STOP BUYING THINGS (AKA How to Simplify Christmas)

Simplify Christmas 1

(I almost titled this post “Looking Past Thanksgiving,” a little tongue-in-cheek poke at Beth’s wonderful post from Tuesday.)

Over the last few years, I’ve come to dread December. Part of the reason is because I work part-time at a church and December can be like tax season for an accountant if you let it. Add to that the onus of decorating, purchasing gifts, parties, and travel and I find myself tired before the season has even begun. What should be one of the most hope filled, joyful seasons of the year has become something I’m beginning to dread. How messed up is that?

And I don’t think it’s just me. I hear people say things like, “I can’t wait for January 2nd.” Others get upset about coffee cup design at Starbucks. (Really?) Black Friday isn’t enough, now stores are opening on Thanksgiving, because isn’t that what Thanksgiving is all about? We’re thankful we have a day off work to go out and buy things?

OK, time to stop and reign in the cynical… /deep breath/

It doesn’t have to be this way, folks. Christmas doesn’t have to be a season of DOing. I can be a season of BEing.

Do you remember what Christmas was like as a child? The round-eyed wonder of the Christmas tree. Candlelight services. Family gathered around. Christmas lights.

What if we all took a step back this year?

Our kids (and grandkids!) don’t need as many presents as Dudley Dursley on his birthday! What if you gave your kids less? Good friends of ours give 3 gifts to their kids (because Jesus received three gifts from the wise men): something fun, something educational, and something spiritual. Or recently on Facebook, I saw an article suggesting 4 gifts: something they want, something they need, something to wear, something to read.

What if you didn’t send out Christmas cards? Or maybe this year you skip the Christmas letter?

What if you only put out a third of your Christmas decorations? Or none at all?

What if you didn’t schedule all those parties? Or maybe skip a few this year?

What if you decided not to buy gifts for everyone you know? Maybe give a card instead? Or tell people you’re taking a year off?

What if you took a break from Commercial Christmas like some people do social media? Instead of going on a Facebook or Twitter fast, what if you took a Christmas fast? Get back to the basics. What is most important to you at Christmas? Spending time with family? Going to church? Watching Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer? Do those things.

What if you replaced gift giving with memory making? Why not write a letter and tell the person why they really matter to you instead of buying them something? Draw a picture? Send them a throwback picture. Go caroling, sleigh riding, bike riding. Make a memory, don’t give someone something to collect dust. Be creative. Use your talents.

Do things because you WANT to, not because they are expected. Not because they’ve become a laundry list of traditions.

Here’s my challenge to you: Make a list of all the things you do for Christmas, and then go through and strike off half of them. Extra points if you get rid of 2 out of 3!

Simplify. Be the dentist and pull all the teeth out of the Abominable Commercial Christmas monster. You’ll be glad you did.

Simplify Christmas

NOW YOU: On a scale of 1 (stress free) to 10 (completely crazy), how hectic is the holiday season for you? What can you cut out this year to make the season more fun and less run? What was your favorite thing about Christmas as a child?

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16 thoughts on “STOP BUYING THINGS (AKA How to Simplify Christmas)

  1. I did what you’re suggesting a few years ago.

    Most important to me: decorate the tree. I hope to be 90 years old standing on a chair and wrapping 5 strands of lights on my seven-foot tree!

    Next: cookies. My sons would be SO disappointed if I didn’t make their favorite cookies, especially the Italian taralles.

    After that, only if I have time. Christmas cards were the first to go. I love to write and communicate, but postage and internet have changed things. Some years I get to them; some years I don’t.

    I was never a major decorator (no eye for the artistic), so my decorations take about ten minutes to put up!

    I leave the nativity scene on display well past Epiphany. I’ve even left it up through Lent and removed one character per week until only a kneeling (grieving) Mary is left on Good Friday.

    Then on Easter Sunday the nativity is gone, and sprays of lilies and flowers have taken its place!

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    • For me, I get tired of being the only person in our family who shops for gifts. Our family, my husband’s family, my family, even my own gifts most times. Then people my mom and brother give me money to buy gifts for my kids since they don’t know what to get them. Trying to think of meaningful gifts to buy people year after year has gotten to me. I. Give. Up.

      I do Christmas cards when I can.

      Christmas decorating is left up to the hubby and kids.

      What I really like to do is make photo albums of the best pictures of the year. I haven’t been able to do that for a few years, but I plan to make time for it this year.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I have turned my Christmas almost stress-free. Then only stress comes when my husband and I disagree over whether or not to put up a Christmas tree. When I worked full-time, the extra labor of dragging boxes down, decorating, storing boxes again, and then doing it all in reverse in January–with few people visiting us at Christmas anyway–was more than I could handle. Not to mention cleaning up tree needles and stray hooks for weeks afterward. Now, I write from home and we live near family, so I don’t mind the trouble of putting up a tree. As far as gifts go, I always thought it would be better to make gifts for those people you care deeply about. Start them in January and have them ready by the next Christmas. True gifts of love.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I used to like to Christmas shop year round, especially on vacation when you can find unique things. But I derive no joy from shopping anymore. It’s nothing but pressure for me. Perhaps that’s because we didn’t take a vacation this year, but more likely that I’m shopped out. 😦

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  3. I love all things Christmas and admit to going a little crazy with decorating, baking and entertaining but have tried to prioritize those things I enjoy the most the last few years. I agree we should try to change, adjust or lessen if not eliminate whatever takes the JOY away from our Christmas celebration. It is sad how commercialized Christmas has become. We try to focus on the people part of the festivities and we are NOT extravagant gift givers. When our kids were young, we didn’t spend much at all — they thought what they got was awesome. I’ll never forget how my middle grade-aged son came to me with a written Christmas list, that I’d asked him to make, and very solemnly handed to me with the stated concern: “I hope it’s not too much.” Each item had a $$ amount next to it and a total at the bottom, It would have been considered a very SMALL amount by of money by a lot of kids his age. A proud parent moment and complete with a hey-we-must-have-done-something-right feeling. Lisa, maybe you can hire someone who really likes to shop to do your shopping for you!

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    • You know what I realized today is that shopping online has sapped the joy out of gift selecting. I detest the crowded stories and Christmas shopping mayhem, so I’ve taken to shopping online in recent years. It’s convenient, but it’s not the same as being able to walk through the stores, squeeze the Charmin, and pick just the right gift. Maybe I need to try to step out this year. Fortunately, we’re traveling for Thanksgiving so maybe I’ll have a chance to pick up unique things like I so enjoy doing. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Sounds like my kind of Christmas. We’re not party people – usually it’s obligatory work party and we’re done. Gifts are for a select few only (We only get one or two things for daughter and a shared family gift for the both of us). Now if we’re planning a big extended-family Christmas, things get a little crazier but those are rare. And I’d skip the tree if Hubby & daughter didn’t make me. Or else I tend to leave it up for a long time afterwards… (my record is Easter weekend… *blush*) I love the mood of Christmas – the lights, the music, the smells – it’s the best part about winter to me and it’s not because of any presents. But that’s the point – forgetting the worldly fluff that society has turned Christmas into and focusing on Christ instead.

    Liked by 3 people

  5. To simplify, we stopped sending cards several years ago, and we have a medium-size artificial tree that we may or may not set up. Gifts for my immediate family, are okay because we use wishlists and the gift-giver can choose from the list.

    Our extended family is a little more difficult. They are sticklers about giving gifts, even though none of us have lived in the same area for years and don’t stay in touch very well. One family sends us a gift card every year, another sends a check, and another sends gifts for which we have no use. How do you deal with that? This year I’m thinking I will make charitable donations in their name, for example the Voice of the Martyrs allows you to choose a gift to give a persecuted church leader. There’s also Samaritan’s Purse and several others. Have any of you done that before?

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    • I had a friend who bought a goat in my name for my birthday. That was pretty cool. Our vet donated money to Texas A&M in honor of the dog we had to put to sleep last year. That was touching. But we got a note that friends had donated in our name for Christmas one year. That was weird. It was like, “we’re making our tax deductible contribution and putting your name on it in lieu of a gift.” I guess it just depends on who it is and whether you usually exchange gifts.

      As for the expectation, I think if you tell extended family in advance that you’re not exchanging gifts this year, then it’s on them. Send them a card, not a gift. If they get you a gift, fine. Bet they won’t do it the following year. Or maybe the charitable donation is the way to go in that instance. My problem with that is the whole “don’t let your left hand know what your right hand is doing.” It seems like if you want to give to a charity, you should do it without calling attention to it unless it’s in memory of someone. I don’t know.

      Just send me a card. 😉 LOL

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Love this post! Last year was the most dreadful. But I was reminded this year to not skip it all or become a bah humbug but DELIGHT IN HIM and the traditions that our family enjoys (whatever they look like). One of our favs is that Tray loves the movie Christmas Vacation. My favorite was I think 2 years ago he cut down a tree at his parents farm about 2-1/2 x’s his height cut some off and then brings it into our house with it bending over, scratching the ceiling and almost breaking our windows out of the house with the limbs. He even gave us movie dialog. HAHA! This year we are decorating our tree day after Thanksgiving with cocoa and our Christmas show. But instead of gifts we are making memories with hopefully a new tradition of a family trip to mountains with snow (New Mexico). It is Lauren’s dream and we hope to bring it to life for her.

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