We’ve been having conversations about this lately. I think it becomes trickier as our children grow older and have their own opinions about what is they value too! Each family must answer these questions based on what works for you. Talk together about what is really important to you, and let the rest go.
Here are some principles that have helped to guide us.
1. Keep decorating simple
We’re working hard to keep clutter at bay in our home. So filling it up with Christmas tchotchkes doesn’t help our cause! So how can we still make it festive?
- Trade out regular kitchen linens (towels, potholders, napkins) for holiday ones. This is my favorite!
- Rotate art collections. Take down and store everyday art and put up meaningful seasonal art!
- Use natural resources. Evergreen clippings and pinecones with a few red berries from the yard are beautiful. I like to use Laura Ingalls Wilder as inspiration. How did Ma decorate?
- One year we made a wreath from a ball of yarn and a piece of cardboard from the recycling. I love it!
- And my favorite festivity of all: Christmas Music! We love Harry Connick Jr.’s Christmas Albums. This one is my favorite. Pandora is also a great tool! It’s worth taking the time to give “thumbs-up” to your favorite songs so that next year it will play everything that you like.
- For us, the nativity is central and doesn’t need to be outshone by dazzling lights.
The point is: we don’t need to spend money or be complicated to make our home feel like Christmas.
2. Don’t buy gifts we can’t afford.
Increasing stress this month is not what we’re after!
The average family plans to spend $861 this season on gifts (source). We have not budgeted that much, so spending hundreds of dollars on gifts would cause financial stress. And increasing stress this month is not what we’re after!
What about gift exchanges? We’ve tried to communicate ahead of time that we plan to exchange special treats or handmade items, rather than purchased gifts. Now the trick with this is not to feel like each handmade gift needs to be a huge and time-consuming project.
When we were the first adults to opt out of the extended-family name draw, we felt a little guilty. We were afraid that our choice would be seen as disloyalty or unkindness. However, I feel more connected with them through Facebook (we have an extended family Facebook group) than I did through guessing what they might want for Christmas.
3. Keep Christmas Cards simple
Christmas Pictures are one of my favorite traditions. I love to give and receive family pictures! I also love to read the year-in-review from friends and relatives. It reminds me to pray for people I love.
That said, we don’t need to send them to everyone we’ve ever met, or make extravagant cards to accompany them. My version of simple for this is sending just a picture with a mini-letter on the back. There are businesses that make beautiful, simple cards just like this. The (cheaper) alternative is to have the pictures printed, and paste your letter onto the back.
Option A: Cost breakdown for 100 Christmas pictures
- Photo shoot at the zoo: picture taken by a friend: = free
- 100 envelopes $13
- 100 photos printed at Costco $13
- 100 stamps $49 (I may hand deliver them to neighbors and church friends, and cut down cost here)
- 25 copies of the letter (printed 4 to a page) $2.50
Total ~ $75
Option B: Let go of printed Christmas pictures and email the pic and year-in-review. I’m having a really tough time coming to this choice myself, though!
4. Simplify the Menu
We love turkey and stuffing for Thanksgiving, but realized that Christmas Ham is what we like! Costco’s glazed ham is our favorite. So our Christmas menu is:
Glazed holiday ham
Homemade mashed potatoes
Steamed green beans
Ginger cranberry sauce
Old fashioned pecan pie
Here’s a recipe for the Ginger Cranberry Sauce and one for Old Fashioned Pecan Pie. Sometimes I’ll make other favorite holiday foods throughout the month, so we get to enjoy them without having the pressure to make everything on Christmas Day. Besides, our waistlines don’t need all that on one day either!
These are some things that we’ve done to simplify the festivities, so that we can focus on the reason we celebrate in the first place.