Turn to Less for More Holiday Magic

Christmas is five days away and today begins the mad dash for more. This is your last week to do it all. Deals will be deeper, your defenses are down, and you’re not quite sure if you’ve bought enough, done enough, baked enough or celebrated enough.

You might be wondering:

  • Did I remember the stocking stuffers?
  • Did the kids get their picture taken with Santa?
  • What am I forgetting?
  • Should I bake more cookies or deliver pies to the neighbors?
  • What could I do that would make the holidays extra special this year?

I think it is becoming clear that we don’t create the magical feeling of the holidays by getting frustrated in the mall parking lot, overspending at Target, or by adding extra bows and ribbon to our wrapped boxes. In fact, I would suggest that we don’t create holiday magic at all.

I hope this isn’t sounding preachy, because I wrote this post today as much for myself as I did for you. I remember many last weeks before Christmas where I shopped, charged, baked and ate my way into missing the most important things. ┬áToday I needed a reminder that I am enough, and even if I don’t do one more thing to make Christmas special, it will be. After all, Christmas was special long before we came along.

The magic and miracle of Christmas is happening all around us, but we might be too crazed to notice it. Take a little time away from mall and the kitchen this week and embrace what is really special about this time of year. Create a little space and time to experience the magic and joy of the season.

What magic do you love about the holidays? (This post is all about Christmas because that is what I know, but I think the message applies to all holidays, faiths, and people)



  1. says

    It’s a good message — and that’s why I’ll be turning off my computer Wednesday evening and leaving it that way until sometime on the 26th or 27th. Have a great Christmas, Courtney!

      • says

        “Digital sabbatical” – I love it! I’m attempting to do the same thing as sam! Only it’s my first year with a blog……and I bet you know what that’s like! It feels more like play than work!

  2. says

    I love the simple beauties of the holidays and winter…
    …a lit fire in the fireplace with the whole family sitting around, getting warm.
    …a candle here or there, smelling of pine or pumpkin.
    …a homecooked meal with people you love.
    …some time off from the everyday.

  3. says

    You are so right. Thanks so much for the reminder, I’m going to Tweet this so others can be reminded as well.

    Mery CHIRSTmas.


  4. says

    You know, I actually found myself this morning adding a bunch of last minute items to my to-do list because I was worried I hadn’t done enough to make the holidays special.

    Thank you for this reminder.

  5. says

    I saw that cartoon in the paper yesterday and smiled. So true. Christmas isn’t about us buying the best gift or baking the most cookies and pies.

  6. Jay says

    Courtney – You teach so gently. Thank you for the very gentle and timely reminder of the only thing I need to remember – to love my tribe and let them know that I do – Thank you – and have a very Merry Christmas!

  7. says

    I made a Simple Christmas pledge this year on my blog. I am just over 18 months down the line into simplifying my life and I am now really seeing the fruits of my labour. The humble gifts are wrapped and distributed, the cards weren’t sent (only hand made ones by my daughter to close family were), and the simple Christmas dinner is planned. No more shopping (not that I did a lot anyway and 90% was on-line) – I can now sit back and do what I intended this year – to spend the time with my kids in the lead up to the big day making lifelong memories. Season’s greetings one and all! xx

  8. says

    I made a Simple Christmas pledge this year on my blog. I am just over 18 months down the line into simplifying my life and I am now really seeing the fruits of my labour. The humble gifts are wrapped and distributed, the cards weren’t sent (only hand made ones by my daughter to close family were), and the simple Christmas dinner is planned. No more shopping (not that I did a lot anyway and 90% was on-line) – I can now sit back and do what I intended this year – to spend the time with my kids in the lead up to the big day making lifelong memories. Season’s greetings one and all! xx

  9. says

    Gentile indeed. And the comic is just perfect. My husband and I travel through advent during the Christmas season as it creates space each day to reflect on THE gift of the season that already was, is and is to come. We most look forward to a midnight service of reflection on Christmas Eve to set our hearts and minds in the right place before entering that which is Christmas morning with family. May your Christmas be filled with peace and joy.

  10. CC says

    we make a thermos of hot chocolate, grab the travel cups/mugs, get a couple of holiday music CD’s and we hit the road for our annual ‘tour of lights’! we are lucky to have a number of neighborhoods that have lots of wonderful lights & decorations and there’s something about driving slow and doing the “ohh” and “ahh” while singing your lungs out, drinking some chocolate and remembering past light shows that makes everyone smile. when we get home, we have the annual crock pot of chili for dinner and spend time talking about what we saw, what made it awesome … it’s a lot of fun and an inexpensive family evening for all.

  11. Katja says

    Hello Courtney,
    I think you’re so right with what you wrot about Christmas. I recently moved to London and I’m still shocked how much people shop here…especially with the Holdidays coming up. Everybody is just in a frenzy and hardly anybody takes time out to experience and appreciate this special time of the year. Christmas is all about commercialism these days in a lot of countries. I don’t have any presents this year – my present for my family and theirs to me will simply be spending time together as I’ve been living in Australia for 2 years and couldn’t spend the Holidays with my family. It is such a liberating feeling to not worry about getting presents! Living with less is definitely a great experience and a worthy way of life. When I was in Oz I travelled around the country with just one suitcase which contained the bare essentials that you need in everyday life. It was total freedom. Many people looked at me as if I’m crazy when I told them that I just had one suitcase for 2 years but it was actually a really life changing experience.

    Merry Christmas to you!!!

  12. says

    Each year I cut back on the holiday madness more and more. I have family members upset with me because I won’t do a gift exchange. But what for? So I can work harder, spend less time with my family, just to buy things for people that they don’t need? A lot of this stuff is meaningless anyway – the photos with Santa (we do it because everyone else does), the gifts for everyone that you know (we do it because they do) and the running around trying to please everyone except your kids and yourself.

    I’m so glad that you and others are writing about this – because I think we can put the magic back into the holidays just by putting the PEOPLE and PEACE back into the holidays. And peace is not shopping, over-spending and becoming exhausted. It’s doing things because you WANT to, not because you HAVE to.

    Sorry if I’m sounding preachy – but I’ve had to defend myself a lot lately to people who want me to be more like them and less like me! I”m taking a stand for love and peace this year…

  13. bev smith says

    Life has a way of changing us forever. On the 9th Dec 2009 my beautiful neice Danielle died in a car accident that no one can explain. I didn’t want to do Christmas this year as the world sees it, as the greatest gifts this family needs is hope and peace and time and none of them can be bought in a shop. I believe in God and his Son, Jesus Christ and that is my Christmas this year. I have watched unexplained miracles happen in this family over the last year and if i live to be an 100 i wont be able to explain them but they came, they happened. As we stand at the brink of the new year i pray that you will all have the gift of peace, hope and time. I have been sick in bed with a chest infection for 3 weeks and i’m still struggling a little to get better and what have a missed? Christmas carols.

    • Courtney Carver says

      Bev, I am so sorry to hear about your niece. That kind of loss is tragic. I will pray with you for peace, hope and time and for you that you feel better soon.

  14. says

    Have purposely minimized this Christmas due to the personal events of this year. Trying to minimize the unimportant in my life. So far, pretty good, although I have not given a lot of thought yet to my family meal which I have to provide on Christmas eve. I am not much of a cook,, but can do basics. I find that part of me is stressing about this today, but I am going to just make a list of basic holiday food, go to the grocery store with a smile on my face, and breathe!
    The most favorite time of the holiday for me is having my 4 young adult kids home, with the spouses and sig others, and my 7 grandkids. I love to watch them interact and hang out and talk and play with the kids, so I def don’t want to be stressing about food!
    I will also be considering a bit of a sabbatical myself!

  15. Ida Mae says

    Hi there,

    These are all very nice websites, yours, Zen Habits, etc., but aren’t all of you basically repeating what Elaine St. James wrote in her early 1990s books, ‘100 Ways to Simplify Your Life,’ ‘100 Ways to Simplify Your Spiritual Life,’ etc.? How many different ways are there to throw out junk, live within your means & be a vegetarian?

    I began doing these things when I was 20, back in the late 60s, early 70s–we were called ‘hippie-types’ in those days. And long before us, there were (& still are) monks and nuns of all sorts willing to give up material plane hassles for the spiritual clarity it brings.

    I salute you and all others following this path. However, these blogs seem to present ancient ideas as ‘brand new.’ The blogs also seem a bit mercenary. You state you receive a ‘small commission’ on items purchased from your site. I imagine you’d also like to get readership up to a point where ads may be lucrative, right?

    Ultimately, then, the goal of a blogger is to become a profitable blogger–or the writer of a profitable book based on the blog. This brings me full circle–the books were written perfectly well by St. James in the 90s, & by others going back to the days of the Upanishads.

    We all know what we’re supposed to do. Getting up & doing it is the difficult part.

  16. Courtney Carver says

    Hi Ida,
    You present some very good questions here. I think that the message may be similar but each bloggers/writers experience is different. I may have an opportunity to speak to someone in a similar situation as mine where someone else could not. I think it is great that we have a platform to continue to tell our story, inspire, inform or at the very least, entertain.

    I have a readership now where ads would be very lucrative, but placing ads on this site would be counter to the message, and distract from the content. So, no that is not my intention.

    And you are right, “Getting up & doing it is the difficult part.” but hearing from people that have done it, even if the message is repetitive, may be just the nudge to get someone moving and changing.

    I hope you will continue to read, and that you will find my message is my own unique view and not a canned message. Thanks so much for making me think about your very valid points. Happy Holidays!