Christmas: love it or loathe it? Me? I love it – mostly. I love the time spent with friends and family. I love to do a few craft activities, and some baking. I love the carols, the decorations, and food. What I don’t love is when Christmas becomes a stress. After all, Christmas is a season of joy, where we can get together and celebrate. I don’t want to lose that joy because I’m stressed and overwhelmed. I want to keep Christmas simple; a few gifts, some fun activities, and happy times spent with loved ones.
The first way to keep Christmas simple is to plan ahead. One of the reasons why I’m writing this post so far ahead is so that we can get started on our plans before everything mounts up. Now is the time to be sorting out who will bring what for Christmas lunch, and organise presents. Just last weekend I wrote our Christmas letter and ordered cards (we like to get photo cards). I also finished shopping online for the few friends whose children we give gifts to. It felt so good to have those small tasks out of the way. Get out the calendar and write down what events you have coming up, set budgets so that you know what you are willing to spend, make gifts now if possible. Whatever you can do now, do it.
Accept that you cannot do everything. During the Christmas season there are so many fun things to do: parties, craft, seasonal cooking, elf on the shelf, visiting Santa, looking in the shop windows, caroling, looking at the lights on the houses, reading Christmas books and watching movies. The list goes on. If your family is like ours, some things have turned into traditions that the kids (and us) want to do every year. Now there is nothing wrong with traditions, they are fantastic for family bonding and identity, but give yourself permission to not do every tradition every year.
When we first moved to the farm, we arrived one week before Christmas. Needless to say, we had to drop some of the usual craft and cooking (and many other things too!). It just wasn’t possible to do it all. I’m really pleased that we did drop some of the traditions because we gave ourselves permission to pick and choose what we do without slavishly following a list of “must dos” each year.
Have realistic expectations. I’m a bit of a perfectionist. I love everything looking just right. At Christmas time, the pressure can be even greater; Pinterest, the television, and movies, all show perfectly decorated homes and happy families, and it can be hard to remember that this is not reality. The reality is that dirt accumulates, children get tired, and baking and crafting take time. In 20 years time our children won’t remember whether our decor matched and was in the latest fashion colours. What they will remember is a feeling of togetherness and belonging. Focusing on spending time together rather than having a house lit up like the Grisewalds will be more memorable in the long run.
Choose your attitude – You do not have to be celebrating Christmas at all. If you don’t want to, then don’t. If you are going to celebrate, it might as well be with a good attitude. Rather than dreading all the things you ‘have’ to do before the big day, consider how fortunate we are to be able to celebrate at all.
Share the work load. Last year we had Christmas at my parents house. My sisters and I all cooked parts of the meals, as well as my mother. Not only did it share the work load for my mother (who already had us staying at her house), but it also was fun to spend time together preparing our feast. Consider dividing up who will bring what for dinner if you are having guests. Ask guests to help prepare food. It really is fun to all be in the kitchen together, and it makes the work load feel less.
We have always tried to keep gift giving low key, but even so, sometimes I look at what the kids are given and wonder what happened to my good intentions. It’s not that I don’t want to give gifts. In fact, I love to give them. But I want the gifts to be useful and loved, not just given out of obligation. Here are some ideas to keep gift giving low key:
- consider not giving gifts to everyone- chat to extended family or friends and agree not to exchange presents. Do this now (or else have the discussion in January for next year). Just this year, we have cut out giving gifts to CB’s siblings and parents. We were all struggling every year to find something useful for each other, and it just made sense to stop. We will still enjoy spending time together, which is more important.
- limit the kids presents to only a few. The rhyme “Something they want, something they need, something to wear, and something to read” is often quoted as a way of working out kids presents, and it is a rule we use in our family.
- Avoid “stocking stuffers” – generally they are cheap bits of clutter that are neither wanted or needed.
- Set a budget and stick to it – you don’t need to spend a lot of money to give gifts that are meaningful, and nothing complicates life like unnecessary debt. Be honest with yourself (and others) and don’t over spend.
- Consider gifts that don’t add clutter to your house – We were discussing ideas for this on my facebook page, and I will publish a round up of ideas on a post soon.
- I have previously written about why we don’t do Santa in our house. Many people love to do Santa with their kids and can’t imagine not having Santa as part of their tradition. Consider making Santa give only one present, rather than lots of presents.
Focus on what Christmas is all about. For us, Christmas celebrates the birth of Jesus, and our focus should be on celebrating this. If you are not a Christian, Christmas is still a time to spend with our loved ones and celebrate together. Multinational corporations would have us believe that the only way to do this is by spending a heap of money that we don’t have, on stuff we don’t actually need. Of course this is a lie (here is a ranty post about this). All that is needed is loved ones together. All the fancy food, decorations, and gifts are only secondary to the chance to spread some love around.
What tips do you have for keeping Christmas simple? How do you manage gift giving? Does Santa visit your house?