A Beautifully Simple Christmas Bucket List

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It’s in the air again, that special time of year that is Christmas. Folks make plans to go home to family and friends, businesses wind down and, if only for a few weeks, it seems that everyone’s worlds turn just a little slower. At least that is how it is supposed to be.

Photo by Pixabay/Janet Dahmen

Sadly, for many in this fast-paced world, Christmas only adds more pressures instead of relieving them. How many times have you heard, “I have to get the shopping done, I have to make cookies, I have to get the cards out,” and so on. Why do we “have to” do any of it? Today’s society makes us believe that we have to do all the traditional stuff plus a lot more.

Not this girl, not this year. I have a Christmas bucket list. For the most part, I want to go back to simpler times and really enjoy the season. If I get the cookies baked; if I get the cards in the mail; if I find that perfect gift, it will be great but none of those are on my absolutely have to do list anymore.

How many times have you picked up Christmas cards that depict sleigh rides, chopping down the Christmas tree or folks snuggled by the fire with hot chocolate? People yearn for an old-fashioned holiday but then jump right back into the rat race of the “holiday have-to-do list.”

It is great when folks decorate their homes for the season. However, it should be what you like to see, what decorations makes you happy. Sadly, especially in small towns, I have seen one neighbor trying to outdo another with a bigger, brighter outdoor display. Really, is this what the holiday is all about?

A couple years ago my sister Jean told me that she finally had the Christmas tree she had always wanted. It was a beautiful live spruce tree decorated only with tiny white lights and tin foil icicles. She has never liked the idea of putting ornaments on a tree just for the sake of having ornaments. I couldn’t imagine what it looked like but, when I saw it, it was the most beautiful tree I had ever seen. There is beauty in simplicity.

That’s why I have tried to put the “reason for the season” at the top of my bucket list. I have always believed that the best presents didn’t always consist of the latest fad, but rather something that was special for the recipient. If it is homemade, that is even better because a lot more thought and work go into a gift from the heart than one that is just plucked off store shelves at random just for the sake of giving a gift. If I am going to give a gift, I want it to be something that will actually mean something to the recipient.

I remember when I collected snowmen. It got a little out of hand. We would spend two days setting out all the snowmen and Christmas decorations, inside and out. At last count, I had over 100. Enough. I put the special ones that the grandkids made and others that friends and family gave to me back on the shelf and sold the rest this year.

At first, I felt twangs of guilt of letting them go until Michelle, my niece, helped me to realize that they were bringing others joy instead of just setting in a box in the basement. That made it better and less really is more as I do enjoy the special few instead of having the house cluttered with all of them. I really like the idea of it only taking an hour to set them out as opposed to two days! There is beauty in simplicity.

Photo by Pixabay/trygd

So, back to my Christmas bucket list. I have always wanted to go on a real sleigh ride at Christmas time. There is a tree farm not far from me that offers rides through their Christmas tree fields, on wagons if there is no snow and sleighs if there is snow. I will be going this year. I am not going for a tree, instead I want to step back in time and go for the ride in the crisp air, drink hot cocoa by the fire and smell the scent of pine.

Caroling is another tradition that has basically gone by the wayside, which is sad. I remember one evening right before Christmas when I was still living at home, there was a knock on the door and a church group had stopped to carol. It is a treasured memory to this day, partly because of the tradition and partly because we never expected to have carolers in the country.

Many light displays today are synchronized to music and cities and towns are putting up huge displays that folks can drive or walk through. There is nothing wrong with these except many are charging megabucks to go through and see them. Are these really Christmas?

I much prefer the old-fashioned way of driving around the countryside and looking at individual homes. My Aunt Sharlene and Uncle Don used to decorate their home and barns with lots of lights and seasonal décor. They didn’t go overboard, but rather had just enough to be tasteful. He had an antique tractor that he would do one side in green for John Deere and one side in red lights for International. They had a large nativity display and the highlight was a large cross on their barn.

Photo by Lois Hoffman

They no longer decorate since he has passed, but my aunt and my cousins still put the cross on the barn. Though I miss all the lights that they had, there is something regal and stirring about that cross by itself. There is beauty in simplicity.

So, this year and all years hereafter I will be working on my Christmas bucket list by simplifying. I did make a few Christmas cookies this year but I didn’t make three double batches like in the past. I did send Christmas cards and with each one that I wrote, I reminisced about times spent with that person. And it is all OK.

The best part of all is that I still have time to enjoy the season. I will be going to the tree farm and I will be stopping in to see a few people that I haven’t caught up with for a while and I will be curling up by the fire with some hot cocoa.

It is so ingrained in us that we always have to do the things that we are accustomed to doing every year. We feel the pressure but we do it to ourselves.

Instead of dreaming about an old-fashioned Christmas this year, I am going to live it. There really is beauty in simplicity.