In this post: How to have a simple Christmas (and be more relaxed during the holidays!)
Instead of a white Christmas, do you dream of a less stressful Christmas?
The holidays quickly become busy in a way that isn’t just “people bustling” and “silver bells” ringing on every street corner and in front of every supermarket.
There are expectations. Traditions. Office parties. Family parties. Friend get-togethers. Photos and carols and baking and card-sending and ugly sweaters and tree trimming and lights viewing and … well, just SO MUCH.
Maybe it’s time to press pause and take a breath.
Want to enjoy a simple Christmas? Follow these tips.
2020 has been such an awful and weird and exhausting year. Perhaps as a result of social distancing we’ll see less busy-ness and running around to All. The. Things. and more staying home and relaxing with the ones we love.
Or perhaps as a result of all the isolation, we’ll see even more activities than usual, as pent-up demand for family time and a feeling of normality takes control.
I’d encourage you to opt for the relaxing.
Stop Overbooking Your Holiday Calendar
Hallmark movies seem to often feature a mildly dysfunctional extended family meeting up at a wintery lodge or a “middle class” home (I say sarcastically. Seriously. Movie homes always look like they belong in a magazine somewhere.)
Singing carols, taking strolls around snow-laden small town squares, baking cookies, and kissing under the mistletoe. I think that, deep down, we all want those simpler pleasures, but that desire is crowded out by a busy calendar.
So uncrowd it!
To simplify the holidays, consider how busy you are willing to be. Inevitably, the calendar fills up very quickly between October and January, with prime December weekends often booking up well in advance. Be ready now to politely decline events that would overbook you and your family.
Plan for some downtime … even book out a day for those Christmas cookies you want to finally bake with your kids, and hold firm if something else comes up that threatens to derail you on that day.
Know Your Priorities
It’s okay to be a homebody, even if people tease you about it.
It’s okay to prioritize self-care and family time over volunteering to head up the local food drive. (Even if that self-care is just cleaning your kitchen.)
Conversely, it’s also okay to head up that food drive or ring a bell for the Salvation Army over attending a Christmas party or sending Christmas cards out, if it is something that you feel is a non-negotiable for you.
Become comfortable with saying “no thank you” without qualification or guilt. (Practice, and take it in small steps if that helps!)
And then use the time you free up to actually do those “Hallmark” activities that seem so peaceful to you. Maybe this year you will be able to focus on the spirit of Christmas over the holiday bustle.
Then there is the decorating. Do you love the look of a house completely outlined in Christmas lights? Fantastic! Set it up early, then turn them on when you’re ready and enjoy the holidays in peace.
Do you groan at the thought of all the put-up and tear-down? Then don’t do it. Seriously. A simple Christmas can be what you want it to be.
Don’t worry about decking the halls if all you can manage this year is a wreath on the door and presents under a table with a mini pre-lit Christmas tree.
Simplify Gift Giving
Next, consider focusing on quality over quantity for Christmas presents. Talk with your kids about potential experience gifts as their “big” gift and purchase board games and toys like balls or blocks (or our favorite Bilibos!) or indoor play gyms to encourage open-ended play that enhances creativity and critical thinking skills.
You could also follow the popular “4 gift rule” (or your own variation of it):
- 1 gift they want (that toy they’ve been eying in Target forrrreeevvvver)
- 1 gift they need (like a new laptop/tablet for school)
- 1 gift they can wear (like a new winter coat or a set of Christmas pajamas)
- 1 gift they can read (like a boxed set of a favorite book series—my son loves Elephant and Piggie books, for instance!).
Don’t Do It All Yourself
Especially in 2020, try to automate as much of the gift and holiday shopping as possible. Set aside a little bit of your holiday budget to ease your stress levels so you can be more present with your family and stay healthy.
Shop online sales whenever possible. Splurge on delivery services like Shipt to get items brought to you from big box stores in your town. You can even have meals delivered by Uber Eats or Door Dash during your busiest days to save time. Save your in-person shopping to support local boutiques and businesses.
Commit to a Budget
Speaking of buying presents, commit ahead of time to set a spending limit and not blow your budget. This will help alleviate money stressors now and later, when the credit card bills (if you use credit) come due, or when you balance the checkbook and panic a little at what you see as the final balance.
Consider starting an automatic savings account in January for the following Christmas. We like to use Acorns to round up all purchases and invest the money, which we use for all gift giving in that year. Making it automatic simplifies savings.
Don’t give in to the commercial pressure to spend, spend, spend.
Don’t feel embarrassed to give a homemade, thoughtful gift. (Some of my favorite gifts to both receive and give have been something I or another person spent more time than money on to make or procure.)
To take this even further, consider having a no-spend white elephant / Dirty Santa gift exchange with friends or family.
My church small group started this tradition of only bringing gift exchange gifts that were already in our house.
It’s creative, fun, and every year there is that one item somebody didn’t want anymore that other people fight over, and that one gift that reappears every year because nobody wants it (to the point it has become an annual gag!) I absolutely love this tradition. It is the party I always enjoy attending.
Plus it costs zero dollars and requires very little effort (outside of the food we bring and any ridiculous party games we play).
We get to focus on togetherness and not have “oh no!” moments the day of the party where we have to brave holiday traffic and find the perfect gift and spend yet another $10-20 dollars.
Be Okay With Good Enough
If the office or your kids’ school has a party and asks for items to be brought, remind yourself it is totally okay to sign up for the paper plates and napkins (hint: sign up first) or bring store-bought brownies with Christmas sprinkles instead of homemade.
Your present wrapping doesn’t have to impress Martha Stewart (or even your Instagram followers).
Misshapen gingerbread men are okay.
Finally, stop putting pressure on yourself to be Pinterest perfect. What matters the most is that you take the time to be with your family and friends and enjoy their company while remembering and celebrating the reason that brought you together in the first place. Period.
Just remember: a simple Christmas doesn’t have to be perfect … to be perfect.
And that’s it! Can you think of anything you would add to this list?