A thoughtful and comprehensive guide on how to celebrate a simple Christmas. Lay aside the hefty magazine articles and beautifully adorned table for twenty, and let us, instead, focus on the real meaning of Christmas! May your celebration be joyful and of course- simple!
Let’s read that word one more time because sometimes that is hard to grasp especially during the Christmas season. Simple. It is okay to keep Christmas simple. In fact, it is more than okay. It may even be the best choice you make this Christmas season. Everywhere we look we can see the fuss and mayhem this season stirs up. Christmas movies where every single surface is draped in garland. Christmas songs boasting of picture perfect scenes. Everywhere we turn we are being marketed and sold this idea of “the perfect Christmas”.
And who is expected to create that picture perfect scene?
Yep, us- worn out, broke, and exhausted Mamas.
But what happens if we don’t? What if we take this year and focus on the simple rather than the extravagant? Would that ruin Christmas for our children?
No, in fact I think it would actually improve it..
The Calm Mama in the Toy Aisle
This is really not the time of year to brave toy stores- or any store for that matter. A few years ago my sister talked me into going to Wal-Mart with her at midnight on Black Friday. I had worked a couple of customer service jobs on Black Friday in the past, so I thought I knew what to expect.
As a new mom, who didn’t even intend to shop- I was mortified. Hordes- literal hordes of women- yelling, snatching, grasping, and elbowing for prices that very much resembled the same prices listed the day before. I saw people I knew (and generally looked up to) arguing and loading down carts as if they were looting the store. It was chaos. And some little part of me almost wished I had enough money to be a part of it.
Why? Why do we paint this as a joyful part of the Christmas season?
What if we didn’t stress over finding the perfect gifts? What if we didn’t blow our entire budget at the end of every year? The thing is we don’t have to be the Mama stressing over sales, gifts, expenses, and clutter. We can be the calm Mom in the toy aisle. The one who slips through almost unnoticed- her cart is empty, but her heart is full. Because this season shouldn’t be about how thin we can stretch ourselves or how well we can out-do last year’s celebration. This season should be one of joy, peace, and simplicity.
So, now for the big question?
How to Celebrate a Simple Christmas
8 Ways to Achieve a Simple Christmas
I often forget that I am a busy Mama of five. I often mistake myself for Martha Stewart when holidays or parties roll around. And then I wonder why I am so stressed out, worn thin, and upset when things don’t turn out exactly as I imagined them in my head. I will then proceed to blame everyone but myself as if my million dollar party idea would have went off without a hitch if the kids hadn’t let the chickens out. (Insert eye roll here.)
The thing is sometimes we set ourselves up to fail. At night we shrug our shoulders and say, “I can’t do it all.” But somehow over morning coffee and a quiet sunrise we write “it all” on the to-do list and expect to get it done. It’s the same way with Christmas. From our cozy couches during a midnight nursing session, we decide to create log gingerbread cabins from pretzel sticks and scratch made gingerbread. We deem that every room should have a Christmas tree. And we entertain thoughts of happy children who sip hot cocoa on white rugs on snowy afternoons without ever spilling a single drop.
My friends, it is time to face it. Your name isn’t Martha Stewart. Hallmark is not coming to decorate your house. And if by some magic your child doesn’t spill their hot cocoa- they will drink too much and throw up on your white rug.
Welcome to Motherhood where nothing ever goes as planned and it is okay to keep Christmas simple.
Here are 8 tips on How to Celebrate a Simple Christmas this year!
1. Don’t Rearrange the Ornaments
My kids love to decorate. The minute the Christmas tote comes out their little hands go to work. Tying snowflakes to gold ribbon to drape in the absolute most inconvenient of places. To them, it is beautiful. To me, it is a mess. But the other side of that is: they are kids. To them, Christmas doesn’t have any stress associated with it. It is a season of magic, and they want a part in that!
Here’s the thing: for years I have watched my Mom arrange and rearrange her Christmas tree. It is a work of art, and people ask me all the time if my Mom still puts up her big, beautiful tree. Yes, she does. And we all decorate it. And then she spends the next month “fixing it”. I have noticed, however, that when you flip on the tree lights at night- it is beautiful no matter where the ornaments are. Those 5 on the same branch- Ivy did that, and she likes it that way. The giant donut hanging front and center on my tree- seems to glow in the yellow light and Iris will smile and tell you that is hers! And the Grinch’s head is almost always hanging without his body. That’s okay. It’s crooked and draped in handmade paper ornaments, but it’s beautiful in its own way.
You won’t find my tree on the cover of Better Homes and Gardens, but you will find my children smiling underneath it. And that is all matters!
Don’t get hung up on perfecting the “finished”. Embrace a simple, magical Christmas through your children’s eyes. Turn off all the lights other than the tree and just enjoy it- together.
2. Don’t Invite Comparison to the Party
Oh, comparison. The deceitful counterpart to contentment. We all hate when it rears its ugly head. And yet, we pull up a chair and lay out a place setting for it.
I get it. I enjoy Instagram and I know how beautiful the pictures on Pinterest are. We call it “getting inspiration”. And that’s exactly what we get. We get inspired to buy a Cricut and create personalized Christmas tree napkins. We get inspired to create felt Snowmen the kids can rebuild over and over again. And before long, we get inspired to feel like nothing we have or make is “enough”.
Mamas, comparison is the enemy. Stop inviting him over for brunch. He shows up quickly, wreaks havoc, and then refuses to leave. Avoid social media for the season if you need to. Your home is beautiful. Your family is beautiful. It doesn’t need to be better or more than anyone else’s. Show comparison the door, and gratitude will inevitably show up in its absence.
3. Choose Traditions that Serve You
Traditions are one of my favorite parts of the Christmas season. Baking cookies, watching Christmas movies, decorating gingerbread houses- I love all of this stuff. The problem: I over complicate it.
This is literally how my brain works: We should make cookies tonight. We will do sugar cookies. And maybe some shortbread? Let’s do royal icing and sprinkles. You know what? We should share these. We can take some to all our neighbors. I guess we need to have more variety then- maybe chocolate peppermint. Oh and something sugar-free. Do they eat gluten?
Before long what started as a simple tradition becomes an all day affair of baking, decorating, stressing, and then the worst part- getting angry. So angry about nothing going as planned that you send the kids out of the kitchen and decide to just do it yourself. That’s a bad tradition. One that needs to be done away with.
Buy store bought cookies if baking stresses you or dip pretzels in chocolate instead. Do something that serves your family. Something that brings you together and allows you to make joyful memories. If your old traditions stress you out, now is the time to start new ones. Simple is key!
4. Give Yourself the Gift of Rest
Mamas, you’ve earned it: the sweet gift of rest. I know, it is hard to come by and at this time of year- isn’t that blasphemous?
Of course not.
Christmas is for everyone because Jesus is for everyone. You know the Bible doesn’t tell us to decorate or keep up traditions- but it does tell us to rest. To be still and know that He is God. You don’t have to keep up appearances or plan a special evening every night. Just be present. Give yourself time to rest and focus on the real meaning of Christmas. You won’t regret it.
5. Embrace the Natural Moments of the Season
As Mamas, it’s easy to feel like we have to craft or coordinate magical moments throughout the month of December. You don’t.
December is pretty magical all on its own. Those long starry nights like the ones the Wise Men traveled under. The evergreens that seem to glow between the bare sleeping trees. Maybe even a snow day in the midst!
Embrace the natural moments this season creates. Follow the natural rhythm this time of year offers- the slow, cold starts to each day- the early sunsets and long nights, the slow build to a dark solstice and the celebration of light on Christmas Day.
Rather than fighting the chill of winter, embrace it. It is every bit as beautiful as lightning bugs in the dusk of summer. Learning to love the whole year is one of the simplest and most joyful adventures we can have.
6. Keep It Simple
In everything, keep it simple. I really can’t say it enough.
Simplicity doesn’t mean that something isn’t beautiful, festive, or fun. It just means that you didn’t have to overwhelm yourself to accomplish it. Rather than making the full meal this Christmas- assign people dishes to bring. If Elf on the Shelf drives you nuts, just skip it. We do. Embrace the things you love to do. And if certain traditions stress you out, it may be time to send them packing.
A happy Mama will do more for your family this Christmas season than any gift or tradition you could ever dream up.
7. Rethink Gifts
Christmas presents are, in my opinion, the most stressful part of Christmas. Between finding the ‘perfect’ gift, overpaying or worrying you didn’t spend enough, braving the Christmas rush, and of course the clutter that comes from five kids getting Christmas gifts.. It’s a lot.
What if it didn’t have to be? What if Christmas was just about family, friends, and you know the true gift- Jesus?
If you love gift giving and getting, that’s fine. But if it is stressing you out- let’s rethink it. Maybe season passes to an aquarium is a better option than 5 more baby dolls. Maybe skipping gifts and exchanging handmade cards means more to you than gift cards in the first place. Or maybe skipping gifts altogether suits you best. The thing is- we don’t have to give big, extravagant gifts, and if they are causing you stress- it may be time to rethink how you give and how you receive. Again, a cheerful, stress free Mama is worth more to your family than any gift.
8. Keep the Main Thing, the Main Thing
The first Christmas was simple. There were no Christmas lights, inflatables, mistletoe, or holly. Just a baby in a manger. It wasn’t clean, flashy, or Instagram worthy- and yet that one event changed the course of history forever. Because it isn’t about the gifts around the tree, the warm drink in our cup, or the food that’s on the table. It is all about a God who loved us so much He was willing to lay aside His glory and walk among us.
From a humble birth to dying our death- this is an ideal season to slow down and reflect. Take time to do just that- slow down, take a breath, and take it all in. All your babies really want is time with you- their Mama. Take a lesson from a silent night in Bethlehem- simple Christmases are the most memorable.
Share your own favorite ways to celebrate a simple Christmas down below, and if you found this post encouraging, share us on Instagram, Facebook, or Pinterest!
Merry Christmas my friends!