How do you measure a successful Christmas?
Is it getting more gifts for a bargain price on Black Friday? Having everything wrapped and under the tree one week ahead? Is it putting up all the Christmas decorations the day after Thanksgiving? How about delivering those plates of Christmas cookies to all the neighbors on time? Or is it preventing your kids from eating the cookies before they get delivered?
Is the way you measure the quality of the Christmas season based on the more spiritual side of things?
Is it doing more acts of service? Helping the poor? Participating in your neighborhood Christmas nativity display? Joining in a Messiah sing-in? Or taking more time to study the life of the Savior?
Christmas (and the days leading up to it) should revolve around Him whose birth we celebrate, but it’s also a time to show family and friends how we love and care for them. Finding balance at this busy time is a challenge, but we have come up with seven ways to make this holiday season more spiritual and less stressful for your family through the magic art of simplifying Christmas:
1. Decorate Less
The wreath, the tree, the garland, the mini Christmas village, the holiday table setting, the outdoor inflatable Christmas decor…And it goes on, and on, and on…So what if you cut one or two of those things out? Add the Christmas look with a wreath and a tree—and your favorite nativity. That’s it.
Precious moments decorating could be spent with loved ones (both before and after Christmas when you have to deal with the clean up). This philosophy especially helpful for those Pinterest addicts who feel as if they have to do all 42 *CUTE* Christmas crafts to put up in their homes (“Okay kids—it’s cold cereal, Top Ramen, and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer playing in a loop for the first two weeks of December!”).
2. Focus on Two or Three Quality Acts of Service
Doing acts of service is a great way to keep Christ in Christmas, especially as you involve your family in the Church’s #LIGHTtheWORLD campaign. But, sometimes, two or three well thought-out service projects can make more of an impression on your kids than 10 acts done in haste just to check them off the list. Adopting a needy family and putting together a Christmas basket or performing a musical program at a nursing home are two great ideas. They may take a little more prep time, but the pay off will be bigger because your children have seen the effort that has gone into carrying them out.
3. Plan for More Family Time at Home
That’s right! Say “no” to some of those Christmas events and, instead, stay home and play board games, read books, or bake cookies together. Families with young children often find themselves dragging kids to every Santa-sighting, light show and live nativity they can find when a better experience might be staying home and having a hot cocoa party.
The stress of getting everyone ready and attending holiday events (often taking place in the evening when little ones might be tired or cranky) might overshadow the perceived worth of such events. Don’t worry—you are not depriving your child if you don’t wait in line at the mall to get a photo with Santa. Instead, put your children on your lap and read them a book about the true meaning of Christmas, like this one.
4. Give Fewer Gifts to Your Kids
Many of us recall the tradition of each child receiving 10 or 15 presents and the moments it took to unwrap them on Christmas morning—not to mention the financial strain and the gift-wrapping time our parents experienced upholding this tradition. As a result, there has been a recent trend in reducing the number of gifts that each child in a family receives. This is not only for budget purposes, but simply to lessen the materialism and entitlement that an over-the-top Christmas morning might encourage.
One tradition gaining a lot of popularity promotes focusing on three gifts (similar to the three gifts given to the Savior by the wise men): something you want, something you need and something to read. Fewer gifts means less tendency to focus on the getting and more tendency to remember the true meaning of the holiday.
5. Get Rid of Frustrating Traditions
If Mom’s Annual Cookie Exchange Party each year turns her into a stressed out ball of nerves (“Don’t use the guest bathroom—I just cleaned it! I don’t care how bad you have to go!” “No one is allowed in the kitchen for three days! I have to get these cookies baked!”), then maybe it’s time to do a more family-friendly tradition that brings the Christmas Spirit to all. It’s the same for any Christmas tradition that seems to take away your zest for the holidays just thinking about it. Again, remember what your focus is and ask the question, “Will this tradition bring a more spiritual or a more stressful Christmas for us?”
6. Be More Grateful
Wait—isn’t that a November thing? Actually, if your family’s focus on gratitude extended beyond Thanksgiving and into December, just think how much less they would worry about wish lists and letters to Santa. Reminding our children, and ourselves, that we are most likely in a situation much better than the majority of the world will alleviate the stress we feel when our budget just doesn’t allow us to purchase every single stocking stuffer we had in mind. Gratitude for our material blessings must be present in order for us to express our deepest gratitude for our Savior, Jesus Christ.
7. Take Time Each Day to Focus on the Savior
Finally, the best way to have a less stressful, more successful Christmas is by finding peace through Him whose birth we celebrate. If you set aside your regular scripture and prayer time due to crazy holiday events or shopping requirements, there’s a guarantee your quality of Christmas will go down and your stress will go up. After all, He is there to carry all your burdens, but only if you let Him. That includes the burden of focusing on the true meaning of this season and rejecting the secular and materialistic version of Christmas that is pushed upon us from all directions.
Remember, His yoke is easy, and His burden is light. It’s simple. And “simple” and “Christmas” naturally go together. After all, it was a baby born in a simple manger in a simple way without lavishly-decorated Christmas trees, lots of fancy gifts, or a big holiday feast that came into the world to save our souls with these five simple words, “Repent and come unto me.”