Editor’s Note: This is a post in the series, Simplicity in Action.
I had a problem. I hated Christmas. It was November and my three boys were looking forward to the holiday, but I was dreading it – the stress, the work, the frantic schedule, and the expense.
It hadn’t always been like that. My family celebrated Christmas in simple ways. We had one box of tree decorations; the rest of the house was decorated with Christmas cards, and a few holly sprigs. We enjoyed a few traditional treats and some special meals, but it was very minimal.
Then I came to Canada.
What a culture shock! I was completely overwhelmed by the excess and the frenetic pace of what I could only describe as “Christmas frenzy.” I stood stunned and speechless in the mall and vowed never to get caught up in it.
But slowly, one step at a time, I bought into the whole Christmas craziness.
- Our decorations filled dozens of boxes, which took days to put up and take down.
- I started buying gifts in January.
- My schedule was filled to overflowing with events and activities.
- Wrapping and baking took hours.
- Our cupboards and freezer were stuffed with goodies that took months to eat.
In many respects I had Christmas in hand. I was organized and we had a Christmas worthy of Pinterest. But I didn’t have time to enjoy any of it. I was tired, stressed, and had turned into a Grinch. That year I decided to take a long hard look at the way I was doing Christmas. I remembered the simple celebrations of my childhood and realized that I had really happy memories of those times. The emphasis was on people rather than things. I wanted to reclaim that for my family.
It was time to simplify! I took action.
- I cancelled our annual open house and made gingerbread houses with my boys instead.
- I stopped attending every Advent function at our church (tricky, because I was married to the minister) and curled up with my boys to listen to Patrick Stewart read “The Christmas Carol.”
- I cut down my baking to 3 favourites chosen by the family.
- I came to a mutual agreement with my brothers and friends not to exchange gifts.
- I stopped sending Christmas cards (with the exception of family and friends overseas).
These small actions made a huge difference to the way I experienced Christmas. I found that for the first time in years I was looking forward to the holidays. I had time for Advent and Christmas activities with my children. I wasn’t tired and stressed about my endless “to do list.”
At first I was worried that my boys would feel let down by this simpler Christmas. To my delight they seemed to enjoy the holiday as much as they always had. In fact I think they really appreciated the fact that I wasn’t irritable and cranky! What a relief!
It has been 15 years since I first started my quest to simplify Christmas and every year I find one more way to reduce the craziness.Annual newsletters have been scrapped and replaced with a collage of a few favorite photographs from the year. Physical gifts have been replaced with things like library memberships, tickets to live theatre, and donations to charities. The number of decorations has been drastically reduced.
As I write this post I see the first glimmers of the Christmas craziness beginning. The sales pitches are starting and Pinterest is filled with Christmas planners with daily actions for the next two months. I smile and give thanks that I have found a simpler way to celebrate the holidays. It is a way that gives me the freedom to enjoy the precious gift of family and friends.