If ever there was a time I would love to revisit, it is childhood at Christmastime – back when Christmas was magical and simple. The frantic cooking and last-minute shopping were all lost on me as I could not think of one reason not to love everything about my favorite holiday: the lights, the decorations, the presents under the tree, the family time… it was the most wonderful time of the year.
Somewhere along the way, I grew up and started worrying about typical adult Christmas worries. Are the gifts I bought good enough? Is the food I brought to the party tasty enough? Is everyone around me having a Merry Christmas? And each year I tell myself to slow down and enjoy the holiday. This year at PreEngaged, we have tried to simplify so much this year – why not Christmas too?! Here are some ideas for starters:
- Remember the reason. Before you get caught up in the energy and stress, remember why you celebrate the season. Take a breath. Give God thanks for giving us His Son. Keep your eyes on Him. Do everything – the cooking, the giving, and the laughing – for His glory.
- Dedicate a few hours of your holiday to an act of charity. If you can make it a family event, even better. Ringing the Salvation Army Bell, cooking or delivering meals, and visiting shut-ins are only three of many possibilities. Sacrificial giving has a way of shaking us out of our holiday tunnel vision and refocusing our hearts.
- Buy Toys for Tots, pick a child from the Angel Tree, or buys toys for a local family in need. Nothing is more satisfying during the holidays than making a young person’s Christmas. Dad and I delivered gifts to one of my Mom’s students when I was a preteen. The mom cried and repeatedly thanked Jesus. It is still one of my fondest memories.
- Invite your neighbors to a small gathering for apple cider and a few snacks. How often do we get to invest in our neighbors? We are busy people! A small gesture such as having a few people over can reap benefits over the years. It builds community and trust for minimal effort!
- Less is more. Ask yourself what you will want to remember most about this holiday – and then focus your efforts there. If you want to remember the fun of the annual holiday family puzzle, do not stress about the decorations or the food. Have some decorations and some food, but don’t become so worried about perfection that you are in the kitchen missing all the fun.
- Ask your family what is most important to them. Why break your back trying to supply the ‘perfect’ gifts, the ‘perfect’ atmosphere, or the ‘perfect’ meals if what your family wants from you is your time? Knowledge is power. Find out what matters most to the people you wish to shower this Christmas!
- Sit in front of the fire and talk. Is there anything cozier than a cup of hot chocolate, fuzzy pajamas, and a warm fire? Add the glow of the Christmas tree and you are in business. Enjoy reminiscing about the old days, sharing hopes about the future, or just laughing about the same old stories. ~smile~
- Buy new Christmas PJs! Speaking of fuzzy pajamas, adopt a new Christmas jammies tradition – matching jammies if you are into that. ~smile~
- Have a cultural Christmas! Shake up the holidays by adopting a different culture’s Christmas traditions. It is a valuable learning experience, encourages working together towards a common goal, and pulls us out of holiday ruts.
- Document past Christmases. While you are sitting around the fire, ask your parents, grandparents, aunts, and uncles to talk about their Christmas memories. Write down what they say and create a memory book for the family. It can be next year’s Christmas gift!
- Spend some time with the little people in your life! Babysitting is a priceless gift to an exhausted mom and dad. Also, children bring out the youth in us! If you have children in your family, make sure to spend quality time with them this Christmas. If not, help out your friends while soaking in some baby, toddler, or little kid fun!
- Have a spending limit. Spending limits take pressure off of everyone and they add balance. It is difficult shopping with a limited budget when someone else in the family always spends three times as much. It is not about how much you spend. It is about the thoughtfulness.
- Have a different spending limit between you and your significant other. Between couples, how to approach gift giving should be agreed upon, yet personal. If you agree to spend $20 on everyone in the family, it does not mean you should only spend $20 on each other. If you have enough to buy a few small gifts, buy them for each other. Do not feel compelled to spread your limited budget across twenty people and leave nothing for your significant other or spouse.
- You do not have to exchange gifts with everyone. If finances are tight, you can let the family know you cannot participate in gift exchanges that year. It may not be an easy conversation, but it is better than going into debt for items which will be forgotten by New Year’s. Do not let others’ expectations of you dictate your finances.
- Exchange names instead of buying for everyone. Some larger families exchange names instead of shopping for everyone. It sounds like a fun and cost-efficient way to enjoy the holidays without breaking the bank or freaking out about how to please everyone.
- Exchange gifts for New Year’s instead! If you want to give gifts, but you want to highlight togetherness at Christmas rather than presents (or finances are tight), take advantage of after-Christmas sales and give gifts a bit later. No rule says presents have to happen on December 25th!
- Adopt a family instead of exchanging gifts. My friend’s family does this and I think it is the coolest idea ever! Instead of shopping for each other, consider rallying with your extended family (or friend groups) and shopping for a local family who is going through a rough patch. It can be anonymous!
- Light candles and read the Christmas story. One beloved family tradition since long before I was born is reading Luke 2 on Christmas Eve. It was and continues to be a wonderful kick-off to Christmas.
- Do some re-gifting. In an attempt to simplify your life by de-cluttering your living space, and to make someone else’s face light up, consider donating some of your nice and lightly used items (perhaps gifts from the last few years) to a charity or friend in need.
- Ditch the diet – at least a little bit. You can be self-controlled and still enjoy some Christmas treats. If it is helpful, plan for how many treats you will have so you can eat them in good spirits. If you fudge a bit, let it go. Be wise but also be merry. It is hard to enjoy Christmas with your bathroom scale chained to your ankle.
- Consider the holiday an opportunity to tell your family and friends how you feel about them. Better than a store bought gift is discovering how much we are loved. Consider writing personalized cards to each person in your life highlighting what you love and appreciate most about each one.
- Decorate ornaments together. It is a simple activity that family, friends, and sweethearts can do together. Take a quick trip to the craft store or find stuff around the house to turn into fun ornaments. Make them as gifts or use them to fill up the Christmas tree. There are also inexpensive ornament painting kits available.
- Enjoy old Christmas games. White Elephant parties (or Dirty Santa) are extremely fun, entertaining, and a great excuse to buy (or regift) something outlandish or impractical. What games do you play with your family at Christmas?
- Create new Christmas games. The memories surrounding Christmas are seldom about the gifts received but usually about the time spent together. Games have a way of bringing families and friends together for decompressing and laughter. Research Christmas games or get creative and think of some new games yourself. They may become new traditions!
- Sing Christmas carols. A few years before she passed away, my grandma asked me if we could sing at our Christmas Eve celebration. Feeling self-conscious and not wanting to rock the boat (our family rarely does anything new), I acknowledged her request but did not do anything to fulfill it. Now that she is gone, I think how simple it would have been to make her heart and face smile that Christmas. Even if it feels uncomfortable at first, sing some carols with your family. If not with your family, sing them with your special someone.
As our year of Simplify is drawing to a close, let’s take the most wonderful time of the year and make it simply magical again. A lot of fuss does not make the greatest Christmas memories. Rather, time together, laughter, and fun live on in our hearts forever.
When my maternal grandmother passed away in December of 2001, my mom was coming off of the most stressful, heartbreaking year of her life. Teaching full time, caring for her ailing mother, and preparing a teenager for college were all on her plate. After laying her mom to rest on December 7th, Mom, in her exhausted state, decided to forgo her typical Christmas stresses. She was calm and seemed content with the season. Though we were grieving, it is a Christmas I fondly remember because it was simple. We just spent time together and that is all we needed.
We at PreEngaged wish you the Merriest Christmas you have ever experienced. We hope you and your special someone makes memories to last forever. Enjoy your family. Enjoy your friends. Enjoy time with your Lord and Savior. Make it a simple, wonderful season.
“Our hearts grow tender with childhood memories and love of kindred, and we are better throughout the year for having, in spirit, become a child again at Christmastime.” – Laura Ingalls Wilder
How will you simplify Christmas this year?
The Christmas Story, Luke 2:1-20, ESV
“In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria. And all went to be registered, each to his own town. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn. And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,
‘Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!’
When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them. – (Luke 2:1-20, ESV)