The 12 Days of Christmas: Day Three – 3 Ways to Simplify Your Christmas

christmas tree 2004Is it just me or has anyone else noticed that Christmas, and the expectations surrounding it, can easily and quickly get out of hand? I’ve said for several years that we should treat Christmas like the Olympics … every four years. Somehow I think the retailers would vote me down on that one, as would most children!

But simplifying Christmas has become a priority in my home this year. We’ve decided to scale back on the mountain of gifts that typically dwarf the tree to make what gifts we do give have more meaning. Too many times I’ve seen children, including my own, receive 20 or 30 or more gifts only to focus on playing with the biggest box any of them arrived in. Dear grandparents: keep the gifts, just send boxes!

While thinking about the idea of simplifying our Christmas this year, I came across three ideas:

1. Focus on traditions rather than things.

When I look back on my fondest memories, they’re always about the traditions we’ve enjoyed as a family. What would Thanksgiving be without turkey and dressing and sweet potato casserole? What would Christmas be without my wife’s breakfast casserole, our tradition of making the kids wait until Mom and Dad are up before playing with or opening ANY presents, or driving around looking at the Christmas lights while sipping hot chocolate and playing Christmas carols on the radio? Christmas for my family is a time to celebrate being with each other, not celebrating the latest gadget, toy, or gizmo.

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2. Do Christmas your way, not the marketers way.

Why let “a December to remember” cause you financial pain and stress for the next 60 or 72 months? The pressures that Madison Avenue places on people this time of year is something they should be ashamed of. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with giving something far more valuable than things — give your time. Take some time to visit people who are shut in. Take some time to play with your children … down on the floor. Teach someone what you know: cooking, playing the guitar, knitting a sweater, or painting a landscape. Invest your most precious asset — time — into those you love the most.

3. Create a new gift giving tradition.

Some people only give gifts that are hand made. The materials can be bought, but the finished gift must be hand made. Try it with ornaments if you’re not ready to go “New Yankee Workshop” or try the Magi Christmas tradition: three gifts and three gifts only. There is a Victorian tradition that says each person should get “something they want, something they need, something to wear, and something to read.

Don’t let the stress of the season ruin the meaning of the holidays. With tax season just around the corner, people worrying about how to pay their mortgage while they watch their savings account dwindle, having the self discipline to simplify Christmas may be the wisest decision of them all!

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photo credit: scottfeldstein

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