Posted in minimal moments

A Simply Better Christmas

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.

Simple Tree
Simple Tree, just lights

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.



Christian writer and speaker trying to follow God one yes at a time.

8 thoughts on “A Simply Better Christmas

  1. Way to stop carrying Christmas for the whole family. The rest of us appreciate it, I think. Until we wonder what the hey happened to Christmas this year? I guess we’ll just have to quit relying on women to bring us Christmas e-v-e-r-y year.


    1. i think women have created their own Frankinchristmas Dan. By doing it all themselves, they build up expectations in the family that they can sit back in the sleigh and enjoy the ride all the way! Once Mrs. Claus learns to delegate (or just Quit It!) the family begins to wake up to the fact that Christmas doesn’t happen magically but it takes much forethought, preparation and devotion. Or not! Perhaps it’s time we all just gave our heads a good shake and cut back. Now that we do things much simpler at our house, it’s actually more fun, not less. NO ONE misses the tinsel and lights and fooferah!


  2. Great post Connie! It’s still a struggle for me – a hole I want to fall into every year. But you so reflected my own journey with the feelings of martyrdom! I will keep reminding myself to de-stress and simplify!


  3. Thanks Connie: Felt very much like Scrooge this morning, depressed, tired and needing a change. We live on a farm, small house and all our ‘kids’ – in their 40’s now , still like ‘coming home to the farm’. Glad they still like to come home for sure, but I just feel I can’t do it any more with them, spouses and 14 grandkids. I am praying for a good attitude but also a good solution to my problem re room to even prepare the meal (with daughter and daughter-in laws help) but then to eat or even visit as no room is big enough for all of us.


    1. hi Saskgal! As I replied in an earlier comment, I spoke to a MOPS group this morning and one of the young moms in there was bemoaning the fact that she “had to” drive out to the Sask. farm for a Christmas with a big gang in a small house. Cmmmmmm. I don’t think she was “yours” but it does make me wonder….are you SURE all your kids love to come home? Perhaps they think YOU want them there. Anyway, it’s worth discussing. We don’t always know what others think until we ask. For instance this year my husband suggest that instead of buying our adult kids gifts we give a donation to Canadian Global Response for Syrian Relief, i thought our kids would be sad not to get a gift from us. I am happy to report I was wrong! The kids were thrilled. Another MOPS mom said her parents have been setting aside Christmas gift money and birthday gift money so that every four years they have a “hot Christmas” (think tropical island) and its paid for by all that unspent cash on trivia and trinkets! And one more — a young mom said she just couldn’t hack another Christmas with the impossible-to-please father-in-law so on Dec 25 she and hubby and 2 little ones are Hawaii bound! Aloha Santa!! I am hoping you find some solutions Saskgal!


  4. Love this! I’ve pleaded with myself for years to learn how to enjoy Christmas. This year, no public posts about how I’m going to “do better” – just a firm decision TO DO BETTER and I’ve eliminated some stressors and find that Christmas is still coming and I’m happier and more at ease. Thank you for the post. So good.


    1. Glad to hear you are committed to making some changes Maureen. I spoke to a MOPS group this morning about simplifying Christmas and so many of them (30-somethings) are far smarter already than I ever was at their age! We took an informal poll about Christmas Craziness — I will blog it soon — and many of them had things simplified already. Kudos to the next generation!


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