Simple Christmas

It’s December. Here come the articles encouraging us to relax, simplify, and just enjoy the holidays. We all need these reminders to slow down, remember what we’re celebrating, and take joy in the people we love. At the same time, this advice can come off as yet another stressor, leaving us wondering, What’s wrong with me? Why am I not relaxing and enjoying this enough? Why do I feel sad or overwhelmed?

Sip a cocktail, laugh, and don’t worry about observing any of the trappings and traditions of Christmas, one article advised.

My reality as I read it? Chugging coffee, crying tears of exhaustion, and spending every precious free moment prepping for the holidays.

The truth is, holidays involve family, family involves love, and love involves sacrifice. If any food is eaten at your gathering, someone had to prepare it. If any gifts are exchanged, someone had to shop and wrap. If the setting is festive, someone had to clean and decorate.

It’s not that we should center our holidays around living up to others’ expectations or striving for a magazine-spread Christmas. I believe that holiday shopping, cooking, baking, and decorating can all be done in a spirit of joy. But for many people–those with kids, extended family, or those opening their home to people without a home base—it’s just not as simple as sipping a hot toddy and shrugging off tradition.

That doesn’t mean Christmas has to be complicated. In the past few years, we’ve found new ways to simplify. We’ve shaved our Christmas day stops down from four to one or two. We attend fewer Christmas parties. We host a small low-key fireside gathering rather than an epic get together. Our decorations are beloved but minimal. Some years we hang Christmas lights on the house. Other years we don’t. Our shopping list (and pile to put away) has shrunken as we’ve asked our families to do gift exchanges. I’ve whittled my baking list down to two or three favorites. I wear the same few outfits to every party and family function, year after year.

Last year we even took a weekend in the busy season to get away as a family and just hang out, hike, and play together.

Every year, I’m excited for the festivities leading up to Christmas. But every year, at some point I find myself exhausted, stressed, and feeling too busy. The “slow down and simply” philosophy would have me think I’m doing something wrong if the year’s biggest holiday, the most wonderful time of the year leaves me feeling anything but wonderful.

But then the feeling passes as I take time to reflect on Jesus’ sacrifice as the reason we celebrate. I’m sure it didn’t feel great for him to leave perfect fellowship with His father and become a human baby, subject to all the suffering of this earth.

And then I know it’s not wrong to feel stressed and overwhelmed sometimes in the midst of a joyous but hectic season. It’s okay for sacrifice to feel hard; that’s what makes it sacrifice. After a sacrifice, you know the difficulty was worth it. If it’s not, it’s time to cut that activity or obligation.

So don’t stress about feeling stressed this year. Cut what you need to cut. Talk to someone if you’re truly down. But don’t shy away from the sacrifice that comes with making Christmas a beautiful time for others.

How do you handle holiday stress? What ways have you found to simplify?

10 Responses to “Simple Christmas”

  1. Tonya says :

    Nicely put! I will admit I’m one of those people who does not stress at all about the holidays, but then again, I have a small family who doesn’t get together or do any kind of present exchange or anything, so it’s fairly easy to get away with it. Hope you do find some time to relax and not feel so stressed! 🙂

    • Kalie says :

      Thanks, Tonya! Between being married and both having divorced parents, we have a lot of family functions. But we do enjoy them all. It just gets busy!

  2. Caroline says :

    I have a large extended family, and we simplify by limiting gifts to kids only, and then for the adults, we do a White Elephant game at the Christmas party, where everyone brings an unmarked wrapped gift and then we draw names and each person gets to pick from the pile. You can steal a gift that was opened before yours, and that causes a lot of fun tension. It’s a money-saver but also a fun activity for the actual Christmas event.

    • Kalie says :

      Sounds fun! We do a white elephant at our Bible study some years and it is always hilarious. Never thought of doing it with family.

  3. Teresa Baker says :

    We have pared down over the years to a few simple traditions: the trimming of the tree after the Thanksgiving parade, one family meet up for my family and one for the inlaws and cards only for neighbors we can walk to or family who are elderly. I appreciated your mention of the sacrifice in the story of Christ’s birth. A reminder of the true spirit of Christmas. Merry Christmas!!

  4. Rajkumar says :

    I agree with your point that the people don’t celebrate Holidays in a good mood or relaxing mode. They always remain in stress and feel sad all the time while celebrating Holidays. It is not a good sign for anyone. Everyone should enjoy and live their life at the fullest. For that, you need to plan a party or friends get-together or invite your relatives at your home.
    Family, friends, relatives, or colleagues are the ones with whom we love to celebrate and enjoy any festival or Holiday. Without these people, life is nothing. You feel boredom or feel loneliness all the time. So, it is better to celebrate Christmas with your loved ones. You can throw a surprise party or give some special gifts to them.
    I always prefer enjoying my Holidays with my parents, wife and kids. I remember, last year, I cooked new dishes for my whole family. We all sat together in drawing hall and divided into two teams and played different games. It was a great Holiday. I also planned everything for this Christmas too but I didn’t reveal my plan to my family. It will be a special surprise for them. Merry Christmas!

    • Kalie says :

      Sounds like you will have had a great holiday and are able to make it fun for your family without getting too stressed!

  5. Julie says :

    Do to many circumstances beyond our control, this has been a very stressful year for my family and me. I was quite busy (and sick) all the way up to Christmas Eve. One thing I did differently this year was to order party platters. Before I would have thought of this as a huge extravagance. I should be cooking everything, it would taste better, what a waste of money to buy deli platters. And I was only buying for my husband, 2 grown sons who still live at home and myself. But I have to say, it totally made my Christmas. I had ordered a sandwich tray, a veggie tray, and a cubed cheese/fruit tray. All I had to do was take them out of the fridge and everyone helped themselves and there was plenty for later and the next day or two. I could truly relax an enjoy the day without being stuck in the kitchen, not to mention the clean up later. Everyone was delighted. I did bake an apple pie the day before. I am going to order party platters from now on. It totally took the pressure off me. Even when it will just be my husband and me, I think we will still do this, only with smaller platters or perhaps go out to dinner. I can’t begin to tell you what a stress reliever it was for me. Maybe it isn’t for everyone but for me, at this stage of my life, it was perfect and I was able to concentrate on the real reason of the day.

    • Kalie says :

      That sounds perfect for your needs! I am also learning when to allow some more conveniences around the holidays. My mother’s birthday is three days before Christmas and I could not fathom cooking so we got take-out.

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