisp air
    ~ celebrating my birthday with yummy food
    ~ and snuggling up with my cat.
    Life is truly abundant.

  22. TrenaJ

    Decorating the tree with my daughter and then sitting in the dark after we get done, with a cup of Hot Cocoa watching the lights twinkle. This year will be a little different as we have a cat and a dog now to try and keep out of the tree.

  23. My favorite things about the holidays:

    - spending all day in my PJs
    - Tex Mex made by my grandma
    - Christmas music!!!
    - watching Elf with my family (new tradition)
    - hot cocoa
    - decorating the tree
    - a fire in the fireplace (even when, in Texas, it’s probably 60 outside on Christmas)
    - wrapping presents (while this seems like it takes away from the minimalist aspect, it means a lot to me because I have fond memories of sneakily watching my mom wrap presents. She was a wrapping paper artiste! She passed away 7 years ago, so wrapping presents reminds me fondly of her. This year, like in years past, I’m focusing on wrapping homemade edible presents)

  24. Esther

    Holiday joy: reading picture books to my children, morning coffee lit by twinkle lights, the smell of gingerbread in the oven, listening to Christmas carols…

  25. One of my favorite things about the holiday season is going for a walk. It sounds simple, not especially joyful, but the key is to leave your headphones at home. Listen to your neighborhood, the extra bit of music that lingers in the air, the laughter and general excitement when someone comes home – or stops by for a visit. There’s more of this energy during the holidays and going for a walk can put you in a very receptive frame of mind to appreciate it.

  26. Robin

    I participated last year and it was fabulous! Love ideas for how to simplify at this time and slow down to remember the true meaning of Christmas.

    Things I love to do during the holidays:

    Watch Christmas movies/listen to music
    Bake
    Go to Christmas music concerts

  27. Melissa

    The things that bring me the most joy during the holidays are sharing it with my family. My daughter is old enough this year to start to enjoy the wonder and anticipation of the holidays. Watching the excitement in her eyes as we decorate a tree, sprinkle reindeer dust on the lawn, drive around looking at Christmas lights, watching Christmas movies snuggled up on the couch with popcorn. I can’t wait to experience the holidays with her!

  28. My holiday joy comes from:
    - spending quiet, lazy mornings with my family drinking coffee and relaxing
    - driving the mountain backroads of Montana looking for the perfect tree
    - roasting a turkey on the bbq grill with snow on the ground
    - ice fishing for kokanee salmon under the winter stars with my husband

  29. Matthew

    I’m curious as to exactly how this is going to work…so I hope I win, although I’m not sure I’ve ever actually won anything in random drawings.

    In December, I find a great deal of joy in:

    –Advent hymns
    –Christmas hymns
    –seeing my kids reaction to Christmas trees and lights
    –seeing my cousins (only once per year, on Christmas day)
    –my brother, dad and I always get together one evening in December for gin martinis. It’s not the martini I enjoy, but the slow, unrushed conversation with my family.

    • Matthew

      Of course! I actually win something for the first time…and I accidently delete the e-mail Courtney sent me. Ugh. If you read this Courtney, could you re-send the e-mail to me. Please? It would be awfully Christmasy of you.

  30. Stevie

    My favorite parts have always been with children: watching them open presents, or listening to their contributions during carol-singing. This year I’ve taught two grandchildren to play piano, so they’ll be perfecting at least four songs for Christmas Eve at our house.

  31. Lana

    Last year I donated half my Christmas decorations, so this year I’ll need to be more creative. I’ll be using baskets, pitchers, boughs and ornaments for table and island decorations.

    When the kids were little, we would hop in the car and get McDonald’s ice cream and ride around seeing all the lights and outdoor decorations.

    Now, we all make gifts. I’ve been doing woodburning and crocheting. The guys do woodwork.

    It’s not about gifts, it’s about who you celebrate the Lord’s birth with.

  32. Veronica

    I love taking the time to go inward and think about what it means to enter the dark time of the year. Celebrating the Winter Solstice with my circle of friends is a high point because it doesn’t involve gift giving – just food and drink, a little ritual, and lots of joyful interaction.

  33. The number one thing that brings me joy during the holidays is my family. I love cuddling with them, dancing with them, and listening to holiday music with them. We have a family tradition of baking Christmas cookies and eating them Christmas morning for breakfast. My favorite is dipping them in the coffe my mom brews. I love sitting around the fire pit outside and staring at the sky while the cold air nips at my face. This December I will be moving back home to Florida so the holidays will be extra special. I can’t wait!

  34. Anne Hudson

    Enjoying the hoildays this year is going to be all about redefining what brings the children and I joy, and not necessarily store-bought joy. We are starting a new life post divorce, and in a tiny apartment. We are already learning to love walks at the park over cruising toys r us… and cooking dinner every night as a family instead of eating out. So, this year, my goal is to replace our MATERIAL traditions with MEANINGFUL traditions. Crafting homemade gifts and goodies, and mostly enjoying the gift of time we carve out each day for us as a little family.

  35. Milica

    Spending time building traditions with my family. Making cookies and ornaments with my children, nieces, nephews, and sister-in-law. Making special family nights to watch specific holiday movies, and not just having them available at the drop of a disk. (You know, like the old days before VCR’s and DVD’s – though we might use a DVD we don’t have them available all the time)

  36. Linda

    I love music and taking a walk with my husband and our dogs while looking at Christmas lights.

  37. Paula

    Participating in the 31 days of Gifts last year made me focused on what really was important for me to do during the holidays. Giving, giving, giving… Giving my time, affection, love, attention, praying and more!
    I made sure I told my friends and family that I did not want/need anything for the holidays and that my gift to them would be either going to the movies, enjoying a cup of tea together or something very, very practical. That I was done with the madness of shopping and spending money on things just to make them see how much I love them? Nuts! :) So, thank you, Courtney! Again!

  38. Kim

    I am really filled with trepidation about the holidays this year. My father passed on in July, and it is now just me in this big house. We had been dropping holiday traditions the past few years as his health declined. I am not sure what it is going to be like this year. I am already crying. I don’t feel like doing anything – and I have to clean out this big house so I can sell it and move on.

  39. Tiffany

    My 3 year old son tells me everyday that he loves me more than random things, like chocolate cookies, or birds, or lightbulbs. It’s very sweet and always brightens my day.

  40. Melissa

    Playing games with my family, reading all day long, doing puzzles, watching the dogs run in the snow, singing and playing Christmas music, going Cross-Country Skiing, just quietly watching the Christmas lights.

  41. Rose Cole

    My husband and I decided Christmas 2006 that enough was enough so we turned away from the rampant consumerism of the season and stopped gifting. We now enjoy all of the spiritual aspects and fellowship of the holidays without the stress and pressure of trying to find the perfect gift for someone who already has too much as it is. We do give to charities but thoroughly investigate the worthiness and relialibility of the charity to make sure the people will truly benefit not the organization.

  42. Gayle

    Watching a Charlie Brown Christmas and remembering watching it as a kid with my mom, dad and brother.

  43. Viola

    There have been Days Christmas was the favourite part of the year – I loved everything: the preparations… the get-together… the food… but most of it to get some things I usually couldn’t afford…
    I grew up and now i basically have all what I want and need… and I’am more than happy to only see my Family, sitting by the fire, talking, going for a walk, eating… we are together for 3 full days and nights.

    Regarding presents: when I was a child, my parents let me know, that I had to give away some of my old games for poor children as otherwise santa will not bring me anything new.
    Nowadays – I love giving presents and still like to receive, but the WHAT changed:
    - my family always get a ticket for the world-famous pupetry in our hometown for a date in may so we have another day in the year to get together
    - my friends always get some gift coupon from Oxfam or WWF or Greenpeace where eg. a child in africa gets pencils or anything like that
    - my mother gets a gift certificate from a spa, as she actually has never the money for these things
    - my husband this year gets a watch he was looking after for years and I saw this in february for a reduced price, so I usually buy when I see – I never had to buy something after september since more than 15yrs

    I myself asked again for a flight-ticket (which my husband gets for his bonus miles) to bangkok, as I’m in love with travelling the world with my backpack alone (he doesn’t like that and his job doesn’t give him the time – I had 6 weeks in cambodia and laos in 2011, vietnam and thailand in 2012, burma in 2013 and now I want to travel to sumatra and borneo… and then there is india… madgascar… buthan… japan… and southamerica for future christmases ;-)

  44. Kathy in Chicago

    True joy & happiness are my children. Both of my children received socks, underwear, & $100 cash for Christmas. We would choose a mystery child from the Giving Tree at church, and they received something on their list, plus exciting things that weren’t on their list. My children really loved to shop for this mystery child!

    This Christmas will be very different. The oldest passed away 3 weeks ago, at the tender age of 17. Thanksgiving, her 18th birthday, Christmas break, New Year. This is going to be a tough couple of months….

    • Jodie

      Oh Kathy,
      I am so sorry for the loss of your daughter. Words seem hollow and empty but I wanted you to know I’m thinking of and praying for you.

  45. Stephanie

    With my husband, who is closest to me, this won’t be a problem at all. Instead I think it would be fun for us to “give” each other time together, each having to invent a fun activity (preferably free) that we can do together during December.

    With my immediate family I find this really hard, they’ve always been those with tons of over-the-top gifts, wrapped beautifully under the tree. In recent years I’ve tried converting this into an “only give me disposables and things I need” sort of time. Jackets, door locks, shampoo etc. My goal this year is to spend <$50 on everyone. And I mean EVERYONE from Chinese gift exchanges, to immediate family, to extended. In order to do this I hope to give "gifts" of time and energy. Maybe "give" my nephew a tobogganing trip, or my mother the gift of dinner at her place made by me. We'll see how this goes, but I'm excited! I hope that living with less is contagious :)

    • Dawn

      Stephanie, I have this problem too. My brother-in-law grew up in a poverty situation and is over-compensating now with extravagant gifts. He feels like he “wins” if he spent the most money on the most outrageous gifts. But none of us really need more stuff. Last year we agreed on a $25 per person limit and he told us we ruined Christmas for him. As our family grows it gets harder and harder to keep up financially. I’m going to try the “gifts of time and energy” idea you suggest.

  46. cheryl

    Watching the cousins play together, seeing my daughter hang ornaments made by her great-granny, hot apple cider by the fire with my fella, more than 40 relatives gathered at my aunt’s house…

  47. - Holiday music
    - Walking in the snow late at night when all is quiet
    - Watching the northern lights
    - Skype calls with my parents and brothers- I live in Canada and they are in the UK
    - Sitting by the fire with a good book

  48. Nigel

    I subscribed to last year’s post and thank you so much for sharing your wisdom with us. As I’m retired I travel during the winter months, but what brings me joy at that time is to share our travels with friends via email and to have those connections so close even though we are so far away. Replies from friends sharing something of themselves is a gift I always appreciate.

  49. Thera

    The very best thing about the holidays, is THE holidays (the days the kids and hubby actually have off from work and school) as I get to spend more time with them and get to do things we love to do together: baking, skating, touring around town to see the lights, decorating the tree etc.

  50. Beth

    One of the things that I cherish the most at the holidays is the time with my family. I spent 4 years at the Air Force Academy and 11 years serving as an Air Force officer. The only times I saw my family while I was overseas was at the holidays. I cherished every second I had with them because there are no certainties in life. To this day one of the greatest Christmas memories I have is of holding my nephew for the first time ever – I was deployed when he was born and only saw hi, in pictures and on Skype for the first six months of his life. He and his brother are the lights of my world and I cherish the time I get to spend with all my family.

  51. Brittany Rodriguez

    My husband and 3 children bring me the most joy during the Christmas season, or any season for that matter. We love to look at Christmas lights together, drink hot chocolate in our PJ’s and hang out with just the light of the Christmas tree. So many simple and beautiful things to enjoy, without going into debt to do so :)

  52. Hope Smith

    Last year instead of buying presents, we sponsored an ultra-poor family in Haiti through the Haitian Timoun Foundtation and Fonkoze. Giving a family clean water, a sturdy roof, a pit toilet, and livestock started them on a new life. We still had everything we needed, and more!

  53. The things that bring me joy during the holidays, and really pretty much of the time, is when all of my four children, spouses, and grandchildren are actually all here at one time for an afternoon and evening meal together. Sitting around the table here at our house, laughing and talking is just incredible happiness for me.

  54. There are so many things about the holidays that I enjoy and it really doesn’t involve gifts. I love watching A White Christmas and singing all the songs. I love making hot chocolate. I love reading a good book on cold, dreary days. This year will be my little boy’s first Christmas and I can’t wait to start some new traditions with him!

  55. Candyk

    I enjoy having time with family, candlelight and cooking together.

  56. Linske Brood

    We live abroad and are so excited to go back home for Christmas! Meeting with our family and friends after all this time is all that matters. Being able to spend time with them in the lovely scenery of the holidays brings extra joy. We are looking forward to long conversations with those we love during long walks in the snow or delicious diners in the warmth. The idea of just being together with these amazing people makes us happy already and we still have to wait 6 weeks before we can actually leave!

    Ps: hopefully our presented ‘less is more-plan’ for our Christmaspresents will get accepted in the family. We suggested that a selfmade gift or second hand treasure might bring extra joy and fun to the table. To be continued…

  57. Smiles and laughter at a time when family is so rarely together, sitting warm by the fireplace, children snuggled in my lap on Christmas morning.

  58. I participated in 31 Days last year, and definitely plan to sign up this year, too. It was a lot of fun opening up my “gifts” every morning–I would save them for when the house was quiet so I could properly appreciate them. I liked the playlists the best, but they were all wonderful. That gift of frozen pizza? Could not have come at a better time. :)

    My favorite part of the holiday season is when my husband, two girls and I drive around at look at the lights. Last year we went on a family date to a restaurant downtown and walked around to look at the storefront decorations–we live in a touristy town, so there was plenty to see–before hitting the streets to look at lights. Then we surprised them with a book of their choice at the bookstore. Everyone was just so happy, and the girls thanked us several times for the outing (and they still talk about it, so there you go). I think we’ve started a new tradition.

  59. Sabina

    This is really inspiring me to get moving on becoming a minimalist. I really am aiming at doing one or more of the challenges. I am proud of myself that I only want one material thing for a Christmas…..a Keruig.

  60. grammygoodwill

    Things that mean the most to me at the holidays are family events. We get together for a meal one last time before the new year. I also love the children’s Christmas programs at church. The candlelight service on Christmas Eve is very meaningful.

  61. Gin

    I’m in Australia, so what I love most about December is the kids’ end of year school concert and looking forward to the Summer holidays!

  62. Julie Mills

    This is going to be my family’s first year to simplify Christmas. My relatives think I’m nuts. I am new to all this, but it started a couple of years ago I read a book called Weird. After that, my husband and I sold our large home and moved into a smaller one. We purged our closets/attic. It’s funny how it’s been 2 years and our stuff is accumulating again, so we went through the closets/attic and repurged. My weakness is online shopping. I never enjoyed shopping because of the crowds, parking, etc, but now with things at my fingertips….ugh! Challenging. I am working on that.

    I think what you are giving away will help make families closer and less focused on material things. :)

  63. Renee

    What brings me true joy and happiness is taking my daughters to visit my husband’s family. Watching them play with their cousins, get to know their aunts and uncles, and adoringly follow their grandfather through the house is the best gift I can think of.

  64. What brings most joy to me is spending time with close friends and family. I also love de-cluttering. I love spending time outdoors or sitting by a cafe.

  65. Judith

    Snow, cold frosty mornings, family

  66. Kim

    My favorite part of the holidays is board games. I love the fellowship and challenge of playing board games together. It gives you something to do other than eating and gossiping. This year we will play Ticket to Ride.

  67. isa

    things that bring me true joy and happiness during the holiday season ?? walking outside on a cold cold (but sunny) day and then coming back home, lighting a fire and drinking hot chocolate, cuddling my children … reading good books during long evenings, under a blanket with my cat and a tea … but the very best is that kind of magic that floats in the air, that light the eyes of my kids, and it’s not about presents or Christmas, it’s just something you can feel (for example when walking in a snowy firs forest)

  68. We have seriously pared down our Christmas celebrations over the past two years, and I’ve found that the holidays have gone from a bucket of stress, to a joyful, fulfilling time. Some of my favorite “things”:

    –The silliness of my husband’s family’s celebration.
    –Watching my daughter play with her cousins.
    –Seeing our family, now that we live 1200 miles away.
    –Discussing parenting adventures with my cousins.
    –Watching my grandmas play with their great-granddaughter.
    –Seeing snow (and then driving back home and seeing palm trees again!).

    The best things in life, most certainly are NOT things.

  69. Amanda P

    I love the quiet in the morning, sitting by the tree that includes only ornaments that are special – not a bunch of matching bulbs from target. I love to eat breakfast with my husband and daughter with holiday concert music playing. I love preparing for our Lord by enjoying the still of cool weather and the excitement and joy at Mass during advent.

    Thanks for getting to us ahead of time, I want to begin my mindful intentions now.

  70. Sabrina

    I love the quiet hours. My family loves to read, so on Christmas day we all gathered on the couch to read books, with a fire in the fireplace. And in the evening playing board games while sitting next to the tree.
    Christmas now is much more busy (with a growing family and more travel involved), and I miss those quiet days.
    This year will be my first Christmas after changing my life to a much more minimal life. I still have a long road ahead, still too much stuff around, and alone with my approach to a simpler life. I am really glad that there are other people around the world who share their experiences and giving advice!
    Thanks!

  71. Ginger

    What I love is getting up early on Christmas morning, hopefully to snow, and sitting with a cup of coffee and the Christmas lights on the tree reading the Bible and giving thanks for all that I have. The day of chaos and tons of family is a joy but it’s my quiet time that sets my mind on whats truly important and centers me for the day.

  72. Lisa

    Some of my favorite things about Christmas are:
    -How excited my older brother gets about Christmas, even though we’re in our 30s.
    -Christmas music, particulary Ella Fitzgerald & Dean Martin, but also classic hymns.
    -Celebrating on Christmas Eve, after Mass, with the tree lit and music playing.
    -Watching Christmas specials with family: Charlie Brown Christmas, A Christmas Carol (1951), Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, etc.
    -Baking vegan treats for family and friends.
    -Reminiscing about Christmas at my grandparents’ house with family.
    -Going to the mall — just once — during the holiday season, to do some people watching. Also, the smell of the perfume counter, but I’m not sure why. Must be an early memory or something.

  73. Andi Bednorz

    Courtney, I love your site and your viewpoint and really enjoy reading your posts. I’ve decided this year to take some of the money I would have spent on gifts for my kids and take them out of town for a couple of days during the Christmas break. I don’t know that they’re totally on board with it just yet :), but I just couldn’t see buying more electronics or agonizing ver what to buy to make it “fair” between the three of them. Two of my kids are teenagers now and the other is not far behind, so I thought it might be nice to spend money on time together as opppsed to more stuff we really don’t need since they’ll be gone before I know it. Plus, I’m realizing as I get older that the memories of time together are priceless and things just get forgotten. So simple, but so hard to learn.

  74. Christine

    I most enjoy spending time with family, doing simple things like cooking together, visiting, playing board games, etc. This year I am making all of my gifts for friends, family, and colleagues at work – knitting, crocheting, jewelry making, and baking. I started in late August and am on schedule – thank goodness. Only one afghan left to make. I enjoyed making each item, saved TONS of money in the process (used coupons from Michaels and JoAnn’s along the way), and won’t even have to set foot in a store looking for gifts this year. HOORAY! The BEST kind of festive season!

  75. Gail

    One of my highlights at Christmas is our Christmas Eve tradition. Since my girls were little I have given them homemade flannel pj’s. They love them and have never wanted store-bought jammies ever :) Flannel is fun – always picking a print that reflects the recipient’s interests or personalities. It is a simple homemade gift but useful and appreciated.

    The list as grown over the years to include a son-in-law, my dear friend and her man, my husband and stepdaughter. The best part is that on Christmas Eve we are all together and after dinner, everyone opens their gift and scurries off to put them on! Everyone wears them all evening and we enjoy wassail and wine, board games and a fire. It is one of my favorite times.

  76. Elspeth

    Thank you for this post. It is so tough at this time to remember what is really important amidst all the advertising and hype to ‘buy everything!’ over the holidays. Holiday times are always a little tough for me – my family is not very close and in the recent past that schism has expanded into a canyon-size distance. This holiday for me is centered on cultivating my own ‘family’ – taking time to nurture the amazing friendships that I have previously taken a little for granted. They are important to me, and it’s about time my priorities reflected that.

  77. Gayle Feibel

    I love the smell of beeswax candles, a pot of soup simmering on the stove, and a great bread baking (or being refreshed). Then to hear the day’s adventures and laughter from my friends or family is true joy. The holiday season can be quite hectic; but if I create simple nurturing opportunities like this I am much more able to remember that it is not some thing that is the gift–it is someone–me. When I give myself to others I feel that I am truly celebrating Thanksgiving and Christmas.

  78. Sarah T.

    Lovely! I did the Minimalist Game this month and it was a blessing in and of itself. Just when you think you’ve exhausted what you can purge, you realize there are things you hadn’t considered and you purge some more! I plan on avoiding doorbusters like the plague. One thing our family does every year that we look forward to is buying for Operation Christmas Child and filling shoeboxes for kids all around the world. Kids are natural givers and we love to encourage this.

  79. Betty B

    Walking through the neighborhood with children to look at Christmas lights
    Seeing the kids play in the snow: building a snowman or igloo, having a snowball fight, sledding
    Christmas carols
    Christmas lights glittering in a dark room
    Playing Canasta with family
    Homemade cinnamon rolls
    Laughter and love with family
    Thinking of Jesus leaving heaven to be born in a stable
    Bundling up to go out in the cold

  80. Lauren

    I love driving around the neighborhood with my daughter looking at all the Christmas Lights. Every Christmas Eve we spend the evening with a group of dear friends, and just enjoy each other’s company. Time spent with family and friends is the most special memory I have of past Christmases.

  81. My kids and I always make a pot of cinnamon sticks, orange peels, apples, cloves and nutmeg that we simmer on the stove the whole holiday season. Traditions change as the boys get older but that smell always puts us in a Christmas frame of mind.

  82. Shell

    Thank you for this idea. In addition to spending time with family, the things that make the holiday season special for me year after year are sounds (Christmas music), sights (Christmas lights, decorated trees) and scents (cinnamon, pine trees).

  83. Ina

    I’m moving into my new apartment in early December with the goal of living with less and to declutter in the new year.
    My favorite holiday activity is playing in the snow with my two young boys, making Christmas decorations with them and baking cookies while listening to Christmas songs from my childhood. Love Christmas.

  84. Amy

    Loading pajama-clad kids in the car to look at Christmas lights
    Church services to celebrate Jesus’ birth
    Singing old Christmas carols and hearing the kids make up the words they don’t know
    Seeing The Nutcracker at Bass Hall
    Praying for some semblance of cold weather and snow in Texas for Christmas!
    Family time

  85. My favorite part of the holiday are the little and simple things! Like watching a holiday movie together with the kids and a big bowl of popcorn…a warm house with something yummy cooking in the oven…listening to music…playing games together…driving around to look at lights. For me, I can watch the snow fall with a book a cup of coffee all day! :)

  86. rose

    It makes me happy to see someone enjoy something I made for them. They’re not expensive things but there is something about something homemade that makes people really happy. I think it’s comforting to them to have an object, even if it’s just a card, that someone made for them by hand. And that makes me feel really good.

  87. Alice Minton

    I love continuing the holiday traditions with my children that I set in place a few years ago. We all love the music – that’s the time of year for Christmas discs in the car. We like to drive around and look at the lights. I always think of Christmas as a sensual holiday, delighting all the 5 senses. I do enjoy picking the perfect gift for people. I do miss the snow, living here in L.A.

  88. Chantal

    I find Xmas joy in a cup of homemade chai tea, a fuzzy blanket, and a good book.

  89. Elena

    walking and driving around the neighborhoods looking at the lights and the decorations. It makes the evenings light up with joy.

  90. Sammi1961

    What brings me the most joy during the holiday season is spending time with my family, seeing the beautiful lights, the smell of cinnamon candles, good food and good company, and the beautiful music that represents the season. It isn’t about the gifts but about spending time together with family and friends.

  91. Kat

    I love the simpler things – just cozying up with family and friends with mugs of something warm and delicious, baking together, taking trips out to see the holiday light displays. Last years 31 Days really did make my holiday season so much better! I especially loved the recipe for the gingerbread cookies with white chocolate frosting – I’m starting to drool just thinking about them :) Taking time out each day to do the 31 Days helped me to slow down and enjoy it more.

  92. christmas lights, puzzles, sitting by the fire, reading, yahtzee, puzzles (did I say that already) ;)
    being snowed in, all day pjs, sledding with the kids, walking in fresh fallen snow, snow angels & igloos
    yummy food, puzzles (did I say that already) ;)

  93. Ash

    I have always felt so guilty when trying not to spend around the holiday’s because family makes you feel like that’s what it is all about. When you say you aren’t participating in the spending aspect of it but rather the feeling and true meaning of what the holidays are they look at you like you’re crazy. I am still in debt from trying to “fit in” last year and caving to consumerism at it’s finest. I have already been trying to figure out how I am going to make it through this year and this article couldn’t have reached my inbox at a better time. It makes me feel so much better that like-minded people are out there trying to not be anti-holiday but rather find what it is truly about and celebrate it how it should be celebrated.

    Some of the things that bring me true joy around the holidays are a s follows:
    Holiday music
    Cozy layers
    Sitting by the fire
    Pretty lights
    Warm fuzzy slippers
    Classic holiday films
    Delicious treats
    Helping those less fortunate
    Spending time with friends and family
    Hot chocolate
    Holiday crafts
    Camping trips
    Genuine feeling of joy that naturally emanates from the inside out. It spreads like wildfire and everyone just seems to be in a better mood around the holidays.

    Thanks for letting me share,
    Ash

  94. This is wonderful – thank you. I saw the garland creeping into the drugstore a few weeks ago and just stopped and stared. What gives me happiness during the holiday season is reconnecting and connecting more with family and friends – seeing more pictures of loved ones and taking the time to be real with each other is the best thing in the world.

  95. Kyla

    I find joy during the holiday season by reconnecting and spending quality time with my family and friends, listening to beautiful holiday music, and enjoying the warmth of a fire or a hot cup of something delicious. The holidays have always held a special place in my heart and serve as a time of reflection for me, where I can recall the wonderful family memories of years past and enjoy the new experiences of today that will live on in my memory.

  96. Valerie

    Time with my family is what really brings me joy in the holiday season.

  97. Nancy

    I enjoy being with my family; I love sitting in the dark, talking and gazing at the lighted tree. I love cooking Christmas dinner with my brother. I enjoy the slower pace, no work since I travel to be with family. It is even more special when my brother & I are able to travel a little further to see old friends.

  98. Allie

    My happiest holiday moments are snuggles with my two daughters and my husband. That, and the shortbread cookies we bake every year using my great-great-grandmother’s recipe.

  99. Lucretia

    My joy during the holidays is spending time cuddled up with my sweetie watching movies; making treats for family and friends with recipes I’ve never tried before (I’ve only had a couple of bleh! recipes); and lots of laughs with loved ones over holiday dinners.

  100. Anne

    My Senior Golden Retriever still playing in the snow with a bright red bow on her collar.

  101. Sydney

    Thanks for this reminder to be proactive in enjoying the holidays! I’m enjoying reading everyone else’s favorites. I had to write out a list of all our traditions to focus myself, and it was a big list! Still, the top three jumped out immediately.

    I love the photo session for the holiday card, even though it’s rarely smooth and hard to agree on which pose to choose!

    I love our pollyanna gift exchange with the kids and their cousins. Everyone is still small and caught up in the magic, and it spreads to all of us.

    As a variation of an Advent calendar, we’ve been making construction paper chains for years. 25 links, and one is removed each day to count down.

  102. Cathi Cooper

    I didn’t participate last year but I will this year. For me it’s always been family that makes the season special. I love having everyone home and enjoying the laughter and love they bring to my life.

  103. Dawn

    Things that bring me joy around the holidays:

    Picking out a tree with my husband. We never have enough time together, but this activity always is fun and full of love. (and we wait until later in the month, so trees are dirt cheap at menards!)

    Cooking hearty meals at home – pots of soup and chili.

    Watching the dogs (and my husband) race around the yard together in the first snowfall.

    Girls afternoon together with my mother, niece and sister.

    Seeing everything transform into a sparkly twinkly wonderland as people decorate.

    Our whole family together. We are so lucky to still have my grandmother with us, making it 5 generations together this year for the first time.

  104. Laura

    Hi Courtney,

    I would have to say:

    Quiet reflection time…with only the tree lights and a cup of tea.

    My daughter’s face as she wonders and wishes during this magical time of year.

    Pondering what the Season really means..the birth of our Savior.

    I also love figure skating so watching the Holiday Special on Thanksgiving weekend is a lovely way to enter into the Christmas season.

  105. Tommie

    For many years I would begin in October buying all of the Chrietmas editions of all the women’s magazines. And I do mean all. I saved them until thanksgiving day and after a huge dinner would retreat to my room to peruse all the things that would make my holidays brighter. Except it didn’t work out that way. I would plan and dream and scheme about creating the perfect holiday but it never happened. So I quit. Not the holidays. The magazines. According to that world, my house wasn’t festive enough. My meals and snacks were less than second rate. My gifts were cheap and shabby. So, for the past several years the only expectation I have about the holidays is the ones I create. Sometimes there is a turkey and sometimes there isn’t. Sometimes there is a Christmas tree and sometimes there isn’t. And these days most of the gifts I give are handmade. Not much buying. Sometimes I still wrestle with the holiday demons. But usually I can say, that is not what it is about and move ahead to have the holiday that is most meaningful to me and mine.

  106. Kathy

    Being with my loved ones, especially the grandkids over four hours away, is the best gift for my and my husband. We usually find it hard to travel in wet weather so I’m praying for weather that will be crisp but not rainy and hazardous.

  107. Caitlin

    I really enjoyed the 31 Days last year, especially the music mixes! They really helped me relax, bust out a dance party and get in the mood for the season. I love holiday music and that is something I really focus on during that time of year. Looking forward to this years 31 Days!

  108. Laura B.

    For those of you with young children, cherish every moment. In the blink of an eye, they’ll be gone to college. I’m looking forward to having all the kids back in the nest, baking cookies, playing board games, tromping through the woods to get a tree, and hugging them whenever I want. No gift I’ve ever unwrapped compares to being in the same room with loved ones.

  109. Aimee B.

    Some of the things that bring me the most joy around the holidays:

    My husband always takes 2 weeks off at Christmas, so the family time we’re able to share with our kids (now adults) is priceless.

    Packing a shoe box for a child in need

    All the beautiful sparkly Christmas lights and decorations

    Hot cocoa

    Christmas tea parties

    Creating our homemade ornaments for each other

    Making graham cracker houses

    Watching Christmas movies all cuddled on the couch

    Attending Christmas Eve service

    Christmas carols

    There are many more things I could list. Christmas is such a beautiful time of year. I will end with one of my favorite quotes…

    “And the Grinch, with his Grinch-feet ice cold in the snow, stood puzzling and puzzling, how could it be so? It came without ribbons. It came without tags. It came without packages, boxes or bags. And he puzzled and puzzled ’till his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before. What if Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store. What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more.”

  110. Kathy Mikolajczak

    We moved to Tennessee recently to be near our daughter and her family. I am so looking forward to spending the holidays with them this year. I am so excited to be able to bake cookies and decorate with our four year old grand-daughter, and just enjoy the time together as a family!

  111. Robyn

    I like to make my gifts as much as possible. It cleans out the craft room and feels good to give handmade. But I try not to do much in December so I can enjoy the holidays without the stress.

  112. Lei Lani

    What brings joy and magic into my heart and life during any holiday is the traditions that we started as a family that do not involve things, but experiences that are shared, and built upon, and continue even after people have grown, and moved away, and given in to the materialism of the holiday (be it Christmas, or Halloween, or Easter… etc.)
    We all sit around, and list what makes us happy and glad to be here (number 1 on my list is a famous quote from Monty Python’s Spam-a-lot – “I’m Not Dead Yet”, closely followed by “I love my life” and “I am healthy, and can see and hear and touch and appreciate the people in my life”) After a few rounds of everyone listing their “happy”, it starts to get hilariously ridiculous (Since it takes 5 cats to be a crazy cat lady, and I only have four, I am happy I’m not a crazy cat lady) Each year my son comes up with a real doozy that is soooo from left field we all collapse into laughter. Then we eat.

  113. CJ

    Having my children home and all of us sleeping in the same house again. I love checking on them like I did when they were little.

  114. Lindsay

    The thing that brings me the most joy is relaxed quality time with my family.

  115. Susan

    Moments that bring me true joy and happiness in the holiday season:

    -The warmth of our house compared to the chill outside
    -Choosing photos for our Christmas card (because it is so fun to look back on the year!)
    -Attending Christmas Eve Mass with my daughter with a special dinner to follow
    -Reading “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas” to my daughter before putting her to bed on Christmas Eve, same as my mom did with me.

  116. Patty Peters

    What brings me joy and happiness during the holidays? My family. So many of my family members live out of state, and we all make a point of getting together on Christmas Day for a yummy, homemade lunch, made up of foods that we have traditionally enjoyed every year . Many years, this is the only time I see some of my family members.

    We have a fun family tradition….each person in the family takes a turn using colored chalk to draw a picture or write something meaningful on one large chalkboard. At the end of the day, we have an awesome group collage. It’s typically a drawing re-enacting a very funny old antic that occurred years ago amongst cousins, brothers, etc. Every year we photograph it, and refer back to it in future years to share the laughs again.

    I am truly blessed to still have my grandparents in my life as an adult. And I cherish this time during the holidays that my own children get to enjoy them as I did as a child.

  117. patti

    I think sitting in church hearing the beautiful choir sing the christmas carols is the perfect way to remember the reason for the season. Puts in the right Christmas spirit every time.

  118. Bonnie

    Things that bring me joy and happiness during the holidays: nature – enjoying a walk or a ski after a quiet, new snow with shared hot chocolate afterwards; simply being with my family – I have 4 siblings and love evenings where our families come together to share a meal, stories and happenings; one cookie bake – we have one shared cookie bake during the holidays – it’s very casual and really focused on the little one’s and enjoying their experimentation and amazement with the process (things usually turn out with a strange brownish color from missing food coloring, but no one cares!).

  119. Melissa

    Since the birth of my children I have been a quest to make gift giving REALLY matter. For example homemade items, one year every gift we gave was to help reduce one time disposables and every year we give gifts made locally. What I love about the Holidays are decorating our tree, reading the Night Before Christmas, making cookies and giving them to our neighbors. Never have been shopping on Black Friday and never will! Thanks for your inspiration on simplicity, it is catching on in this household!

  120. Jackie Hardy

    Making memories with our family instead of exchanging gifts.

  121. chris

    Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday because it’s all about food and family … not gifts and money. You’ve inspired me to carry that tradition on through Christmas this year and focus on giving TIME gifts to family and friends.

  122. KayJS

    Having my children home is the best present. A real Christmas tree is second.

  123. Becky Brown

    My memories bring me the most joy- remembering waking up as a child before dawn and finding what Santa left me, times spent with family, dinners, special places and traditions. I try to recall each of these moments throughout the year. It’s peaceful and comforting.

  124. Sue L

    One thing I’ve done since my son (now 20) was little, was have a scavenger hunt for his Christmas presents. His card contains the first clue. He has to figure out the answer to the funny clue to find the next present. Each present has a clue attached for the next gift. I try to get really creative and have him look upstairs then down in the basement for the next one, then back upstairs again. It’s something he and I still look forward to each Christmas and we laugh at all the silly places I can find to hide his presents. I am looking forward to the 31 Days of Gifts You So deserve, sounds like a wonderful thing !!

  125. Michele

    The best part of the holidays is the joy and wonder in my kids eyes as we take in all the wonderful sights and smells of the season.

  126. What brings me the most joy during the holiday season is remembering the story of a tiny baby who humbly arrived on Earth to live a perfect life and die a death that is my saving grace. Gathering around my family’s piano to sing together during this amazing celebration is something I look forward to all year long.

  127. Karen Wang

    The things I really love during the holiday season are the times spent with friends and family, the chance to get together and rituals like seeing the Nutcracker with my daughter or decorating a tree. I’ve been trying to focus for a few years on experiences as gifts rather than things. I’m looking forward to the 31 gifts program this year.

  128. JoAnn

    Thanks for the chance to win! I love time with family and friends, sitting, drinking hot cocoa and watching the Christmas tree lights.

  129. Julie

    I subscribed to 31 Days last December and it made such a difference in my holidays. The gentle reminders to slow down, be gentle with myself and others, and to have fun in simple ways all felt very nurturing to my soul. Thank you! I look forward to this year’s version!

  130. Liz Evans

    Black Friday for us is “Stay Home and Cuddle in Peace and Quiet While Everyone Else Goes Crazy” Friday! My husband always takes off the day after Thanksgiving so we can have a day for just the four of us. No running around, no craziness. We’ve started asking the grandparents, aunts, and uncles to forego buying the kids a bunch of random toys, and instead going in on combined gifts for one or two things the kids REALLY want (and we wouldn’t be able to buy on our own). Christmas should be about the memories, the loved ones, and most importantly, the gift God gave to us in the manger over 2000 years ago. Not about the gifts.

  131. Melissa Wrin

    I find homemade food gifts and crafts to be meaningful. I often put together mini scrapbooks or photo books for grandparents. I also find just spending time with family to be the most joyful time around the Holidays, not the store bought gifts.

  132. Gloria

    A great holiday pleasure for me are holiday scented candles and listening to Volumes I and II of Biltmore House Christmas CDs.

  133. Mari Anna

    This year will be an especially poignant reminder of what is truly meaningful as
    we celebrate the holidays.

    My family is tiny: only my younger brother and sister and myself. We have been mostly estranged over the last 20 years due to the pain of a terrifically abusive childhood that we endured. We are now all in our 40′s and have worked our way through much of that pain, and this year we had planned to share our first Christmas together since we were teenagers.

    A month ago we received the wrenching news that my brother, age 43, had been diagnosed with terminal bone cancer.

    We now are grappling with the bittersweet reality that it will be both our first Christmas together as adults and our last. We are struggling to understand the meaning of the word “family” in the midst of grieving. We feel the looming weight of holiday expectations and the fantasies we had of what was to be, and the impending loss of my brother’s life. My sister said it best: It will be a reunion, but not the one we would have written.

    Our job will be to savor the joy of this one holiday, the joy that we didn’t throw this one away too. It will be a joy of second chances and do overs and forgiveness and I’m sorry’s and I love you’s and it’s okay’s.

  134. lori ann higgins

    baking and being with family are my true joys of this season

  135. Rhonda

    Time spent relaxing with family and close friends is what I enjoy most about the holidays.

  136. Joetta Witkowski

    Time with my family is uppermost. Plus, I love decorations – sometimes I just sit in our parlor and watch the tree lights, a habit I started when I was little. And I love having cold weather at Christmas, something that I could only dream about when I grew up in San Antonio!

  137. Well, being a touch aspergers, and more truly connected to my objects than people, I can say that for me, finally, a people-orientation is blossoming. A thaw out of the cold of my past is occurring. So, truly time with my in-laws and facebook time with my mother’s family is what lifts me up. Courtney, thank you for your inspiration.

  138. Teri

    I didn’t know about this last year but I would be so happy to participate. What brings me joy is spending time with family and friends, baking and creating holiday stuff and decorating in creative ways. The last few years I’ve had the least amount of money because I’m trying to pay off debt. I think they have been the best because I haven’t stressed about finding everyone the perfect gift. When you don’t have the money you find different ways to enjoy the holiday! Thanks for your blog! It is always a welcome treat in my inbox.

  139. Cyndi

    Baking to share with coworkers & friends. Baking brings me joy & sharing the results doubles that joy!

  140. Cheryl

    Things that bring me joy – seeing and spending time with family that are here from out of town, hosting an actress that is in town rehearsing for The Christmas Carol play and then watching her perform at the dress rehearsal, attending church on Christmas Eve and singing Christmas Carols, making the special family cookie – Kringla – that reminds me of my grandmothers.

  141. Shelley

    Some of my favourite ways to enjoy the holidays without spending or accumulating:
    – simmer pots on the stove
    – having fresh cookies waiting when the kids get home from school
    – sitting in the dark admiring the lights on the tree
    – my sister’s dog leaping around joyfully in the snow, playing with my kids
    – holiday music
    – decorating gingerbread houses
    – eating gingerbread houses
    – our in-floor heat, especially on cold dark mornings
    Also candles, sugar cookies, hot chocolate, giving to Christmas hampers, sending and receiving Christmas cards, and of course walking outside when it’s snowing (if it’s not toooo cold.)

  142. Teri

    Christmas is my favorite time of year. The commercialism has really been getting to me the last few years. We have four boys ages 8-12. I love when our family sits together in the living room with the tree lit & the lights off. We’ll turn some Christmas music on & enjoy sipping on something warm. These are the best days of our lives. The together moments!

  143. Sarah

    True joy and happiness last holiday season: spending quality time with family, looking at Christmas lights, an unexpected snow fall after a visit to a train display with dad, enjoying the delicious food made with love at moms house, setting and coming in under budget for gifts, seeing the joy on recipients’ faces, and not getting too worked up or sucked in to the holiday, just enjoying being in loved ones presence.

  144. glenda

    Our Christmas celebrations are becoming simpler and richer each year,prompted by a wake up call from my teenage boys a few years back asking me to take the fuss out of christmas. We now focus on people and simple food and gratefulness. A neighbourhood breakfast barbecue, then as a family we prepare favourite foods rather than the “should” foods and we sit and share food and stories.Natural decorations and flowers and candles and I am loving the simplicity of it all. The day stretches on in a beautiful relaxed way rather than ending in an exhausted slump.I would love to take your challenge and explore simplicity in celebration a lot further.

  145. Kelly

    I participated in the 31 Days last holiday……and I have to say it was wonderful! I eagerly awaited Courtney’s email daily. It honestly helped center me, remind me, and lightened the mood a bit! I had a huge year of change and this one simple thing that I bought for myself (31 Days) was very much worth it!!

    I will enter my name to the hat, but regardless…31 Days will be in my world again this season!!

    And what makes me happy: I do…..I finally do!!

    xoxo

  146. Joe

    The holidays bring me happiness because of the opportunity of a break from work, academics, usual life business to spend quality time reconnecting with my wife. This will be our first year that we said ‘no’ to travelling home to family, to buying a crazy number of gifts. Instead we will connect through Skype and enjoy each other’s company this holiday season in the comfort of our own home, neighbour hood.

  147. Kelley

    The time I treasure the most at Christmas is the 10 minutes every evening, when we turn on the tree lights, and snuggle together to read “House of the Wooden Santas”. This book has become a part of our Christmas tradition; for 11 years, my kids and I have made a daily connection amidst the business. Even though the oldest is 15, and has read the story 11 times, he still participates.

    • Angela

      I loved that story! I used to read it to my kids, but we lost the book when we moved. I’m glad to hear someone else has been reading it their kids for years, too.

  148. Michele

    White Christmas lights and firelight. Could do without the stuff.

  149. Diane

    What I treasure most is time spent with my family. We enjoy decorating the house & the tree, and especially all the lights! Spending time together enjoying good food and the lovely decorations is so special. The other thing we enjoy is the Christmas party with our extended family… lots of food, fun and good company.

  150. Marjorie Hennessee

    I am working on being more with less.
    Am cleaning out my attic this week
    and I already feel better.

  151. Em

    I treasure most the time spent with my family and the time off work which allows me to reflect on the year that’s been and set intentions for the year ahead.

  152. Liz

    What brings me the most joy are the rituals I have begun with my children –
    * decorating the Christmas tree with decorations handed down from my grandparents as well as all the ones my children have made over the years.We talk and remember when they were made and who they came from.
    * going out on Christmas Eve to see all the beautiful lights
    * putting out biscuits and milk for Santa
    * staying up late to eat Santa’s biscuits and drink his milk! Also leaving snowy footprints from the door to the tree (one day they will ask why Santa doesn’t leave footprints heading out) Also the reindeer leave reindeer poop outside to be discovered with squeals of delight and disgust!
    * having a BBQ Christmas meal (we are in sunny Australia)

  153. Kathleen Miller

    I have a book with the entire libretto of Handel’s “Messiah.” At some point in the Christmas season, I listen to the whole performance on CD and follow along in the book. A cathartic experience.

  154. This year I am being smart and taking two weeks off during the holidays. Two weeks of no agendas and no pressing responsibilities. I am looking for most to not over taxing myself with obligations and then being exhausted that I don’t have the energy to enjoy moments with my loved ones. The greatest gift I can give to my family and myself is my undivided attention. Seems strange to be thinking of the holidays already. I know the displays are up already but I am so removed from most mainstream media that I am behind current trends. I think that is a good thing.

  155. Gale

    A holiday treasure for us is watching the Thanksgiving day parade together. We stay in our pajamas, snuggle in blankets and nothing interfere with us until after Santa’s sleigh arrives.

  156. gina

    hot chocolate by the twinkling lights of the christmas tree with my little girl <3

  157. linda

    I love having the family around the fireplace, telling stories and cuddling. Makes me feel loved to have them all near and safe.

  158. Vicky

    What a great idea! I would like to help my friends and family have a better, more meaningful holiday season that they will enjoy and remember.

  159. kathy

    spending time with family & friends. sharing a meal, a walk, a conversation. sending a letter to someone i haven’t spoken to in a long time. wrapping a small gift in a very special way….frame a photo of a special moment. print out a meaningful quote on special paper, then frame that or include it in a card. let those close to you know how grateful you are to have them in your life.

  160. Thanks to gifting myself the 31 days of Xmas last year, I learned the great value that Courtney puts into her offerings. Then this year I became part of her GoodBlog project which brought me countless riches and relationships that are still unfolding.

  161. Patricia C.

    My 3 grown kids live on 3 different continents. This Christmas all 3 will be home, so we’ll be able to enjoy the holidays together.
    That is definitely the main thing that matters to me this Season.

  162. Elizabeth

    I did the 31 Days last year and honestly found I needed the daily reminder and reinforcement. I treasured the quiet days and the homemade ornaments on a simple spruce tree. No shopping, period.

  163. Mindy

    I would love to included in the drawing to win! I have been following you for a while now and while I am not a minimalist yet, I am very interested in it and eager to give it a try!

    Thank you for the giveaway and your sound advice!

  164. Kathleen Byrne

    What makes my holidays special? Family, friends, a new snowfall when I don’t have to drive in it (in the Midwest, we rarely escape snow!). The spirit of the season–love, friendship, kindness–is so much more important that the actual gifts. It is, after all, what the gifts themselves are meant to convey.

  165. Leah

    The most joy I get from the holidays is being in pajamas all day, with a fire in the fireplace, music playing, hot chocolate in hand, and being with my kids and husband all day long. I don’t really care what we do, but playing with blocks might be my favorite.

  166. Shelley

    Having a wood fire in the fireplace, a glass of wine, homemade soup on the stove and watching a holiday movie is what brings me joy during the season. I have tried for years to get everyone in my family to give up exchanging presents but none of them will go for it :(

  167. Krista

    I love to put simplicity first in my holidays. It brings peace to me and my whole family.

  168. Tammy Kulcsar

    Things that truely bring me joy during the holidays are time spent with friends and family, wonderfully delicious food, and beautiful music.

  169. Jill

    I did 31 days last year. It wasn’t easy to slow down, but when I did, it was lovely. I love listening to Charlie Brown Christmas soundtrack, being silly with my family, and eating good food!

  170. Malissa Hubert

    Thank you so much for this challenge!
    The simple traditions I grew up with along with new ones me and my girls have created mean the most to me. They are not fancy or expensive, but they are the events we look forward to and plan all year, or at least starting in Sept..lol. Examples would be our annual gingerbread decorating party and , my personal favorite, decorating the tree, recounting memories tied to each ornament, and sleeping in front of it the first night it is lit. I’m excited just thinking about it!
    As a single working mother, I have always kept things simple, yet special. However, this Christmas will be my first living intentionally as a minimalist. Wish me luck, wishing you blessings.

  171. Jill Carter

    This is Christmas! I love spending time with family and friends and chatting about the past year. Before I shop for the grandchildren what do they really need as opposed to what they want after watching endless adverts from August onwards. It’s about sharing not spending.

  172. I love it that the season has trappings that make everything look and feel different. The sparkly lights, the trees, the holly, cinnamon, pine cones….when everything around you changes it feels special!

  173. Martina

    I really love your comments and stories Courtney. Thanks a lot for sharing.
    What makes me happy:
    Spending time with my husband and our cats. Lying on the sofa with the cats and watch them sleeping while I’m reading. Going for a walk in the beautiful colored autumn woods. Sleeping long when it’s foggy outside. Trying to succeed in one of your challenges that has inspired me. Have a great day.
    Thanks Martina

  174. Rita

    Thank you for all the great ideas! Christmas for me means being with my family (not only biological, mas also that special friends who are just like brothers and sisters), eating great food, dress up the house, singing Xmas songs out loud and making people feel loved.

  175. Penny

    Going for walks with family, eating meals together, watching holiday films, these all make my Christmas special.

  176. Becky

    Christmas begins with Christ. A few years ago I cleared out the non-Christ centered decorations…except for ornaments I have gathered thru the years, each with meaning and memories attached.

  177. Nicole D.

    Holiday baking for my family and friends and having all my kitties underfoot while doing so!

  178. Alicia

    I find joy in the time spent with friends and family; walking outdoors and observing the winter changes to the landscape; sitting in front of a wood stove with a good book and Brigit, my cat, in my lap; and baking holiday delights.

  179. Hello there,

    To look at the window and feel happy with just a cup of coffee !

  180. Carla Vogl

    The joy that I find in life no longer comes from things but from feeling secure financially…from spending time with friends and family…from making due and shopping my home first when I need something. I find myself in gratitude everyday for my much smaller home and for the peace I feel living within my means. My greatest joy this holiday season will be contentment!

  181. Johnna Balk

    Years ago, when the girl next door graduated high school, we SO enjoyed visiting with the neighbors at her open house…and realized that in the winter we hardly see each other. We decided to host a Christmas open house that year…and this year is the 15th straight year of it! We keep it simple, in fact for the last 6 or so, it’s had a Mexican theme, with everyone insisting that continues! Everyone brings food, so we keep it very simple, but all enjoy, and it has become our families favorite part of the holidays.

    • Jamie

      For me its Holiday music, I have already had it playing this year as I was culling my holiday decorations so I can donate my extras so that they may be used by others who have none.

  182. Robin

    Watching the excitement in my grand children’s faces. Inviting my grandchildren and their friends to our annual cookie bake and sending them all home with a plate full they decorated and a bag full for the holidays. Playing Christmas music, decorating the tree with them.

  183. Rachel

    Such very interesting ideas. I value most the time that I get to spend with family. I am so grateful for my husband having days off and (don’t tell anyone) for the times we are snowed in and get the whole day to relax together and really communicate.

    When I was young the tradition was always socks and undies for gifts, which, while not glamorous, was always something we looked forward to. I realize that is a purchase, but we still wait for the whole year to get them so we have our tradition intact!

  184. Kathi

    Family activities (hiking, cooking meals together, s’mores, movie nights), an evening making crafts, curled up with my favorite blanket and a cup of tea and a book, waking up to the smell of coffee and enjoying a cup watching the sunrise and having breakfast with my 14 yr old before he heads to school, listening to my 6 yr old wake an hour later singing Zippity Doo-Da What a Wonderful Day, or meeting someone new in an unexpected place and finding that person is your soulmate and having them in your life make the bad things not so bad and the good things even better. I treasure these things all year long but even more so during the holidays…

  185. Mireia Ribas

    I enjoy watching my cat sitting in front of the fireplace, walking through the woods with my boyfriend a sunny morning and cooking some cakes to share with my friends and neighbours.

  186. Leesa

    Honestly, Thanksgiving has always meant more to me than Christmas. It is a chance to gather with family, enjoy good, home-cooked food and to re-connect.

  187. Cheryl Boyes

    We have a tradition as a family to bring wrapped white elephant gifts (regifting items, books we enjoyed, etc., or home made treats, or other consumables)for exchanging. We each bring 3 items. Then each person chooses 3 wrapped gifts from under the tree and opens “their” gifts. Then we shake dice going for doubles, with a double you can opt to exchange one of your gifts for another persons gift. This goes on for a given amount of time. When time is up you have your 3 gifts. This gets to be real fun. We call this game “Dirty Santa.” Over the years I have created my traditions as a single person, Christmas late night church service followed by Christmas light viewing, and participating in a charitable gifting program.

  188. Chelsie

    Great post- and not too soon. I actually saw a lit Christmas tree in house while driving to friends. I Christmas tree and we haven’t even finished Halloween!

    My husband and I have slowly been withdrawing from the annual holiday spending mayhem. This year we’ve decided enough is enough and have announced we aren’t participating in the debt game.

    Now, that doesn’t me we aren’t into the festivities and the spirit of the holidays, it just means were done buying and dolling out worthless stuff that will have been forgotten by next year. For our family, there are very few children. Most gift giving is amongst adults. And hey, we are adults, we can buy our own stuff that we need.

    Instead, we are focusing on something else…. FOOD! What’s better than a wonderful home made meal to gather around? What’s better than a glass of red wine and some lovely cheeses and spreads as you mingle and talk with family? By ridding ourselves of the obligations to buy worthless gifts, we are freeing up time and money to spend on quality food and time with family.

    Some of our more “stuff” focused family members object based on the argument that it’s traditional to exchange gifts. But really, if you look back, that tradition hasn’t existed all that long, at least to the gift exchange frenzy we have created.

  189. Kathy

    Holiday favorites – hot chocolate, looking at christmas lights, adding red sprinkles to my sugar container so it looks like I am sprinkling a little Christmas in my morning coffee, delivering homemade baked goods to loved ones, and the community events that tie us together

  190. Andrea

    I love the peace of knowing there is no pressure to be anywhere or do anything other than spend time with the people I care about. We throw frugality to the winds and fire the stove up all day, a centrepiece for our day.

    • Andrea

      I must add …

      When I lived in a less rural location, one of my favourite pre Christmas activities was to drive around looking at Christmas lights. Some were garish and some were stylish, but I loved them all. There was a house which was a bit further than I normally went but was worth the extra effort. It was all lit up in white, absolutely beautiful. But the best bit was the home owner, who would dress up as Santa and be visible from outside as he went about his evening activities! The kids loved it, and I think he collected a good amount for charities.

  191. Jennifer Kelly

    My family comes from diverse religious beliefs, so we celebrate something beyond Christmas we which refer to as Festivus mainly so we have something to refer to when planning. The entire family comes up to our parents house in Woodland Park (Hamlet of woodlands near Colorado Springs) where we share meals and play games until way too late. In the morning we make cinnamon rolls and open our presents. My parents always fill the stockings with the best stuff (mostly useful) so we usually start there. This family tradition used to be very simple but with the addition of 4 spouses, 3 kids and 1 dog it has become so much more. Each year we all agree that it’s the joke made while playing a game and the beauty of waking up to cinnamon and laughter that is always the best part. I’ve been sharing these simplicity tips with the family for the last few months – I guess I will see if this pays off on Festivus morning while eating my cinnamon roll watching what Santa/the Holly King brought my daughter.

  192. Connie

    I enjoy giving and receiving Christmas cards and letters, so that is the part of the holidays I spend the most time on and pretty much forget the rest. I must admit, however, that this year I hope a few people will spend a little money… I am a fiber artist and for the first time, I’m participating in a holiday show in a local gallery. The gallery does this to promote handmade items versus mass produced – gifts that have a heartfelt touch to them. I do feel we could all use more art in our lives.

  193. Angeline Martinez

    LOVE this post! Every year I struggle with the feeling of being overwhelmed by the holidays, the endless shopping, the endless obligations, the endless spending of money. Each year my family and I have worked hard to get rid of the excess and we have slowly managed to get rid of a lot but can still use the whittling. One thing that we love about the holiday season is our tradition to go into the mountains looking for our Christmas trees. It is a day filled with outdoor fun with our extended family, time connecting and working with each other. We usually take a lunch with us and after all have found a tree we enjoy a warm meal by the camp fire just enjoying the wonderful outdoors and each others company. This has been the best tradition that my family has enjoyed over the years and while we look for ways to whittle down our commitments and spending this is one tradition that everyone looks forward to year after year.

  194. Kaitaia

    I love this post and will be using it as a my holiday survival guide!

    What I enjoy most about the holiday season is being with my crazy family and doing the simply things, such as going to mass, decorating the Christmas tree, cooking meals, and making snow angels. It’s the one time of the year when my family really slow down and enjoy each other company. When laughing and giggling are everywhere and so are hugs!

  195. Lindsay

    In years past, the holiday’s were all about rush-rush-rush. My husband and I would go to his family’s house on Christmas Eve and then on Christmas day, we would have 4 different places to go. One year, I planned it out that we would be at each place for 3 hours. We left at 10 a.m. that morning and got home at 10 p.m. that night. Realizing we had been gone for a full 12 hours (and exhausted), I decided it must stop. Now on Christmas Eve, we go to Christmas Eve mass, grab a warm cappuccino from one of the last gas stations that are open and ride around looking at Christmas lights. Then we come home and get in our comfy clothes and watch A Christmas Story. I LOVE it! No more rushing!

  196. The things that brought me the most joy besides the 31 days was spending time with my family and friends. The holidays were not as hectic as they have been in the past with trying to find the perfect gift for everyone. This time I have started early and am getting small thoughtful gifts that do not break the bank.
    We have put limits on the gifts for our daughter to 3 to maybe 4 things. It has been nice. She might be disappointed in what the parents get her but, for the most part the grandparents go crazy although I really hope they stick with my suggestions for what to get her and what not to get her. Only time will tell.
    Plus I am trying to coax my daughter into giving 4 toys and 4 books to those who might not get/have a holiday. So that way she learns to give back just a small fraction of what she has to others.

  197. Ema

    I still love buying things :((
    But I will try to buy less this holly day season

  198. Rebecca

    Hearing my girls’ laughter, seeing their surprises & feeling their joy!!!

  199. anne

    True joy and happiness come from quiet days at home with my family–days with hot cocoa, quiet reading, favorite movies, and games. I dread days filled with parties and scheduled activities.

  200. janet higley

    my new grandson being part of our family…his first christmas…makes me so happy…i fall more in love with him everyday!
    p.s. he is 5 months…soon he will be mobile and i have way to much STUFF!

  201. Joyce

    I enjoy lighting scented candles and playing Christmas cards on the piano.

  202. Steven Ringler

    No virtual shopping this year and cash only!

  203. Carrie Elsass

    What brings me joy over the holidays is simplicity and the joy of those I love.

  204. Angela

    Holiday joys: 1) My husband and I take our boys to a park to gather pine cones for holiday decorations and eventually to help light our woodstove during the winter. While we are there we always play a game of throwing twigs onto the new ice on the pond because it makes the funniest sound. This is the most magical day of the year for me. 2) Even though those boys are teens now, they will still pile on the couch with us and let us read Christmas and solstice picture books to them in the evenings. 3) We have a potted pine tree that we decorate every year with lights and then we pick out a few special decorations from our collection to hang on its branches. This little tree spends every summer outside, and when it’s time to bring it in, we marvel at how much it’s grown. This fall, it’s up to my chin!

  205. I hang colorful Christmas lights around the pillars/railings on our porch and the glow of those lights is so warm and peaceful. I love being greeted by them when I come home on a dark evening and love sitting in the dark living room while they shine inside. When I was a girl, my sisters and I hung them all over our bedroom and I felt so content. :)

  206. Michelle

    Buying our LIVE Christmas tree always brings me joy during the holidays

  207. Linda

    Family being together is Christmas to me… “things” don’t really matter.

  208. Jennifer

    I love seeing Be more with less in my inbox! It helps me stay focused in this world of distractions! Thank you!

  209. Thomas

    Being together with my loved ones, this year five plus a new born. No gifts, except self-made and only one.

  210. Alex

    Living in London, where strangers rarely make eye contact let alone help each other, I find deep pleasure in witnessing random acts of acknowledgement and kindness between people at Christmast time. The festive season makes people slow down for a moment and consider others. Simple acts of help are no longer seen as Herculian endeavours in self-sacrifice: for instance, I take great pleasure in seeing someone recognise that that person walking up the stairs in the tube station with a 25kg bag is a human being, not just an obstacle to get around, and actually taking the time to stop and help them. Sometimes such altruism even lasts into January :).

  211. I love to listen to Pepper Choplin’s Christmas musical, “I Hear the Prophet Callin’”. So uplifting.

  212. Tori

    I enjoy watching Christmas movies. Even though they’re usually corny, and I usually can’t stand corn, something about Christmas makes it tolerable. I love making gifts for my family. It’s something I’ve gotten into the past few years. It’s more personal, and I know homemade gifts mean more to them. I also enjoy donating to my local food pantry. It makes me feel great knowing I’m providing food to people who wouldn’t normally be able to afford it. Lastly, I love donating to 2 charities every Christmas. Making lives better is what the true spirit of Christmas is all about.

  213. chloe

    In 2011 we had an incredibly difficult Autumn season and my husband and I weren’t feeling very gift-y. That year we sent a note to our friends and family saying that we weren’t doing commercial Christmas and that instead we’d be volunteering at a shelter and that gift cards and school supplies and bus tokens could be gifted to the organization instead of to us. Last year we donated our Christmas to a midwife just starting her business. Giving to causes we love instead of asking for stuff for ourselves has been the best thing for our holiday season. Can’t wait to participate in 31 days this year!

  214. Cory Vernon

    I recieved your 31 days of email gifts last year and totaly enjoyed them, thanks. I have never been a big spender at Christmas. When my kids were home, we always fully had Christmas: tree, socks, the works, but never commercial. I do love the ‘feeling’ of Christmas, as people are putting out more positive vibes – caring more, giving more, thinking good things about others, seeing the needs of others, decorating their places, etc. I think the Spirit of Christmas should be all year round, that we should give a cheer, a card(recycled, or homeaide), a gift(something needed, not just stuff), etc randomly and when the people we love need it, not just at Christmas. Christmas was just a birthday at one time, and has become way too much. I think the gathering of family is wonderful, but all family’s should not have to feel pushed into gathering at Christmas – they should gather whenever and as often as they can/want. All the best to everyone this Christmas season.

  215. barbara

    Going out of town from 25 dec – 1 jan gives me great joy.

  216. Kelly

    I love spending time with my family and I’m starting to learn about enjoying the little things. I think this would really help me out.

  217. What a beautiful idea. I will be traveling this holiday instead of opening gifts. I hope substituting experiences for stuff will leave us with memories instead of more clutter.

  218. Shannon

    I love spending time with family and friends. We have started a tradition of spending a week over Thanksgiving in Mexico, south of AZ. That week is so restorative, and we have so much fun just being on the beach with kids. We have a big dinner and share the leftovers with anyone walking on the beach (some of the vendors, etc). It is a great way to have a Non-Commerical start to the holiday season and it sustains me all the way through. I think the kids are learning to appreciate the value of experiences rather than stuff too.

  219. Suzanne Barber

    This sounds intriguing!

  220. Heather Freiberg

    My family and spending time in nature as we shift into winter. Hiking the day after Christmas is a family tradition we all look forward to doing each year.

  221. K.K.

    I need this more than ever. Blessed to have my little one with me every day, and trying to balance that with full-time work andkeeping up with my OWN self-care…I am doing it. But, the house is a WRECK. I just realize that I cannot maintain a bunch of “things” and be free to enjoy my TIME. Thank you for your inspiration and helpful insights!

  222. Brenda

    I enjoy spending time with my husband and family, the family we have picked. I have been reminded in the last year that it really is ALL of the small things in life, in time, in moments are the things and the memories that really truly matter and mean the most. Re~learning how to live and be simply simple.

  223. Gaynor

    The things that bring me most joy and happiness during the holiday season are spending time with my family, good food and good company, rest and re-charging. The season also gives me greater cause to be grateful for all I have and reflect and be thankful for God’s presence in my life.

  224. Holidays are a very special time of year for me; perhaps the most special time. They bring together all or most of my extended family and we indulge in our holiday traditions: playing games, eating special foods, telling stories, laughing and joking, going for post-pig out walks, and singing/playing festive music. Time together is a delight, and the greatest treasure in my life.

  225. kelley

    My daughter and I love watching “A Charlie Brown Christmas” and listening on the radio to the month of Christmas music. It’s our Christmas tradition and we always look forward to it!

  226. Melissa

    This seems like an awesome alternative. Thank you.

  227. Laura Droll

    Pure joy at Christmas is getting together with family and friends, donating gifts and food so that others can survive the holiday, and making my yearly after Christmas visit to see my Grandmother. However, this year she passed away, so I will just be going to visit my mother to make memories.

  228. Margaret Scheperle

    I think this is my entry?

  229. Jennifer

    -light snow at night
    -fireplaces and candles
    -hot chocolate
    -good books
    -family and good conversation
    -a sparkling Christmas tree
    -turkey, stuffing and wine
    -Christmas music in the background

  230. Nichole

    A few things that I do to make the season perfect for me are; being selective with my time and attention, making lists of what I want to accomplish and why so I stay true, making gifts, honoring and remembering my mom who has passed by watching one or two of her holiday favorites, journaling to work through feelings that surface, baking and doing an act of kindness for someone in need.

  231. Sarah MacKenzie

    I love family being together – I am an only child so Christmases were pretty quiet growing up. Now living close to my husbands larger family, I love Christmas morning with a full house.

  232. Heather

    Really, spending time with my girls and husband is what brings me most joy. Especially if it is something that makes us excited or laugh together…that is the best. Those memories are so much better than stuff. I feel better dropping off a bag at the charity shop now than I do bringing home anything from the store! I want to remember that this holiday season and am thinking of gifts like a trip to the Nutcracker, a Star Wars marathon with our favorite snacks, lists of book suggestions to check out from the library and recipes.

  233. Holly

    Just came across your website. I am so thankful for resources to help me begin to simplify my life. Thanks for the inspiration! Holly

  234. Chrissy

    I do a December daily project for the entire month of December and would love your gifts to be the structure of my mini scrapbook. My joyful things about the holidays are: time with family & friends, twinkle lights, cooler weather, and my husband using vacation time.Thanks for the opportunity!

  235. Charles Cole

    I’ve never done this before but I’d like to make this holiday season a little different and not so much about buying things people don’t need or want but about reconnecting with the wonder of the season I felt and experienced as a child.

  236. Brenda Loughead

    Just spending time with family and friends. It doesn’t matter what we’re doing (talking, laughing, eating, walking, dancing), it’s the time spent.

  237. Patricia Randall

    What a terrific idea!!! Can’t wait to focus totally on the meaning of Christmas. Such a special time to make lasting memories.

  238. Patty

    So many people will write about spending time with their families. I don’t like the season because it is so hard to have my family come together. Also this year my aunt and 2 of my uncles died. My parents have both died so my aunts and uncles are my “replacements” when I need to talk to a parent. For so many years Christmas has made me unhappy because of emotional problems that I really don’t look forward to “the season”.

  239. Risa Evans

    The best thing about Christmas season is time with family, potluck meals with kids and toys and dogs underfoot, playing games after dinner, and much laughter. I enjoy making my famous fudge and giving it out as mini-gifts, going to the candlelight service at my church Christmas Eve, and driving through the city to look at Christmas lights. Last but not least, my husband and I love snuggling at home, listening to wonderful Christmas music and playing with our dogs.

  240. Jennifer Clause

    Enter me in 31 days of Advent

  241. Kaiara Christensen

    Some wintery/holiday things I enjoy:
    Family and friends walking in my front door wearing many layers of winter clothing, so comfy, smiling warmly, but with cold, rosy cheeks and bright eyes sparkling.

    Seeing handmade decorations and ornaments from years ago reappear. Remembering the times making them…when I was young with my mom, then that year in college when I was alone with a Charlie Brown tree in a coffee can, then again during the years with my children (who are now grown up).

    The sound of cars driving down a wet/slushy street late at night when I am cozy indoors near the fireside.

  242. Becky Duggan

    I love spending time with my family during the holidays. I love watching the birds at my feeders and I also love the stillness of the holidays – especially Christmas Day.

  243. Sandra Lippert

    The older I get, the simpler my life becomes, and the greater the joys I experience during the holidays.
    Finally, there is time for meditation and prayer. This brings about a peace and healing very profound.
    It is lovely to realize that the celebration of Jesus’ birth is taking place each day in my heart.
    This year I will make time to relax with my dearest friends, nurturing that which is really important in my life!

  244. Walking, reading and talking, is what I long for at Christmas time. I feel relief when I decide not to “overbuy” christmas stuff. Thanks for reminding, Courtney!

  245. Courtney

    I know it sounds cliche but having my family all together for the holidays really is my favorite part. As I have grown up and realized that my family members won’t be here forever, I have learned to cherish every holiday that we can share together. We play board games at Christmas and we all laugh until we cry. You can’t put a price on that. Recipes are handed down, old stories are re-told. Most of my favorite childhood memories are of our family holiday gatherings.

  246. Brenna

    I love stepping outdoors in the twilight of a first snow and breathing deeply. Cuddling with my family near the fire and watching Classic Christmas movies. The magic of Christmas eve after midnight mass, tucking the children in and relaxing with my husband.

  247. kp

    Some of the things that mean a lot to me about the holidays has to do with things that are handmade and can be brought out year after year.

    Last year my family traveled in Thailand over the Christmas holiday (staying with relatives there). I wanted to bring a little bit of our family tradition along with us, so I sewed us a Christmas tree wall hanging and brought along the materials to make ornaments we could pin to it on Christmas Eve. That night we hung the tree, ornaments, and stockings, and the next morning they had been filled with a few gifts that had been sent with family who left ahead of us. It was quite a magical morning, as my boys had low expectations that Santa would find them so far from home.

    We all enjoyed our Thai Christmas so much, that I think the wall hanging and felt ornaments just might become our primary Christmas decoration for our home, which will greatly simplify our efforts, while reminding us of that one Christmas we had in Thailand.

  248. Caree

    Having a cup of coffee or hot cocoa with dear family members.
    Being snowed in and having a pajama day…all day long.

    31 days sounds awesome.

  249. Monica

    This year what will make me happy is having my entire family together again, happy and healthy. Last year my brother wasn’t with us and this year my dad has been going through a very hard time with his health but is is back on track. I am so thankful for my family. They live so far away from me so there is nothing my meaningful, or joyful, to me than being together. We will wake up on Christmas morning, my mom will make breakfast, my dad will put on the Randy Travis Christmas CD (which we still lovingly give him a hard time for), we will open a few presents and then watch a combination of family videos, Princess Bride and A Christmas Story. I will be

  250. pj

    After 6 years, I FINALLY have a home of my own! This will be the most wonderful holiday season EVER! I am unpacking my storage shed and plan to keep out and decorate asap! I don’t need anything anymore — my prayers have been answered! God bless you and may your holiday season be as magical as mine will be!

  251. marcia ren

    Thank you for your wonderful post… I have been working on simplifying the way I live. What brings me joy during the holidays is being home, and spending time with my little family. I enjoy baking, and making our home comfy. ♡

  252. Samantha

    *Running in the crisp air with my dogs looking at lights.
    *Butter beer.
    *The music, music, music!
    *Movies that make you feel warm and fuzzy.
    *The flavors (cinnamon, clove and orange, cranberries, pecans, pumpkin, etc.)
    *The good deeds.
    *Laughing with family.

  253. greenjilly

    Family moments with the latest generation of grandchildren are the highlights of the holiday season for me.

  254. mplslizzie

    Those rare moments when our entire family feels the wonder and peace of the holiday season. I strive for those moments continually throughout the holiday season, but perhaps the striving is part of the problem ….

  255. Nicole

    Baking Christmas cookies with my daughter (8) and son (6) makes me happiest!

  256. I love many things about this time of year, and as I’ve grown older some things have become bittersweet with the moving far away of loved ones, or other life circumstances, but what I love best is cultivating an attitude of gratefulness. I love that (for Americans) Thanksgiving falls before Christmas. I think that cultivating a thankful heart goes a long way toward maintaining a practice of simplicity!

  257. Shannon

    Spending time with my family is the best!

  258. Kate

    I love talking with and watching my grandchildren on Skype Christmas morning. This has become a family Tradition. This year we have our daughter and 16 year old grandson living with us. We need to find ways to make the season special with what we have as there is no extra money. We have too much and need to give much away so others can use the items. Perhaps we can do that together. My daughter has been volunteering at the church’s food pantry each week. She plans to also help serve at the Thanksgiving day feast for the homeless and poor. She is getting the rest of us involved too. Perhaps this will be a season filled with service to others.

  259. Nicole

    Spending extended time with my immediate family, especially my brother who lives out of town.

  260. Nicole

    What brings me joy and happiness during the holidays are the snow adventures that my niece and nephew take me on, cooking together with family, snuggling with my husband and the added light that people have for each other during the cold months.

    I find that the cold makes us open up to each other more, we need each other to keep our inner flame going during this, for some, more challenging season.

    Sure there is a lot of commercialism and sometimes pressure to purchase more during this time of year and it is also an opportunity to practice what feels right for us. I feel that there are a lot of good intentions too. I appreciate the reminders to remain simple in this time, it is worth it. I guess we all have to figure out what works best for us and then, as my mom would say, “Just be yourself”. Isn’t that wise? She is a wise woman, I am very blessed for her and will cherish all she has shared with me for the rest of my life.

    Thank you for sharing and listening…

  261. Kori

    Singing Christmas carols with my children

  262. Maggie

    What gives me the most pleasure and brings the most joy to me at Christmastime is giving to others. I love the excitement of dropping off unexpected homemade goodies to neighbors, people who serve our community, or anyone who might be lonely during the busy holidays. The surprised smiles on their faces is a beautiful gift to me! Since I love to cook, I also enjoy having friends and neighbors over for a meal. The warm conversations, nourishing food, and abundant laughter is restorative and refreshing during such a hectic time of year. To me, it’s all about being a blessing to others… the greatest gift to all.

  263. I enjoy having more (than normal) time to spend with family and friends as everyone has more time. Those connections and time spent are such a blessing to me. And then the inner child also comes out to play and I love love love the lights. I have always loved any sort of fairy lights or fireworks or sparklers. :)

  264. Annie

    When I was a child, my neighbors held a lefse open house every Christmas eve. Lefse is a Scandinavian flat bread made with flour and potatoes. It looks like a tortilla and it’s served with butter and sugar. We’d come in and enjoy freshly made lefse and visit with friends. We’d also get a chance to participate in making it. Their kitchen was small and welcoming, and the simple menu of lefse, coffee and tea was all that was necessary. Their home didn’t have tons of decorations – just a Christmas tree. There wasn’t tons of food – yet the whole neighborhood dropped by throughout the day. I’m not Scandinavian but have adopted the lefse tradition for my family. We don’t have a big open house every year but each year I make lefse with my children and husband. It’s a nice way to bring back fond memories and it also costs very little to make.

  265. Amy

    I like pulling my 3 year old in his sled around the backyard. I wrap the rope around my waist and the dog chases us, and he usually falls out into the snow laughing hysterically. And then we didn’t have to pack up and head to a hill for sledding. (WOOHOO!)
    It won’t be too much longer that I’ll be strong enough to do it – he’s getting so big.

  266. Allison

    The holiday reminds me to slow down, pay attention, and absorb the good and small and most authentically important things in life. I am prompted by the over-commercialized, consumeristic push at its best, to resist it and turn inward to give of myself more outwardly.

    I love the memories and nostalgia the holiday season brings.

    Giving myself the 31 days last year was such a gift, every day,that i eagerly awaited to check at the end of each day! It truly helped to inspire the important things that i need to go inward and attempt to take a bigger look at my priorities and my way of living in this world. I loved a lot of the little details that came in my daily gifts, but I have to say the 3 dance party playlists topped it (and i still go back and listen, though i skip the christmas tunes mid-summer)as it got me dancing, and boy does that just simplify everything in an instance. dancing feeds my soul.

    Thanks Courtney! I look so forward to this years gifts! (no pressure!)

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