Everywhere I turn on the internet right now, I see articles and blog posts about simplifying Christmas. They are filled with lots of advice for keeping this crazy season calm, organized, and less crazy. The writers talk about remembering the true meaning of Christmas and taking the focus off the externals... and then suggest organizational methods like making a gift inventory and stashing gifts all year long. There are daily to-do lists that include decorating and shopping and cooking. All these things point to more work, more craziness, more complication. It's not simpler. At least, not for me.
I like decorating and shopping and cooking too. OK, I don't really like the decorating; I like having the house decorated. There is a big difference. But that's why God blessed me with a girl who loves to decorate and will nudge me just enough to get the boxes out, get cracking on that tree, get those vases full of greens! I haven't gotten around to the battery-operated tea lights yet, though.
Here is my way to have a simple Christmas:
I don't think about Christmas every time I walk into a store. If I see something that screams out the name of a person, I'll buy it. But I don't actively seek gift-buying opportunities all the time. I don't want to think about Christmas all year long. If I'm thinking about Christmas, I'm not thinking of something that needs my attention now. And if I buy a Christmas gift in March, I will have lost it and/or forgotten all about it by the time I need it. In fact, right now I'm wondering where that box of Christmas cards that I bought last month got to. I always find the gifts I need and want, even when starting my shopping "late" (after Thanksgiving). We also keep our gift list small: family and close friends. Not everyone we know.
I never bought my kids the hard-to-find, popular toy of the moment. I trained my kids not to want the popular toy of the moment, so I didn't even set myself up for resentment by doing that. I do ask my kids if there is something they hope to receive, and I am never surprised by their answers because I know what they like. I set their expectations: when my boy half-jokingly mentioned an iphone or itouch, I told him not to expect either of those. He knew that, but I wanted to make it explicit. I focus on useful but desirable gifts for my kids: books, of course, an xbox game that they've borrowed many times from the library so we know is a keeper, kits (electronics, crafts, root beer), and a little cash. When they were little the gifts leaned toward Legos, more craft stuff, crayons, paper, Playmobil. Some clothing, usually. I order as much as I can online so I'm not being driven crazy in the stores.
I don't decorate like crazy. We have a tree and put some things up on the walls and on the mantel, but we don't change out every photo on the wall and every objet d'art (ha ha) on the shelves. I do feel a touch of envy when I see the gorgeous tablescapes and such on blogs, but... I get over it.
We don't cram lots of activities into our season. We have church events and friend events, and we try to go to a seasonal event in the community. This year we're going to check out the Christmas Village in downtown Philadelphia for the first time. We don't try to see everything that's available. We tend not to go places where there are long lines and crowds, because we don't like that anyway, but who wants to spend time standing in line?
We bake, and sometimes give some away, but honestly most people have enough of their own baked things and don't want more. We skipped a cookie exchange this year because we didn't feel like we could make 8 dozen more cookies, and weren't sure we wanted 8 dozen more coming our way. We had baked cookies for a church event so had sampled most of our favorites anyway. We have a couple more things we want to make, but we don't go crazy.
We read together, see friends and family, enjoy exchanging gifts, and don't go crazy. And I don't need to plan ahead all year for it. I don't need a strategy. That just complicates things.
(At least for me. Your mileage may vary. If you find plans and lists and strategies helpful, go for it.)