Does your December look like this? A calendar packed with holiday concerts and parties. Boxes of decorations that need dusted and displayed. A formidable to-do list of card making and cookie baking and merry making.
Somehow, every year, you wonder if all your efforts are adding to the season…or detracting from it.
Five years ago, our family’s perspective shifted forever when we decided to leave my husband’s chiropractic practice of seven years and go back to school. We sold the beautiful home we’d built and packed our remaining belongings into ten suitcases, moving our family of six to a tiny island in the Caribbean.
Although it’s counterintuitive to do less at this time of year, doing less leaves more room for family, simple traditions, and the true spirit of Christmas. It was during our first Christmas on the island that we learned a life changing lesson:
You don’t do more to invite the spirit of Christmas into your life—you do less.
We borrowed a small tree and decorated it with handmade ornaments. Our holiday decor consisted of nothing more than paper snowflakes and hand-drawn artwork from the kids.
There weren’t a lot of presents. We simply couldn’t bring a lot of things home with us, and shopping on the island was limited. As a mother, I worried that this Christmas would be disappointing for our kids; it wasn’t what we were used to.
But Christmas morning was quiet and unhurried, and while the kids didn’t get a lot, they appreciated the small gifts they did receive. We reminisced about our favorite Christmas memories and fit in a Skype call with our extended family. We spent the rest of the day playing at the beach as a family.
It was simple and quiet and nothing fancy, but that Christmas will have a special place in my heart forever.
Since we moved back to the States, I’ve tried so hard to hang on to that special little Christmas and do less each year, but it can be so hard.
So often it feels like filling the season with activities and Pinterest-worthy projects will create the kind of memories we want our children to keep for a lifetime. I’ve learned in the five years since we’ve been back that you don’t have to move to a remote island to capture the spirit of a simple Christmas.
Here are five things you can do this year to stress less and love more this holiday season.
1. Limit those to-do’s.
Ask yourself, “Will this create meaningful memories?” And more importantly, “Will this add to the peace of the season or take away from it?”
2. Plan ahead.
For me, the biggest thing to help instill calm into the holidays is to get started early on my to-do list. No matter how much you scale back on the to-do’s, some tasks (like shopping for family gifts or planning the food for a family gathering) are inevitable. Thankfully, nothing reduces stress and anxiety like early preparation! I aim to finish the bulk of my to-do’s by November 30th.
3. Spend less, do less.
Another big stressor during the holidays is finances. Giving yourself permission to spend less and do less—like skipping the expensive holiday card or dialing down your gift budget—will leave you with more mental and emotional capacity to really soak in the season.
4. Get the kids on board.
Early in the season, we gather our family and discuss what kind of Christmas we want to have. We talk about the feelings we want to experience and brainstorm ways to get there—without going overboard. Helping your children catch the vision of a simple Christmas will mean more understanding and contentment for everyone.
5. Keep coming back to your “why.”
When the hustle creeps in, try to ground yourself again by remembering why you want the kind of season you want. For some that may be to feel closer to Christ; for others it may be to find more time and connection with your family. Keep holding on to that longing—that desire for a slower, more meaningful season—and you’ll find it.
12 Days to a Simpler Holiday Season
I’ve found that focusing our time and attention on fewer but more meaningful traditions brings more joy than spreading ourselves thin trying to do it all.
The problem is that we sometimes fall into this idea that packing our schedules with activities and filling our homes with new toys will give us the Christmas we envision. And then once the season is over—when the storm of wrapping paper is in the recycling bin and the Christmas lights have been returned to the attic—we wonder if we really experienced the kind of season we set out to create.
What if you could enjoy a calm, unhurried holiday season filled with more memories and less overwhelm? Hint: you can.
This year, I invite you to simplify your holiday season with me.