I love Christmas time! LOVE IT! The lights, decorations, smells, happy faces, shows, and music make it so special. However, traditions can get a bit out of hand in my house. Every year I plan on Simplifying Christmas, focusing on what really matters and every year I end up turning into a crazed, stressed out, lunatic instead – that may or may not be an exaggeration. 😉
Listed below are typically the hot items on my mental Christmas management list – I wonder if you can spot the One major piece of Christmas I’m missing.
Nag the husband about the lights, choose the perfect tree that DOES NOT look like a Charlie Brown clone (yes I’m biased), perfectly place and decorate that tree, squeeze in activities like ornament making and baking, Christmas shopping and wrapping, Christmas cards, and finagle a Christmas week schedule so I can make all of my family members happy.
Predictably, I end up accomplishing maybe half of what I hoped I would and, unfortunately, I’ve totally left Jesus on the back burner. I tend to feel like a Christmas cheer failure when I can’t get this list done but, in actuality, Jesus should be the only thing I have on my list. Jesus is the reason for the season but our society has made Christmas into the month of fun and shopping. I have totally fallen into this trap! Our culture says, If you don’t do every little thing with your kids you aren’t a very cool mom.
In the bible, Jesus did partake in celebrations (Hanukkah, John 10:22-23) and I’m sure He loves seeing us rejoice in Him. But, I can guarantee Jesus did not want his birthday to turn into some hyped up, frazzle-stricken-mom kind of month with materialism and activities taking over our lives, distracting us from Him.
Of course, I’m not saying we should totally end all our traditions. I just don’t want to go all Martha on my family in the process and forget why we are celebrating in the first place. This sends an unintentional message to our kids that doing “stuff” and getting “stuff” are what makes Christmas special.
This Christmas I have a goal of keeping it simple. I want to provide quality, not quantity. I think this will create lasting memories and keep the focus on Christ.
Here are some things I am hoping to include when I am simplifying Christmas.
1. Put God first.
If you don’t feel that a certain something is indeed focused on the Lord, consider excluding it, especially if you are exhausting yourself with a full schedule. Keeping God at the center will help you to ultimately have a simpler Christmas, not distracted by the holiday flood, and will teach your kids to do the same.
2. Don’t stress!
Seriously, don’t stress. Don’t beat yourself up if your family hasn’t done an umpteen amount of amusing things. Don’t go out and buy every little thing you see on sale either. Do your best to go with the flow. Christmas is supposed to be a happy time for everyone, including you. You shouldn’t be losing hair over your Christmas plans. For my stress level, I’ll be avoiding functions that are a giant cluster. One idea is to use Mary Kate’s list of “mini-challenges” for your family to keep a Christ-centered December without exhausting yourself.
3. Simplify your efforts and doings.
If you have to set a limit to restrain your “Christmas cheer” than do it. In my house we will be choosing two quality outings and two quality home-based activities. We will be choosing things that I feel will make the most impact on the kids. What makes a quality activity? One that is not over stimulating, stressful, and does not distract you from the REAL Christmas – and in my book, does not cost an arm and a leg.
This year I hope to take the kids to a national historic town in our area for a Victorian Christmas and a huge walkthrough, live Nativity (both complete with actors). These are free and utterly amazing. In past years it’s been a peaceful experience while learning about the history of Christmas. There are Clydesdale drawn carriages, chestnuts roasting over an open fire, carolers singing real Christmas songs, amazing costumes, animals, and free hot beverages. The nativity has prompted much discussion with our kids. I love it because it provides a great visual for them to link with what the bible says. To me, this is the definition of quality.
4. Simplify your schedule.
Christmas is a time to relax with your family – or at least it should be. We’ve found a lot of enjoyment with just sitting in front of the fire with the tree sparkling while we read a book about Christmas. Enjoy Christmas without the hustle and bustle of the season hindering you. If you can, spread out the festivities over the month. Don’t exhaust yourself and cram everything into the week before Christmas.
5. Simplify your gift giving – this does not mean poor quality.
This year, I will only be getting a few quality gifts for my children – things that I know will not end up broken the first day or forgotten about next month. I have a goal of ones with an educational theme. The stocking will have things they can truly use and won’t be full of dollar store finds like our years of past. I like what Jamie does with her family!
Our gifts to others will also have a goal of high quality. Consider your time, skills, and homemade love as part of your gift-giving arsenal. These usually make better, more thoughtful gifts! Take a peak at Elizabeth’s candid article about “Under The Tree Syndrome,” if you are needing more motivation.
Consider this list only a starting point to simplifying Christmas. I want to encourage you to think about Christmas and why it is so important. Ask yourself if you are sending your children a message of true Christmas spirit or one full of what our world says it should be. As for me – I’ll try not to nag on my husband out those darned Christmas lights! 😉
What do you focus on during Christmas? Do you have any tricks for keeping it simple?