I declare a mutiny on the rush and stress of the Christmas season.
I’m tired of it. It flies directly in the face of every ideal I hold for what Christmas is actually all about, and this year – I’m doing something about it.
Christmas is a time to slow down, reflect, and worship the tiny babe in the manger who came to earth as Love incarnate.
That’s hard to do when you’re immersed in your exasperation over finding that mythical creature called Mall-Parking-Spot at Christmas-time, or when your calendar during the month of December is harder to manage than the President’s. Too many well-intentioned events, activities, and traditions can easily crowd out that time for properly preparing our hearts for the season.
Here are five ways that our family is choosing to simplify this Christmas season so that we can slow down and savour the beauty and magic of the Emmanuel.
1. Finish Buying/Making Gifts by November 30
Since advent starts at the beginning of December, I want to be totally available and focused on preparing my heart for His coming, and in order to do so I don’t want to have to be rushing around, checking off names on my Christmas list. Plus, it’s easier to give meaningful gifts when you aren’t doing it at the last minute.
Some people advocate opting out of gift-giving altogether, but I strongly believe that the gift-giving tradition can honour Christ if you are intentional about what you give (another blog post altogether!).
If I procrastinate (as per usual) and have to rush at the last minute, at least it will be November instead of Christmas Eve when my attention should be elsewhere. We will save wrapping for later though – it will be a family activity one day in December.
2. Electronic Christmas Cards
I have amassed a rather large amount of guilt each year by the week before Christmas because of the stress and inevitable failure in reaching my Christmas-card-sending goals. Sending Christmas cards – even just photo cards – is a huge commitment of time and energy. You need to take a family photo (a feat in and of itself!), choose a design, have them printed, make a recipient list and gather mailing addresses, address envelopes, stamp them, and get them to a mailbox all before the postal service holiday deadlines! That stresses me out just writing about it.
This year – I’m going to use a photo that we took in the summer with all five of us in front of Lake Louise in Banff, design a little Christmas greeting on it, and post it on my blog (and maybe email the link to a few people). If anyone really wants us on their fridge they can feel free to print it out, but otherwise we will save trees, money, and time by doing it this way!
I’m not knocking regular Christmas cards (I LOVE receiving them), but this year our family is simplifying by going electronic.
3. Choose Simple Decor.
There are some seriously intense holiday decorations out there, but if I recall correctly, Jesus was born in a smelly and dirty barn, not a Martha Stewart Living holiday display.
This year we will put up our mini-lights in the living room as always, along with a Christmas tree a few weeks before Christmas. We will also display our new advent candle wreath for the first time this year, with great excitement, and the beautiful manger scene handcrafted by my grandfather. I’ll probably do a few quality crafts with the kids that will double as decor and holiday memories for years to come.
I have nothing against Christmas decorations – I’m against Christmas decorations that do not ultimately point our hearts back to Christ. This year, we will adorn our homes with simplicity and intention.
4. Celebrate Advent.
I grew up with advent being a time to light a candle once a week during the Sunday morning service, each week of December. This year I want to bring advent home and make it the focus of our days leading up to Christmas.
I discovered an incredible new resource this year called Truth in the Tinsel: An Advent Experience for Little Hands. You get 24 days of Scripture reading, ornament crafts, talking points and extension activities. I bought a copy for myself and am so impressed – I am super excited to do this with my two and four-year-old. I think they will completely love it.
5. Stay Home on Christmas Morning.
In years past, we’ve always done a mad dash from one family to another, beginning on Christmas Eve and ending several days after Christmas. Since our families live just 30 minutes from one another, we’ve often tried to split Christmas Day right down the middle, counting the hours and dividing, trying to spend time with each family equally. One especially crazy year I believe we spent as much time bundling everyone up and driving somewhere as we did relaxing and enjoying the day.
This year, we are staying home on Christmas morning, and visiting one side of the family (who live 2 minutes away) in the afternoon for turkey dinner. We’ll see the other side of the family the day after Christmas. That’s it. And all the parents of small children said AMEN!
There are lots of ways that you can choose to simplify Christmas and focus more on what really matters. Whether you join me in these ideas, or go a different direction altogether, the point is to be intentional about it.