Christmas 2003 was the big turning point for me. Prior to that year I had always done Christmas big! And I had usually done it solo because I was so fussy and particular my “elves” quickly abandoned the project. Including Papa Elf.
So I hung the lights on the eaves, the fence, the trees. I set up a lighted tree on the deck. I took the kids out to cut down a tree early in December. That usually ended badly.
I did the baking, the cleaning, the buying, the wrapping. I sent gifts to teachers, neighbours, and friends near and far.
I wrote the Brag Sheet full of merry lies and sent it to the multitudes. We bought new duds and took the photos. I decked the halls, heated the nog, wore the red hat and squeezed a bitter Ho Ho Ho from my pinched martyr’s lips.
I was NOT having fun.
Then our firstborn picked January 3, 2004 as her wedding day. It was the crisis I needed to bounce me out of my tinseled rut. I knew I could not do Christmas like I had always done it and marry off the princess with flair a week later. Something had to change. I did.
And I’ve never gone back to the old ways. I have enjoyed reading Kathy Howard’s suggestions for a simpler Christmas. She has lots of practical suggestions for de-stressing your Christmas, things like quitting the things you don’t want to do — outdoor lights — and buying cookies for the homemade cookie exchange. These ideas and many more can be found at her blogsite.
Every year for the last 12 I have simplified and eliminated. Last year, I put up a tree with nothing but lights. Our two-year-old grandson a.k.a. World’s Cutest Tornado was coming for Christmas and I knew that he would strip the tree as fast as I could festoon it. I chose to enjoy him instead of hovering over him or fencing off the tree so none of us could get to it. It was the right choice.
My entire Christmas now fits into three plastic bins and every year I don’t use it all. Some of the other things I have done to simplify are:
- Instead of the Brag Sheet I find a family photo (or make a photo collage) and use Apple iPhoto to make a postcard with bullet points on the back hi-liting family news for the last year.
- I limit baking to two things we can’t live without at Christmas — poppycock and butter tarts.
- No outdoor lights. I hang a wreath on the door so people will know it’s not the Grinch’s home.
- Hold on to your Santa hat for this shocker…I don’t hang stockings. Now it’s only Papa Elf and me at home these days and he sure doesn’t care. All the grandkids have stockings at home so they don’t care. But for the last few years our kids were at home I hung their stockings but didn’t fill them. Do they still love me? Yes indeed.
- I leave my tree “decorated” and store it under the stairs in the basement. Nowadays that means lights only until the grandkids are older and out of the tree-stripping phase. Obviously it is an artificial tree. I light pine scented candles! No one notices.
I love Christmas now! We walk, we ski, we watch movies, we play crokinole and other games. Papa Elf does all the shopping and only quits when the plastic card starts to smoke. I have time for handmade gifts again — homemade jellies, knitted articles, goodie bags, hand stitched baby items and more. Simplifying Christmas creates the necessary margin so we can keep the main thing the main thing — celebrating the birth of our Saviour Jesus.