I come from a long line of Christmas excess enthusiasts. My maternal grandmother boasted over 200 snowmen on display each Christmas, a fact she reminded us of annually.
“I have over 200 snowmen out!” she’d chirp.
Admittedly, they were pretty cute. But she didn’t stop there. Her home had Christmas festoonery in every corner. Elves peeked from shelves long before they were fashionable. Lights, ornaments, beads, and tinsel were strategically positioned, well, everywhere.
I remember it being similar in my childhood home. There were mantels strewn with lights, wreaths, glittering angels, and Christmas dishes. It was magical.
As I began my own traditions after getting married, I too found myself in a sea of Christmas excess. Our tradition for a long time has been to forgo Black Friday madness and drag cartons of holiday cheer up from the basement to begin decorating. For several years, we used to put up two live trees. In an apartment!
In our home, angels peered down from transom windows. Strings of lights, nativity sets (yes, multiple), and Christmas swag of many kinds adorned the various homes we have lived in these past twenty-three years.
It was serious business. We rearranged furniture so the most audaciously fat tree could gleam proudly in front of our picture window. I emptied a curio cabinet of family photos and trinkets to make way for holiday family photos and Christmas trinkets. It was a real workout.
A couple of years ago, It occurred to me that it might all be a bit much. Was it possible for Christmas to be awesome without going overboard? I discovered that it most certainly is.
My gradual withdrawal from Christmas madness started small. I used to drape the front of my china closet and curio cabinet with lights, greenery, and beads. A few years ago, I stopped. Even without it, the other decorations seemed to look just fine. It was the first Christmas bedazzling to go.
Was it possible for Christmas to be awesome without going overboard?
This year, I only put up a small lighted village, a nativity set, and a couple of Christmas candles. My snowman-obsessed grandmother knitted stockings for us with our names on the front, a true treasure now that she’s gone. They are hanging from the railing going up the stairs, sans the lights, garland, and ribbon I usually use as a backdrop.
We’ve stopped moving the love seat from our living room to the enclosed porch and started buying a trim Frasier Fir. Our much more conservatively-sized fresh tree will go up in a week or so. That’s it. It looks just as lovely dressed up with baubles as the hulking ones thrice its size we used to get.
I also used to bake many kinds of Christmas cookies and make homemade candy for weeks before Christmas. Guess what? We just ended up stuffing our faces with it, and then I had to make more for when I was entertaining. As of late, we make a few things closer to Christmas and keep them set aside specifically for company. We allow a treat to be pinched from the stash here and there.
The by-product of not baking up a storm is that it helped keep us from packing on the pounds over the holidays. Baking with the kids is much more fun since we do it less often. It beats slaving in the kitchen several nights a week throughout December and then having to do all the cleanup. It also saves money.
Can I just tell you how much less stressful life has become since we adopted a simpler gift-giving approach in our home? For several years, we gave our kids something they wanted, something they needed, and something they’d read. That worked well because we honed in on the most thoughtful gifts instead of buying and wrapping piles of toys that would inevitably end up broken or forgotten by the next Christmas.
The real game changer came when we started giving our kids an experience rather than a physical gift. Our new approach is to arrange for a fun activity like Hersheypark or snow tubing that can be done immediately after Christmas. My husband and I are both teachers, so we are off that week. The kids get a couple of small token gifts, but the highlight is their adventure. It’s a perfect gift, allowing for quality time with our children making precious memories.
We’ve also moved to Pollyanna-style gift giving on my side of the family. This allows us to get a thoughtful, more substantial gift for one adult, instead of trying to figure out what to get for everyone and how to afford it. My husband’s mom and brother have been the recipients of an adults’ night out the past few years. Instead of giving physical gifts, we’ve gone to concerts, dinners, and even a Flamenco performance.
Sorry (not sorry), but I don’t send Christmas cards anymore. Social media allows me to share my photos and see other people’s families throughout the year, so I don’t feel the need to write a detailed Christmas letter and send photos. I am old-fashioned and do appreciate the thought of a hand-written note. Therefore, I prefer to drop a letter or card to friends at random throughout the year.
I don’t feel it necessary anymore to accept every invitation for every holiday event. If an event coincides with another one on the same date, we have learned to choose one and go with it. We try to get out to enjoy holiday festivities together but also value time at home just watching Elf and snuggling. I’m learning more and more the absolute bliss of purposeful downtime.
I’m learning more and more the absolute bliss of purposeful downtime.
Another clever option is to host something. Have an open house at your place and invite lots of people. That way, you’ll get to see those who can make it and enjoy sharing those goodies you’ve baked. I love hosting at the holidays and by limiting the decorating, shopping, and cooking, it is way more enjoyable.
See how you can reduce your efforts this Christmas and, I assure you, you’ll be glad you did. Merry (50% less) Christmas!
YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE: Ditching the Material for the Manger: Ways to Foster a More Meaningful Christmas
Hi! I’m Tracy…Christ-follower, wife, mama, writer, blogger, speaker, teacher, dreamer. I love Earl Grey Tea and quiet mornings. Here at Earl Grey and Yellow, the focus is striving to be faithful and appreciate the small things. So glad you stopped by. Please have a look around and subscribe to our newsletter and social media to stay connected.