Just like most women I know, I am ready for this holiday season. I love the spirit of the season and always hope to make special memories. But one thing I have found is that it's very easy to get carried away, stressed out, and to lose that beautiful spirit of Christmas. For so many years I worked in that crazy, commercialized retail rat race where it's all about doing what the world expects. Its such a blessing to take a step back and do only what I can truly enjoy. With only so much of "me" to go around I have found these ways help me to enjoy the season (without collapsing by January 1st!).
1. Share your abundance with the lonely or needy. Every city and church has organizations they can suggest for your donations. Most of us have more than we need or can use. Blessing others is one of life's greatest blessings.
2. Pick one or two main events. With so many things going on it's hard to know what will be the most meaningful. There are certain traditional activities that we all have — but are they important or just a habit? Take time and re-think the things you do during the Christmas season and pick just one that will mean the most. It could be a service project, a public event you attend, helping with a church event, or hosting a party. For me it's the annual Cookie Exchange Tea that we host at our home for the ladies and girls of our small church. That special fellowship helps to create a special bond that lasts all year long.
3. Gifts. Need I say more? For many women this has become (wrongly) the major focus of the season. How many conversations have you had with others that ask "have you started shopping yet," or "are you done yet?" How many times have you rushed around, driven too far too fast, been short with someone, or spent too much, just to find that "perfect" gift? Think about gift giving like this — if God takes care of providing our every need, then why must you stress over finding a gift? If it's meant to be given, won't you find it just in time?
4. Christmas cards are still around, even though social media and the Internet seem to be taking the place of "snail mail". I do love sitting down quietly with a cup of tea to sign and address cards to a few special friends and family members. What, you say? Quiet? Time for tea? Only a few cards?! Yep — this is my next tip. Now, if you love taking the family Christmas card picture and writing the yearly recap of life in your home, there is nothing wrong with that. But for me, that has always been just a bit too much. Over the years I have pared back my Christmas card list to include only those that mean the most to our family (I guess I figure the rest would just use our card as filler on their card display). And as for fancy cards? Nope! I have found that thrift stores or the dollar store always have enough cards that perfectly match our personality as a family. After all, it's not about impressing someone with the quality of my card, it's about the thoughtfulness of remembering them.
5. And speaking of thrift and dollar stores ... Have you really checked them out? What great places to find all sorts of gifts! Granted, some items are lesser quality, but if you take a little time and really search you just might find that special something you are looking for. And they are perfect spots for finding stocking stuffers!
5. The money ... do you spend a lot of it during the holidays? Trust me, I have lived that life of trying to give the biggest, the best, the most expensive gifts. And you know what? Months later those recipients, and even myself, really can't even remember what I gave them. Gift giving is not about what the stores want you to believe. It's not what the commercials portray on TV. Gift giving comes from the heart and doesn't mean bigger, better, best. It's not about pushing an item or agenda on someone. Gift giving is about knowing the person you are giving to, and offering something that matches their interests. It doesn't have to be a "thing" that you buy at a store. It is a warm, generous, gesture, given in whatever form is comfortable for you. Think of the toddler who enjoys the empty box more than the toy inside. What money parents could save if they gave for the child's interests and not their own!
6. Food. Oh, how I love a good Christmas cookie or sweet!! But all of those special ingredients can really break the budget. If you enjoy cooking homemade treats during the holidays, try researching some historic recipes. Many of them take less ingredients and produce very unique goodies. And it's a great way to learn about how our ancestors celebrated the holidays.
7. Take some time for yourself ... a long, hot bubble bath, a good cup of tea, a big chocolate bar, or a good book. I love reading Christmas Amish fiction books, and every year choose a few to enjoy throughout December.
8. The real reason. As you are bustling through the first 24 days of December are you truly remembering why we celebrate Christmas? It's not about Santa Claus and eggnog, reindeer and Black Friday shopping. All of our "traditions" are fine and dandy, but if it wasn't for our Lord and Savior's birth we would have no Christmas. Taking time to reflect, study God's word, and count your multitude of blessings should be the most important part of your Christmas activities.
This is how I simplify my Christmas season ... I hope you can take some of these tips & use them yourself. And, most of all, I hope you are able to slow down and enjoy this Christmas season!