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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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  • Crystal says:

    I love this! And not because its what my family has chosen- in fact this year we kind of decided to “go big”. The past few years Christmas has been small. Between lean years and health problems, we chose to forgo a lot of the hoopla that comes with Christmas, but for the first time in years, we have the health, the means, and the time to do a lot of the things we haven’t been able to for a while, and it feels good! It has been fun! But best of all, its what works and what feels right for my family. I am loving seeing the magic of Christmas in my kids eyes, and seeing them grow closer to Christ through our continued focus on him, even as we decorate cookies and hand out Christmas cards! I just love seeing people enjoy this time of year and doing what is right for them and their families, because that is what is most important! Thank you for always being authentic!

    • Yes! It’s so important to be mindful of what is best for your family — instead of feeling like you have to do things like others do it or like you’ve always done.

      And yay for going big this Christmas! How fun!

    • Anne Rudziensky says:

      Our kids are in high school and college now. Instead of buying Christmas gifts, we decided to drive to Florida and stay with a friend between Christmas and New Years. We thought we would enjoy doing activities together instead of giving presents. It may be one of the last times that we can all get together at the same time for vacation. So we will spend our money sightseeing, kayaking, snorkeling, and whatever else sounds like fun. It has been so relaxing for me and we will all have lots of memories to share. That is if the 24 hour drive doesn’t cause us all to kill each other…..ha ha ha or ho ho ho?

  • MaryEllen says:

    Love this! I keep things simple for my own sanity because I am easily overwhelmed, but sometimes I feel guilty because of all the Christmas memories my kids are “missing out” on. But I thought back to the things I remembered most about Christmas as a kid and they really were the simple things like decorating the tree together and listening to Christmas music. Those I can handle, and my kids will still have plenty of positive memories!

  • Becky says:

    I’ve had to leave out a lot of our normal Christmas activities due to hospitalized family members. I’ve been o.k. with it for the most part. Your pink tree however is sad, very very sad. 🙂

    • I’m so sorry about your hospitalized family members. That makes things hard!

      {My kids think the pink tree is the best tree ever. Even Silas. It’s one of their favorite parts of Christmas, I think!}

  • Victoria says:

    We really mixed up Christmas this year too. We put out about half the decorations and cut down annual events by about 2/3rds. I am loving the extra breathing room. We won’t do this every year, we did it because we wanted to buy our children all one large gift each without blowing the Christmas budget. Once we explained it to the kids, they were fine with it. Most of the traditions they have outgrown anyways and we need to take this season to decide what we enjoy doing together as a family during the Christmas season in the new teenagers and up stage of life we are in. So far the most missed item has been the live Christmas tree, I have heard several complaints about it, so it will go back on the list. Other events though have gone undone without a word said, so I am guessing they are off the list in coming years as well.

  • Well, we set up our tree (but didn’t decorate it), bought gifts (but mostly simple and/or educational), and didn’t send any cards or bake any cookies. I’ve enjoyed this Christmas season the most of any year so far even though we have places to be in the next weeks. A simplified Christmas is great. Our Christmas day has always been mostly not about gifts and more about Christ’s birth, giving gifts to the Lord, and spending time with family. Every year I look for more things to simplify. 🙂

  • I love this, because it rings true with so much that I’ve been learning about Advent.

    Traditionally, Advent’s really a fasting season. You’re supposed to be cutting some things out, quieting your soul, making space.

    And why you want to make that space? Because you want to have space in your heart to welcome the Christ child. Prayer and giving, quietness and repentance . . . and then a glorious feast in the middle of dark winter! 🙂 I love Advent!

  • Missy says:

    Love this! Crystal, what are some of your family’s favorite Christmas movies? We have young children and are looking to start a collection. Maybe buying a new one each year, so I am curious as to which ones you all watch again and again?

    • Hmm, I’m not sure that we have any that we watch again and again. I’m one of those weird people who rarely ever watches a movie more than once. 🙂

      This year, we’ve been watching some of the classics that the kids and I have never seen before (we rarely watched movies growing up, so there are a lot of classics I’ve not seen yet!).

      Maybe some others here have some suggestions?

    • Tracy says:

      My son loved watching the live people version of The Velveteen Rabbit, Rudolph, and a classic Its A White Christmas with Bing Cosby. Also Hallmark makes some really nice Christmas movies as well.

    • Susan says:

      There are tons of Christmas shows on Netflix right now, plus every evening on ABC, suitable for all age ranges. My 14-yo has been picking one to watch on the evenings when we’re home and she has no homework. She’s at a friend’s birthday party tonight, and she even texted me asking if I would choose something for us to watch together tomorrow. I was tickled pink! I never thought of watching holiday programs on TV as a tradition, but this year we’ve had fun with it.

      I started collecting holiday books when she was little. We still pull them out each year and read some of them together, even those intended for young children because they are classics.

    • becky says:

      I LOVE Christmas movies 🙂

      When my kids were little they loved Annabelle’s Wish. I think we all had that movie memorized! Another really cute one (and it centers on Christ’s birth) is The Very First Noel (Andy Griffith). I’ve always enjoyed The Christmas Box because it focuses on the true meaning of Christmas but it can be hard to find on dvd. White Christmas and It’s A Wonderful Life are classics we watch every year. Of course, How the Grinch Stole Christmas (the old one–the newer one creeps me out!) Charlie Brown Christmas is another classic. Christmas with the Kranks is hilarious–one of my favorites! We also have The Nativity Story but I have yet to watch it–planning to this year. Elf is another hilarious one we watch annually.

      For older kids we like A Christmas Carol (the DIsney one is probably my favorite but I enjoy all the versions) and A Christmas Story.

    • Beth says:

      For really young ones, Veggie Tales has a few really great ones (St. Nicholas and It’s a Wonderful Life are 2 of our favorites). When I was a little girl, I enjoyed Prancer. Depending on your child’s age, some of our other family favorites are Elf and The Christmas Story. These two may not be appropriate for (or hold the attention of) all children.

    • Alexis W says:

      My kids love The Polar Express.

  • Jessica says:

    When our huge Christmas tree broke 2 years ago, I chose not to replace it (I’m allergic to real trees). Instead, I got each kid a small tinsel tree in their favorite color and they can decorate it as they wish. They have their trees in their rooms. I don’t have to yell at them or worry about broken ornaments. No huge boxes to lug up from the basement. No lights to untangle. Since our toddler’s birthday is Christmas Eve, we’re not traveling, either. I don’t think it’s fair to make a 2 year old sit in the van for 5 hours on her birthday just to go to someone’s tiny house that isn’t childproofed and she’ll get yelled at left and right for touching things. During the holidays we plan to do a few activities like looking at the lights display and decorate cookies.

  • Nichole says:

    We are keeping Christmas very low key this year too. We got our small Christmas tree from the farm put lights on and didn’t even take the ornaments out of the box. My boys have so much and I feel like they get caught up in the whole getting gifts that they forget why we are celebrating Christmas in the first place. The boys are getting one toy each from “Santa” and then one gift together from mama and dada. I’ve asked my parents to keep it to at least two toys for each boy. We cleaned out their toys to donate and they still have a ton of stuff! In some ways it feels weird to not have all my stuff out and not really being all that Christmas-y but it’s OK the boys dont seem to mind.

  • Gwen says:

    We have, too, and it has been one of the most blissful Christmases ever. I don’t know what each year will hold but I like this simple one so much, it is tempting to never return to a big one again.

  • j k says:

    Love this idea of keeping Christmas simple! I think the world’s gone crazy over the holiday when the true meaning is really about Jesus! For our kids presents this year, I tried to get things that they really need…like belts, PJs, shoes and jackets (all from online sales at CP, etc.). My kids always remember what food we ate and who we ate it with so I try to make special new recipes that they never had before.

  • Renee says:

    I’m so glad we’re not the only ones! We just returned from living abroad for 5 months. There’s no time to even think about complicated Christmas traditions. We’ll be together, with a few simple gifts, celebrating Jesus’ birth. It’ll be enough.

  • Claire says:

    My Advent has been very hectic this year, between my husband starting a new job and my son having a stubborn case of strep throat. There are certain traditions I’m not willing to give up (such as decorating), yet there are definitely some things I have reconciled myself to putting on hold this year. (A really fun homemade ornament activity I read about on a blog, for example.) I have to remind myself that it’s impossible to do every great Advent activity each year. If a great new idea comes along, it will keep until there’s time to do it during a future Advent, rather than trying to do it all and getting overwhelmed in the process. One thing we have always kept simple is gift giving. I basically buy my son stocking stuffers (knowing that he’ll get plenty from extended family), and my husband and I don’t exchange gifts. So I have to laugh when people ask if I’m ready for Christmas, because 9 times out of 10 they’re referring to shopping for my son, which is probably the easiest part of my Christmas preparations!

  • Michelle says:

    I can imagine this being bliss. December is very hectic in our house.

  • Anna says:

    Yea for doing what is best for your family!

    One of the best things about living overseas for us has been the chance to step back from so many cultural things and evaluate what we really want to do as a family.

    Our focus is definitely trying to remember the real reason for the season even through the decorating and cookie making that we do choose to do.

    One thing that we’ve actually started to add this year (because our boys are getting big enough) is have our kids make presents for their siblings. We’re all having a lot of fun making “secret” gifts for each other here. 🙂

  • Sheila Smith says:

    I didn’t put out all my stuff either. This will sound like whining, but no one helps me. I only did the tree and kids nativity set. I put up the snowman shower curtain only because I needed to wash the other one anyway. I work full time nights (12 hours). They preferred the angel food and chocolate covered cherries be made to more decorations. Works for me. I really don’t miss the rest. Most gifts have been given out early so it will look pretty lame Christmas morning. ( Oldest son needed his shoes, boots and snowpants to blow snow and work shoes as his others were literally falling apart from high school ~ 10 years ago!) That’s what worked this year.

  • angela says:

    We have also decided to keep it simple. We are going to a relative’s cabin in the mountains. There is no tv, very limited internet and just enough cell service to use in case of emergency. It will just be my hubby and our 4 kids ages 3,6 8,&9. There is already a modest tree with beautiful white lights and snow all around. Santa will come and each child will get a couple of gifts from mom and dad. I cant wait to play in the snow, cook, read and snuggle with my family in front of the fireplace!!

  • Jennifer says:

    We decided to do this this year as well. I bought smaller gifts for everyone, haven’t baked a thing and told my husband not to bother getting tickets to the Christmas light show. It might seem from the outside we aren’t big on Christmas but my husband and I are actually setting a precedent I think in our very young children’s lives to focus on Jesus and not the hundreds of things people try to sell on us to make this day special. Hopefully we will all gain discernment from it for a lifetime of simple and focused Christmases!

  • Kristine says:

    we have simplified this year too and we have done some wonderful advent projects and it has been the first time in years I have felt very little stress and just a lot of happiness and contentment. It’s been wonderful.

  • I could not agree with this post more! This year I took a different approach. I bought small holiday extras the day after Christmas last year, used online surveys, swagbucks, etc. and saved enough that I had every gift finished by Halloween. I wrapped early, simplified my gift giving list, gave fewer cards, sent more e-cards, etc. Also, I’m pre-writing blog posts, finished work ahead of time for my job, and things seem so light and fun. Next week I plan to so see a living nativity, volunteer at soup kitchen, read holiday books with my family, play vintage holiday lp’s, and watch HULU for the holidays. I even made “virtual dates,” with friends and family out of state and the country, so we can face-time and Skype and catch-up on life! These are all things I have not done in years when I have been out buying presents, stuck in the kitchen, or wrapping gifts until my hands blister. This year I made a point of streamlining my holiday, so that without all of the hustle and bustle, I will be debt-free after the New Year and I can appreciate the true meaning of the season!

  • Jacki says:

    Our house decided not to purchase any gifts this year. My young girls also opted out of decorating at all. They got burned out from seeing the trees and decorations out in July here. We will visit our married daughter and grandkids and give out coupon books to the kids to do special things with each of us. My oldest wanted to buy something for her sisters and they wanted just to go to the movies with her alone:)
    We will up the birthday celebrations and our special New year’s celebration in March. This will spread out the gifts throughout the year. My one daughter’s birthday is only a few days after Christmas and she always gets a smaller birthday due to everyone feeling gifted out!
    Love one another and always volunteer to help out who you can.

  • Sakura says:

    I’m so glad to read this because I’ve been feeling guilty about not baking every week or going to the christmas carol sing a long. I’ve just taken a step back this year to try and get better perspective of what’s important to my family and also to me. My 10 yo told me he loves presents, but what he loves best about all the holidays is how our whole family gets together. We eat, laugh, watch movies and hang out. It’s so nice to hear him say that’s what he likes best.

  • Melissa Lohrey says:

    We decided a long time ago to focus on our kids… husband I don’t normally exchange gifts (would rather spend the money on date nights) and I don’t think you have to go big have a good Christmas but traditions even the simple little things I believe are important… I think my family would miss not having our traditional tree and I enjoy the break from a hectic schedule and spending time with my daughter who helps me. Wishing everyone a very Merry Christmas and this is one of my fav sights….

  • Susan says:

    So interesting to read about your feeling of “cancelling” Christmas. I almost feel that way here, too, and its refreshing to read that I’m not the only one. Between Thanksgiving and January, it just seems extra crazy at my house since our girls birthday’s are in Dec. and Jan., then we celebrate both Hanukkah and Christmas (I grew up Christian and converted) then New Year’s. I almost felt a little guilty about not going full out with the decorations, but I have to admit, I am happy to know that on the other end there won’t be hours spent cleaning everything up and putting it all back. We are also traveling to my mom’s house for Christmas and I am looking forward to doing some of the “Christmasy” things there like decorating a tree, eating yummy cookies but also just spending time with family.

  • Susan says:

    Oh, I’d also like to add that I personally think that its great that you let your kids put up “their” tree and decorate it they way they wanted to this year. One of my fondest memories from my childhood is having a small artificial tree in my room that I could decorate any way that I wanted to. Things like that may seem so little and trivial, but they actually can create great and lasting memories.

  • Betsy says:

    I love this post. I’m going to print it for inspiration earlier in the season next done. I did scale down a good bit. I only put up one tree instead of two (and had to squash down the guilt a little). And, I totally understand the Breathe concept. I have been SO feeling the need for that. In fact, just got this duvet for my bedroom, as a reminder to breathe. Isn’t it beautiful? (This is not an affiliate link or anything like that, I just want to share it with you).

  • Wendy Briscoe says:

    My stress comes from cooking and cleaning. Did you simplify that aspect of it as well. We are hosting my husband’s familiy this year on Christmas Eve, having Christmas to ourselves for the first time in SEVEN years, and visiting with my family the day after Christmas. We are simplifying Christmas as well. Right down to the food. Nothing will be too difficult to cook, just warming food up, and then voila dinner is served. 🙂 (Got my ham on sale today at Kroger too!) I just don’t want to invest a ton of money on things that will be gone in an hour or two. Does that make sense? Thank you for this article. I think so many of us, need this at this time of year. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! Mrs. Briscoe

  • Pearl says:

    I’m Not Alone! I thought I was the alone in wanting to scale back Christmas, so how great to see many others doing the same thing. I don’t want to be a grinch, but goodness am I tired of all the hype and the hoopla and the ridiculousness of what now passes for Christmas. I thought about canceling all together but.. well at least I can cut down. Today is Dec 19th and I’ve only bought two things. But everything I buy is going to be simpler and I’m not going to stress about it. No Christmas cards, no extra gatherings, no doing things out of a feeling of obligation. And the decorations, I was going with no tree but bought a small dwarf spruce at K Mart, about a foot tall. I can plant it outside later. TIny lights and bells, it’s fine. The main thing I would like to get later is a nice nativity scene which will be my focus from now on. I have two small ones out now and a few extras to go with it. Took about 30 minutes to set up. An after Christmas gathering with kids and grands to allow for their schedules, some easy foods, simple gifts, the Christmas story and family. I can do that! I’m not stressing anymore or buying into this out of control “celebrating” that goes on. Two of my grandchildren saw the tree today though and at first they thought I was joking. Now I think they just think Grandma’s getting weird! Lovin’ it!

  • Great post! We also skipped cards this year and it feels great. Skipped a ton of activities, feels awesome. Picked one giving thing…and gave a significant amount instead of doing several things with several deadlines to stress me out. Did all my shopping on Amazon along with supporting a few small businesses online. I haven’t shopped out at all. Again, feels great! Making a few treats here and there, no major sugar factory happening this year. I agree, we have on and off years and that’s ok. But I am REALLY Liking this off year. 😉

  • Kristin F. says:

    Ever since we’ve had my son, who will 3 shortly after Christmas, we vowed to keep the holidays simple, because the meaning is lost these days in the hectic Christmas shopping and trying to outdo the other family members with the big gifts. My husband and I focus on time with my son, stories, movies, and simple gifts for just him.

    Now that i’m 12 weeks pregnant with our second child, I’m so grateful for the simplicity! This oregnancy

  • Tammy C says:

    If some of what you wrote is simplifying Christmas then I have been doing that for years. We never travel to be with work parties ,no house parties with groups,and no more school activities since both graduated.

    Years ago I heard a lady talk at MOPS about Christmas activities.She ran herself ragged and made me tired just listening to all that she in the month of December,I made a vow that i would never be like her.Almost 20 years later I hope she changed.

  • Jessica says:

    I guess I’m the odd ball out. I had a horrible childhood and don’t have many positive memories at all, let alone Christmas ones where the family is so overly together you experience “burn out”.

    I won’t lie though, during the 8 years since I’ve been on my own, now married with children, I’ve never been exhausted from Christmas. I always bought the gifts a year in advanced since deals are so good after Christmas, then we put up the tree on the first, put the presents out during the month, send out maybe 6 cards total, and the rest is celebrating with the family.

    What is everyone else doing that makes them so tired?

    • One person's experience... says:

      Hi Jessica – I won’t attempt to speak for everyone else but here’s a snippet of what we have every December. Husband and I both work in corporate jobs so we both have holiday parties (2 parties which means either one weekend is shot in the evenings or 1 night each for two weekends is gone). Children’s school parties (I’m homeroom mom so do majority of the planning, coordination and then the actual party). We have historically sent around 100 Christmas cards though I’m trying to whittle that down (when you’ve both worked with people from all over the world coupled with family, you get a big distribution list). Christmas presents for our kids, teachers, piano teacher, house cleaner, neighbors who buy us gifts (we love our neighbors but we would not have started this to be honest), and family members who exchange gifts with us. Then we have neighborhood Christmas party, church Christmas party, mother’s tea, etc.

      On top of that I used to try to do an “experiences” advent calendar where every day we did something as a family – taking a meal to a homebound church member, making and taking cookies to the fire station, driving to look at Christmas lights, etc., etc.

      Then there’s end of the calendar year trying to wrap up work projects so you can take off time as well as the end of the semester at school so finals and everything else that goes with that.

      And, there’s more but I won’t bore you any more than I already have. 🙂

      I think it’s great that you’ve never been exhausted from Christmas but I think that’s an exception for most people this time of year. And the thing is, none of these things are “bad” things. They’re well-intentioned, they’re fun and it’s great to be with friends, family and colleagues. It’s fun to have a festively decorated house. It’s a blessing to spend time with family (all sides individually makes for even more commitments). It’s just unfortunate that it ALL happens in the month of December.

      I should note that we significantly cut back this year and we’ve enjoyed it a lot more. I don’t want to try to speak for Crystal or anyone else but that’s why this time of year can be exhausting for us.

  • Des says:

    So glad to read this post. It’s a lean year for me financially, and sometimes it can be a little disheartening to not be able to do all the decorations, attend all the get togethers, etc. My family knows I’m only getting the kids in the family gifts this year, and nothing expensive. (I like to let them know not to buy me anything, as I really don’t NEED anything.) I was able to get my nephews all sweaters from a deal I saw on your site from kids place, for 3.50 each and free shipping! I’m going to put a little something fun from the dollar tree in there too to make it more “fun” since they’re young. My mom, who is on disability gets very sad that she can’t afford to get me something great for Christmas, so this year, I’m making the 4 hour drive to visit her, and she wants to chip in on gas. Sounds good to me! Each year and each family is different, but here’s to a very Merry Christmas to all! 🙂

  • Des says:

    Oh one more thing! I actually don’t have any kids but have been following this blog for maybe 6 years, lol. For those that do have kids, family LOVES stuff made by the kids! Some of my favorite gifts are from my nephews simply coloring a page for me, a pretty rock from a rock tumbler my nephew tumbled himself, drawings, pictures, etc. I am not just saying that, they can bring tears to my eyes! Last week I sent my youngest nephew a card with a very inexpensive gift and got back a video of him thanking me. I must have watched it twenty times, as last time I saw him he could only say a few words, he’s about 20mo old. Priceless!! Just food for thought! 🙂

    • Sheila says:

      I love the ideas of kids drawings and little things they made. I have my 29 yo sons kindergarten artwork as some of my decorations. My mom rotates their old drawings too for all the seasons.

  • Esther says:

    We simplified this year by taking time off from academic homeschooling in December. Instead, each day we have been studying/singing a Christmas Carol, reading Christmas books, memorizing Luke 2, baking, doing Christmas crafts (I very rarely do these with the kids during the regular school year), and of course, watching Christmas movies! The kids are loving it, and it’s by far the most relaxing December I can remember. I planned this back in the summer…we started our academic year at the beginning of August so we would have time to take off December and still fit the whole school year in.

  • Andrea says:

    We have reinvented Christmas. This is our first Christmas away from family. We will visit them over the holiday but I am use to hosting family gatherings at my house. This year has just been us and some friends we’ve made here in ohio. Even though we know few people I decorated big this year. I wanted to make new traditions with my family. Every years is different but know yourself and how to embrace the holidays in a way that is enjoyable to you. Live the month of December don’t just survive it.

  • Deborah Gajee says:

    Love the idea. We have decided next year to give only birthday gifts and at Christmas everyone gets $50 to give to their favorite charity. Thankfully the kids love the idea.

  • Susan says:

    That is one pitiful looking pink tree, but hey, if your kids love it, that’s what matters. Their tender hearts are more important than a beautiful tree. My daughter has pink tinsel tree too. She’s 14 now, and this is the first year she opted not to put it up in her room.

    She loves decorating for Christmas, and ever since she was very young I’ve let her decorate as she wishes. As much as I’ve been tempted to “fix” the decorations so that out home looks nice instead of, well, hideous, I never have. It delights her, and I delight in her, so there you go.

    Now that she’s a teen, the decorations look quite nice. She still hasn’t gotten past mixing themes tho. Santa is right there with the wise men. 🙂

  • Guest says:

    This post resonates so strongly with me. This year we decided we would decorate our tree and put up our Department 56 village and that’s it. I’ve aboslutely loved looking at our tree. It was decorated primarily by our kids and it’s beautiful. Because we don’t have stuff everywhere, what we do have is special. (Though I love the fully decked out houses, too!)

    I haven’t tried to or felt obligated to do lots of Christmas activities. The ones we have done have been so fun. And we’ve started a new one…playing Christmas carols by the light of the tree. 🙂

    I’m going in to Christmas week feeling content, relaxed and happy. No dread for me about all we have to take down. 😉

  • Sarah says:

    We did this last year and it wound up being my most favorite Christmas we have had since getting married! I love this idea!

  • Jillbert says:

    We, too, have simplified this year. I purged a lot of my decorations and went for simple. We are focusing on the events around Christmas rather than the stuff. There are some traditions that are meaningful to us (baking cookies, hosting a holiday party, family dinner at a special restaurant) that we are keeping but we’re opting out of the rushing around and frantic gift buying and, sadly, sending cards (my kids are teens/tweens so it’s been years since I had a decent photo of all three). This is going to be a “light” Christmas for my kids in terms of presents — not because of $$, but mainly because the gifts aren’t what makes the holiday special — it’s the events. None of my three children have any wants — they will get a few fun things (we’re big on homemade “joke” gifts) but what they will get (and love) is lots of time together as a family doing fun and special things (more game nights, special beverages, special foods, sleeping late, watching movies, going skating, etc).

  • Carmen says:

    What a wonderful gift to yourself and family. Plus you can focus more on the real meaning of Christmas.

  • Mrs S says:

    I love reading all of the comments about families doing what’s best for them! It can be so overwhelming to try to do everything we “should” do at Christmas. I asked my kids and husband what their one favorite tradition was and we added it to our list. Everything else was set to the side. We ALL feel better about it because we get to do our favorite things and have no pressure to try to do things we don’t love just because we “should”.

    So to everyone with pink trees, no trees, store-bought cookies, email cards, catered dinners, or organic home made 5 course meals & Christmas parties every weekend, I hope you are thoroughly blessed by your experiences this year!

  • Angela says:

    This year, my daughter picked a Christmas tree that was much smaller than usual (because all the big trees were gone). However, it turned out to be a blessing because it meant we could only put up about half of our ornaments. The kids picked out their favorites & when it comes time to taking the tree down, I know it will be much less work. I’m very thankful to just enjoy this season & family rather than doing everything. Thanks, Crystal, for encouraging us to do this. Merry Christmas!

  • Roma says:

    This is how we do Christmas. The true meaning of Christmas is Christ not us. All about Him!

  • SusanCK says:

    I put up lights and some decorations. I crocheted stockings for my husband, our nearly 7 year old son (his birthday is 1 week & 1 day after Christmas) , and for myself. I set up our 3 Narivity scenes. We don’t put up a tree and have’t since before our son was born. Yesterday our son and I made graham cracker houses and had a blast doing that! And probably tomorrow we’ll roll out the premise sugar cookie dough, cut out cookies and decorate them. We painted some ornaments. I made some peel and stick snow flakes. We haven’t finished shopping for gifts yet but we tend to shop late anyway but will probably get that done today. We’ve had nearly a month full of little activities that have made for some really fun memories and have not had any stressful times!

  • Laura says:

    We have had a very simple Christmas, although not by choice. It has been a chaotic year, with everything culminating in Dec and Jan. It was not possible to cram any more into our already stressful lives. I mourned “missing Christmas” this year. I was sad for myself, because it is one of my favorite times of the year, and sad for my kids.

    When I went to read the Christmas story in the Bible, I realized that our chaotic Christmas fit right in to the story! After reading about an unexpected pregnancy, a priest who had a hard time believing, a doubtful father, two joyful mothers, a hurried dash to Bethlehem, no room at the inn, and smelly shepherds being the chosen recipients to hear God’s Good News, I realized that our crazy Christmas fit right in. This year is a year to focus on the true meaning of Christmas and letting all the other fun stuff go. I hope to have a more festive, traditional Christmas next year, but all that matters is that we “see” Christ.

    May God bless each of you as you celebrate the birth of His son, our Savior!

    • Such a good word. Thanks so much for sharing!

    • Karen says:

      We also were forced to have a very scaled back Christmas this year and each person in our family has struggled with the change. The presents have never been a big part of Christmas for our family. We do not have that much in the way of decorations and we always stay home for Christmas. For us, the change has been not getting to do certain things we have almost always done for Christmas. Most years we get our tree (a day trip to the National Forest or to a tree farm), decorate it, decorate the house a little, start an Advent Bible study project, my husband starts reading a book aloud at dinner for Advent, we have our annual family letter written, and our family photo cards done all before our St. Nicholas Day celebration on Dec 6. This year we were unable to do anything until this past week and what we are able to do is a very small version of what it normally is. We skipped the letter, the photos, the cards, and the trip to get a tree. The tree was bought by myself at Lowes and we did not unpack any of our ornaments. There is pretty much not another sign of Christmas in the house right now either. So far we have also not done any baking, which normally by now would have been many hours of my daughters and I in kitchen together. My daughters also typically make all their gifts to give everyone. These are mostly done in the three weeks leading up to Christmas with me helping them as needed on them. This year we pretty much picked the absolute simplest thing for each to make and a everyone but my 4 year old got started a couple of days ago. Luckily we will not be seeing any grandparents or aunt and uncles until a week or so after Christmas and have longer to finish gifts for them. There are many other things that we have not done this year such as an evening drive to see Christmas light displays, my daughters participating in any of the special Christmas performances or services at church, going to see musical performances, etc.

      But now that we finally have a tree up (even if it is less than half the size of our normal one), the Christmas music is finally going, the Christmas books are unpacked, did our small St Nicholas Day activities (10 days late) and we have had at least one night of watching Christmas movies, everyone’s attitude has greatly improved (including mine!).

      I am now just thankful that God allowed us to easily find the boxes of Christmas books, movies, CDs and the lights. (We are sort mid-move with most of our belongings are in storage and staying in a tiny house right now.) I am also thankful that of the six trees left at Lowe’s there was one that would fit in this house, and that it looks pretty nice – and it was half price!

  • Ann says:

    Two years ago we were on a temporary appointment to another state. I carefully packed one box with the “mandatory” Christmas items–the Nativity set my aunt made me and our advent wreath. We didn’t find it in time for Christmas. So we ended up doing a Jesse tree, where each night we read a Bible story (basically following Jesus’ family tree) and made an ornament that we hung on a branch we found in the yard and “planted” in a jar of sand. We are still doing it, and it is *the* thing that makes Christmas for my kids. We have changed the stories we read as they get older (this year it has been a journey through Kings–there are some salty characters in that part of the family tree!) but it is a favorite activity, and really helps us all focus on the real reason for Christmas.

  • Christine G. says:

    We have basically done this too. It was sort of by “accident”. I have been having some health issues for the last 10+. Earlier this year I had for surgery for an unrelated issue, and while talking to my doctor, she mentioned that I was a candidate for a surgical procedure to fix the issue. We looked at our schedule (our famiy’s and my doctor’s) and there was a date that worked for all of us. The only Christmas obligation I have made was for my oldest daughter. I am her class’s room mom and am in charge of the Christmas party. So I had surgery on the 15th, went to her party on the 19th, and we are done. I do miss some of the other things we normally do, but it has made for a much calmer December. (No, I don’t plan to have surgery every December in order to make it calmer.) 😉

  • Good for you. We did something similar. We’re not being scroogey about it or anything, but we didn’t put up a tree. (Last year it didn’t come down until February, and I couldn’t face that thought again!) Didn’t send Christmas cards. (Didn’t want to end a 34-year streak of not sending cards.) Didn’t shop until yesterday, and that only because my husband forced me to go shopping. (Trying not to complain since he wanted to buy me something, LOL!)

    And it’s been awesome. We actually got some rest and enjoyed our friends and now we’re ready to go in the new year.

    It’s nice to hear someone else might have gone the no-pressure Christmas route too! 🙂 Merry Christmas to you and yours!

  • 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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