Tuesday, December 1, 2015

A simple Christmas

Ah, Christmas!  I love celebrating Christmas, or at least, in theory I do.  Too often the stress of gift buying (finances too), decorating,  traditions and the GO! GO! GO! of the season gets in the way of that and before I know it the season is over and we've not really focused on what is important to us.  For our family what is important is celebrating the birth, life, death and resurrection of our savior AND just enjoying each other.
Simple decorations in our guest room.  The tree was picked up at a garage sale for 50 cents, the sign was $5.50 at Hobby Lobby.  It doesn't "scream" Christmas in that room, but I think our guests will appreciate the effort. :)

We've really toned down the gift buying in the past few years.  We LOVE to give gifts, but we've been trying not to let it be the focus on the season.  Our kids do a gift exchange with each other and we stuff their stockings.  There are generally a few things under the tree; often group gifts like games or toys we know several kids will enjoy together.  I love that most of my extended family has also really toned down the gift buying.  Sure we enjoy sending packages to one another, but it's not the big thing it used to be.  This year I'll be sending out a few boxes, and I have some simple gifts for family that will be visiting.  Mostly we will be focusing on the experience.  The sights, sounds, smells, and tastes that tend to generate those warm feelings.  I'd rather spend my money on that new board game the kids have been wanting and their favorite meal/snacks that will help facilitate a sweet family evening together.  Or maybe that sled the kids were wanting for that great hill in our back yard?  Oh, the sweet memories and bonds that could help build.

I love that a couple of my boys have decided that getting the Christmas lights up is important to them.  They get out there every year now and decide where they should go and get it done.  As we decorate  inside I try to focus on the fun and enjoyment of pulling these decorations out instead of the goal of a "perfect" look.  My tree may not be the prettiest in town, but we sure do have fun decorating it!

In the past couple of years I've loved seeing what my kids find important.  What they want to help make happen for the season.  This year our 4 year old has been especially excited about gingerbread houses.  It seems that our fun together last year really stuck in his head.  Meanwhile my older kids have their list of holiday goodies they are perfectly willing to make so that they don't get forgotten.  This year our 7 year old (with her older sibling's encouragement) put together the gift exchange name drawing.  Slowly, as they are out running errands with me or daddy they are sneaking those gifts into the house.

One of my favorite things that we've been doing has been Advent; by reading a special book together in the evenings.  The book helps us focus on what we are celebrating and the great gift we have been given through our Savior Jesus Christ.  This year we will be pulling out Jotham's Journey, the first in a series of advent books for families.

We've also shifted the focus onto other days.  We celebrate Saint Nicholas Day with German and Polish foods, setting out the shoes to be filled with simple goodies, and studying some church history.  We love inviting friends and family to help us celebrate.  We've also been doing more for New Years.  I'm finding that these days have less expectations, pressure, and stress attached to them and so they are more enjoyable for everyone.

What about you?  Do you go all out with the gifts and decor?  Do you skip it all?  What is important to you in this season and what steps to do take to make that happen?


  1. When I was growing up my family had a lot of homemade gifts, thrifted gifts, and some new toys. There were lots of pressents because my parents wanted us to have that magical experience. But it was also confusing to me to know my focus shouldn't be on Santa, it should be on Christ.

    But as new parents, we also were very poor, but we gave what we could. It's only been in the past few years that I have really shifted my focus to a much smaller Christmas-- gift-wise-- and talk A LOT about Christ's birth.

    It was because 3 Christmases ago, we spent it in the temporary lodging between houses. It was small and one of the most memorable happy Christmases of all.

    So now we're doing the three gift thing-- not counting the one gift Santa brings and him filling the stockings. I shouldn't worry about it because I know we're changing the focus to what's important. But my main worry is when they compare with kids from church that got tons. Will they wonder why they got a classic book and their friends got iPads? Or think they aren't loved because of the small amount we gave?

    Just more for me to ponder how to proceed.

    1. Thank you for commenting and for sharing how you are working through this. Yes, our Christmases with "forced" simplicity have generally been some of our best too! They've really helped us work through things.

      Outside pressure can be so hard. We've tried to build relationships with other families with similar values so that the children don't feel so "odd" or out of place, even though they do understand and appreciate why we do what we do. Those relationships are such an encouragement to us and to our children.

  2. Thanks for the idea about the books. I know it is a little late to use them for advent but I still think they would be a good read for my boys! I just got Jotham's Journey for the kindle!

  3. That's great! I hope you enjoy the book. I know my older kids have enjoyed pulling out the ones we're not reading that year and just reading through them on their own. They are great books and truly draw one into the story.