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Why We Simplified Christmas This Year

Less Under Our Tree

I was with a group of friends earlier this week and one of the gals asked me, “So, are you all ready for Christmas?”

She was referring to whether or not I have all our presents purchased and wrapped and whether the myriad of other Christmas details were taken care of.

I wasn’t sure how to answer that question. You see, we simplified Christmas so much this year that it almost feels like we cancelled Christmas.

Only we didn’t.

We just decided that the past few months have been full enough that instead of trying to pack our December full, we’d instead leave it really, really empty.

Our extended families had already asked if we could cut back and really simplify when it came to gifts this year and we’d already decided that we were going to keep our kids’ gifts super simple, too.

Then, we decided to just let the kids choose which Christmas decorations they wanted to put up. They opted for their little pink Christmas tree — which they had fun decorating themselves.

Next, we decided that we’d skip sending Christmas cards. And pretty soon, after we’d crossed off or nixed most of the usual Christmas obligations or activities we’d opted to do in the past, we were left with a wide open December.

And it has been bliss. Bliss, I tell you.

Why We Simplified Christmas This Year

We’ve hung out as a family more. We’ve read together more. We’ve snuggled together and watched Christmas movies together. We’ve listened to a lot of Christmas music. We’ve gone to bed early. We’ve slept in. And we’ve not felt rushed or stressed or exhausted or frantic.

For the most part, December has been one of the calmest and quietest months we’ve had in ages. And it’s freed up much-needed space to just breathe, listen, love, rest, and enjoy being together.

Do I think families who have opted for lots of beautiful decorations, lots of Christmas shopping, and lots of festive activities are doing it wrong? Not in the least.

We’ve had years in the past where the Christmas season has been bustling with a lot of fun and where I found so much fulfillment in spending hours and hours picking out the perfect gifts to bless others. I don’t regret those years or those memories one bit.

But I also don’t regret having a quiet and simple Christmas this year. Sometimes, your soul just needs to take a step back and breathe.

The year we chose to simplify Christmas, and why it was the best decision we made!

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77 Comments

  • Jill says:

    I too loved this article. We cut down this yr on random gift exchanges we were asked to participate in which would have totaled $250 additional to our Christmas budget. We’ve been more purposeful abt the gifts we picked out for each of our kids as well (coming up w a specific list rather than just going out shopping to see what we came across) I ordered the majority of gifts online and had them shipped to our home-cutting down on temptation for last minute spending! My husband did come across an amazing sale on Halloween costumes at Walmart after Halloween. My boys love dress up so he got several superhero costumes for 90+% off, we’re doing a dress up trunk for them w the costumes. While a certain portion of our family has decided to go big this yr and put some pressure on us to follow suit, thankfully my hubby and I remained on the same page and stuckmtomour guns!

  • Jill says:

    I too loved this article. We cut down this yr on random gift exchanges we were asked to participate in which would have totaled $250 additional to our Christmas budget. We’ve been more purposeful abt the gifts we picked out for each of our kids as well (coming up w a specific list rather than just going out shopping to see what we came across) I ordered the majority of gifts online and had them shipped to our home-cutting down on temptation for last minute spending! My husband did come across an amazing sale on Halloween costumes at Walmart after Halloween. My boys love dress up so he got several superhero costumes for 90+% off, we’re doing a dress up trunk for them w the costumes. While a certain portion of our family has decided to go big this yr and put some pressure on us to follow suit, thankfully my hubby and I remained on the same page and stuck to our guns!

  • Oh, I totally love this article! We’ve been spent so much hours hoping to have the best Christmas ever without even realizing that it’s the loving and quiet moments with the family that really matter. Thanks so much for this!

  • Julie Pullum says:

    It’s so good not to feel alone in my thoughts on this whilst I would want everyone to do their own thing, we have down been downsizing Christmas for about 10 years. I too felt the whole meaning of Christmas was lost in the flurry of giving family and friends gifts which they probably didn’t need as we all have so much and are thankful for it. We started small, by not giving neighbours and family nearby Christmas cards but making a donation to The Lifeboats charity. Then we cut out anything bought as gifts only home made and downsized the amount of people we gave to. Then we cut out all the adult members of the family. Then we stopped gift giving and receiving outside our immediate family. Now we make a couple of charitable donations, contribute to both shelter and the food bank with food gifts. We still put up a small tree and a few decorations. On Christmas Day it’s just the four of us, although is year my son invited an older friend who would otherwise be on her own. Boxing Day we spend with my friend who I met at college, we take it in turns to host and its potluck! That’s it, no pomp, no extremes and I have been a much nicer mum in December since we calmed it all down able to spend more time with my family and remember the true meaning of Christmas Day

  • Amy says:

    I am so happy to see all the comments from families that are choosing what is best and right for them this holiday season. God loves you no matter how you choose to celebrate! (Even if it is loud and bustling and crazy!)
    Merry Christmas!

  • Jennifer H says:

    I would love to cut down on Christmas even more. We already do fairly simple giving in my little immediate family of 3. We only decorate as much as we feel like, putting some of the decorations back in storage if we haven’t put them up by the second week of Advent. We only do Christmas cards for those close to us we haven’t seen in a while (and even then, not every year). We regift for Christmas party exchanges (keeping careful track of which exchange gave us the gift originally). I only bake cookies and other Christmas treats if I feel like it. I order most of our gifts online. And all of the above changes from year to year depending on how busy we are with work/school/outside activities.

    The only trouble now seems to be my parent/sibling group and my husband’s parent/sibling group. I have taken to asking for “gifts” from the World Vision gift catalog in hopes of inspiring others to pare down as well. My husband does not want me to make waves by suggesting gifts only for the kids and grandparents. Still we set and stick to a budget (one for adults and a little higher for the kiddos) every year and try to keep the guilt bug away when we don’t spend as much as we are given.

    I really work hard to keep the joy of Christmas alive in my life and that of my husband and child. If others focus on the gifts, I can’t control that.

  • Elaine Buonsante says:

    I loved your article about simplifying Christmas even though I enjoy all the festivities in December. But as I think about it, I realize it doesn’t have to be “all or nothing”. Your message is thought-provoking!

  • I feel so sad this this has to be done “specially” for Christmas. I applaud this Mom–well done. But why just Christmas? Pull the plug on stupid busy schedules. One activity per child can still mean multiple after school sessions. Who plays soccer still at even 18? I’m grateful that I had strong women as roll models who did not have any trouble saying “No” to things that were pointless. This does not mean “no” activities, but when I hear of families who waste entire weekends on soccer or baseball fields (or whatever), who never eat a real meal, who do homework in the car, I want to shake the parents. Christmas is the same–this Mom did it beautifully. Do you like spending $200 for the Nutcracker every year or would the kids enjoy the old Barbie dvd just as much? Is your kid screaming “I don’t WANT to do ballet/soccer/upwardcheer/youthdominos/giftedchessclub/competitive navel gazing?” Then listen to them and say “fine, we’re done with that.” Same with Christmas–do they like the boxes best? Go to appliance store and bring home a refrigerator box and some cool new art supplies. See what it becomes over the school vacation. Does anyone need to eat or bake 7 kinds of cookies just because your great-grandmother did? Probably 1 kind that everyone bakes together is plenty. Dread getting out the Christmas decorations? See if you have photos of them in place and sell them on Ebay–put one red candle on the mantle and call it a day. See? Easy-peasy. All that time left to make homemade macaroni & cheese for dinner and read aloud after with those cookies you guys just baked. 🙂

  • Lane Carter says:

    Oh yes! Our family of 4 is learning this very tradition of keeping things simple. Every year we run around like chickens to events filled with Santa, Cookies and a lot of people and gifts. We were getting really sick with colds, bronchitis and sinus infections. It pretty much ruined our previous Christmases. Last year, I decided, no more, we did nothing and went nowhere, we gave our regrets and stayed home on Christmas, much to my amazement no one was up set. But we didn’t get sick and for that I was truly grateful. Grateful I spent time with my children and was able to sit down watch Christmas movies and make cookies. We are repeating last year but have sprinkled a couple of outings here and there and will be spending time with extended family. Thankfully, one in sick this year. Sometimes you need to breathe and enjoy the company of your own home.

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