A Simplified Christmas

When we asked our husbands how THEY would simplify Christmas they said they would cancel the whole damn thing.  That was when we looked at them, thought about shipping them off to Christmas Reform School and then just decided to ignore those Grinches.  We admit, sometimes Christmas can get out of control. There have been years of ridiculous excess or where there are gifts purchased just for the sake of purchasing gifts. I mean, they look so nice under the tree. But there comes a point, where it is too much – too much want, too much need, too much me, me, me and more, more, more.

The things we love best about Christmas – being with our families, keeping traditions alive and the spirit of giving – get lost in the mindless shopping shuffle. So last year, Sarah’s family decided that enough was enough. Inspired by the post of our friend, Ashlee Gadd, they decided to simplify Christmas.

They adopted the gift giving guidline:

Something you want.
Something you need.
Something you wear.
Something you read.

Everything about this way of Christmasing goes against our culture of more is better. It almost feels wrong, but it is so incredibly right.

Sarah shares her experience of her first Simplified Christmas:

Last year, my oldest child, Lauren, was six and completely sold on the more is better philosophy. We sat her down and explained how Christmas would be celebrated that year. She was skeptical to say the least. In fact, she asked repeatedly if we were sure that’s what we really wanted to do. We were. When Christmas morning rolled around, she was surprised that she wasn’t disappointed with her haul.

“You guys!” she said, “I still got presents!”

We weren’t quite sure why she thought she wouldn’t get any presents, but hallelujah she was thrilled with the thoughtful gifts she received. It was no longer a free for all when it came to shopping. We actually had to THINK about what she would really, really love and not just buy it all in hopes that we got something right. Every gift was carefully curated for maximum happiness without breaking the bank. From the boxed set of Judy Moody books, to the winter coat that came with a promise of a snow trip, her Christmas was just as magical, if not more, than years past.

This year, it wasn’t even a question.

Naturally, she didn’t remember the whole rhyme, but Lauren did remember how fun our Christmas morning was last year.  When it came time to write a letter to Santa, fate pointed us to this printable via our ol’ pal, Pinterest.  Lauren was so excited to fill it out and send it off to Santa.  What was most incredible to us though, was watching her evolve in the short space of just a year.  She went from wanting everything she saw to being thoughtful about her Christmas requests. Even more exciting, was watching her find much more joy in giving than receiving. She has become my go-to-girl for ideas of what to get our friends and family. It’s heartening to see the spirit of Christmas be more important than the volume of presents.

Coincidentally, Jill’s family has been doing a lot of thinking on how to Simplify their own Christmas holidays. It seemed like a no-brainer, but how would the older kid crowd (aka Jill’s 16 and 11 year old daughters) take to the change.

Not that either of my children had a choice in the matter, but they were surprisingly game. We knew that we wanted to focus more on experiences versus possessions. Believe it or not, as dear friends are wont to do, I completely stole Sarah’s idea. But it’s ok, she stole it first. My kids are actually excited to come up with ideas that fit the rhyme. To be honest, their creativity has been entertaining. I’m looking forward to us all remembering what really matters and what Christmas is all about.

Dr. Seuss said it best:

“Christmas doesn’t come from a store, maybe Christmas perhaps means a little bit more….”

― Dr. SeussHow the Grinch Stole Christmas!

I know it sounds crazy, but this rhyme, this holiday attack plan, works for the grown-ups just as well as the kids. Honestly, your spouse will probably be grateful for the guidelines. Next week, Sarah will tell you how her husband stepped way outside the box while still adhering to the rhyme. Their gift exchange was probably the best they’d ever shared in almost a decade of marriage. One they will remember for a very long time. 

What do you do to simplify the holiday?  Share your tips with us in the comments!

725701-1013-0025sSarah Maren Whitehead and Jill Mansfield have known each other since 2nd grade, and barring 5th grade when they were surly pre-teens, they have been best friends ever since.  They have loved writing together since their youth, and if they can get their kids to be quiet long enough for them to actually form a thought they still love crafting words together and sharing them with the world.  You can read more about Jill on her website Life of Jill and see the pretty pictures Sarah takes at Sarah Maren Photography.

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