Simply Celebrating Christmas!


As I sat here, wracking my brain for the right way to introduce a carnival on ways to simplify our Christmas celebrations and keep them focused on what’s most important, I stumbled across this post and realized that this is the most important thing to remember, no matter how great our tips and advice and strategies for Christmas bliss may be:

“…So let’s humbly concede that we can’t carry out even the most ordinary
of Christmas preparations apart from God’s help. Let’s consult God,
acknowledging him in all our ways, while not forgetting Mr. Bridges’s
confident assertion: “He loves to be consulted!”

Bottom line: We can’t make the Christmas season run any smoother, become any less stressful, or be any more joyful by ourselves. Just as in every other area of life, we are absolutely, critically, solely dependent on God and His astounding grace as we seek to make our Christmas celebrations worthy of all that He is and has done for us.

I have by no means got the simple Christmas thing down pat (lest you actually thought that I might have!). It is something that my husband and I are making a concerted effort to do, though, as we make our way down this unknown path of establishing Christmas family traditions and learn to effectively communicate the meaning of Christmas to the little eyes watching us. It’s a challenge that I am grateful for, because it makes me re-evaluate what we are doing and why.

Here are a few of the things that I am personally doing to live simply this Christmas season:

*Instead of writing Christmas cards, we get photo cards printed out at Costco. It’s relatively inexpensive (50 cards for $18), and I simply order online, then go pick them up a day or two later. I put them in envelopes, address them, and I’m done. I love it!

Christmas star lights
*We don’t do outside decorations or lights. Though they’re beautiful, they cost money, electricity, storage space and my husband’s time to put them up and take them down. I figure I’ll let others do it, and then go and enjoy their neighborhoods instead! 🙂

*On my husband’s side of the family, there are 8 adults (including us), so we draw names each year and that way we only have to purchase 2 gifts instead of 6. At this point, we don’t buy for each other’s children, either (they get thoroughly spoiled by grandparents and their own parents). This means less cost and time spent looking for gifts, and also that we can put more thought and effort into the gifts that we do buy

*I try not to plan ahead to do much in December, knowing that the month will fill up quickly enough on it’s own. There is no need to add extra obligations to an already full month!

*We start thinking about and purchasing/making gifts in November at the latest, with the goal of being finished by early December. This keeps last minute stress and rushing to a minimum… ahhhh. I’m almost done this year, as I write this post. All that’s left are 2 gifts to buy, and a few things to make with my daughter and by myself (but we already have all the supplies, and it will be enjoyable do to together or in the evenings when the kids are in bed)

*I don’t do small gifts, baskets, baking, etc. for friends. It’s not that I wouldn’t love to, or that I don’t think it’s a lovely, thoughtful gesture, but quite simply we have so many beloved friends and it would stretch our budget and my time to the max. A simple card, a hug and time spent together is usually just as meaningful.

*I go easy on the Christmas decorations. I have one large basket (quite large- it’s similar to the size of a hope chest), that I store all my Christmas items in. It all has to fit in there, so I can’t get too elaborate! My decorations are not fancy, but I do the best with what I have, trying to make things homey and I can always complete it within a couple of hours (aside from doing the tree with our family).

Gift box
*For our children, we have decided to do 1 gift per child (we kept it at $40 each) and they will each have just a couple of stocking stuffers that I am making myself (a hat/mitten/scarf set I am sewing for my daughter, and some new bibs and maybe a cloth toy for our little guy, and some fruit bars or cookies).

*We try to find a couple of ways to give to others each year. The point is not to make ourselves look or feel good, but mostly to reinforce to our selfish little selves (because if we’re honest with ourselves, we all struggle with being selfish, don’t we?) that it’s not about us and to help us to look beyond ourselves. We usually contribute to Christmas hampers for those in need, sometimes give specifically to a family that we know is in hard times, or donate extra to a ministry or charitable organization.

*One tradition I had as a teen and young adult was to read one book each December, that helped me to focus on Christ and His coming. Now, my focus is more on finding ways to do this with my children, through our Jesse Tree, Christmas activities and crafts, and books we read together.

Now it’s your turn… won’t you share with us how you and your family simply celebrate Christmas?

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  1. Stephanie, a beautiful idea and thanks for your time to set this up for us! The button is lovely, your thoughts always honest. I had forgotten about the Jesse tree — may add that to our preparations. Blessings!

  2. Thanks for hosting this Stephanie! 🙂 I’m so glad our internet connection started working for a bit this morning, so that I could participate. (Who knows how long this signal will last, though.) 🙂

    I recently started reading about the Jesse Tree. It sounds like a fun idea!

  3. We’re still working on what to include in our own traditions, especially since we both came from families with very different ideas than what we would like to do. We also have a very limited budget, so that dictates a lot of what we do.

    We do a simple Christmas tree, which my husband bought after Christmas extremely reduced with lights for like $5 (LOL!) I thankfully have the decorations my family collected for me- each year we got one decoration with the idea we would take them when we left home. I would like to do that with my daughter but since money is tight we made simple dough ornaments using flour, salt and water and then baked and painted them- amazing and we all loved it. I would like to do the tradition of making decorations each year.

    We get one gift for our daughter, which our limit is $25, and one each for each other, also the same limit. Its hard to do sometimes…but we don’t mind getting second hand things as gifts so it works out.

    We draw names for DH’s family which is large but since my family is very small we don’t. We have $10 limits for everyone, which is also very hard, but thankfully it keeps it simple that way too, by necessity.

    We don’t do Christmas cards at all. I know many people have different opinions on this…but I would rather do personal ones than just signing my name…so I don’t do it as at this point I don’t have the time or energy to do personalized ones.

    We read and talk about the Christmas story on Christmas day. I like the idea of a Jesse tree- maybe for the future.

    That’s really as far as we have gotten so far with figuring out our own traditions and ways of doing things while keeping things simple. I would like to expand a bit eventually to include some more things (while remaining simple!) as I don’t feel we totally have a handle on things yet. I think the top thing that I like that we came up with is making or own decorations each year. I am also going to use several for gifts.

  4. Great ideas Stephanie! Another wonderful way to give, in celebration of Christ, is to buy something for a poor family in a developing country. Canadian Food for the Hungry (a Christian non-profit organization) puts out a Gift Guide every year, which is stock full of gifts you can buy for needy families.

    What to buy for that special someone who has everything? You can purchase a gift for the poor in your friend’s name and then you will receive a card describing the gift to pass on to your friend. Canadian Food for the Hungry has options such as medical insurance for a family, seeds, a cow, a well, sewing courses, and lots more to help poor families become self-supporting and healthy. Check out their Gift Guide online at

  5. Thanks for all the suggestions…what fun families you all have.

    The thought that came to me is holding it all loosely. Two years ago I had a baby and a 2 year old at Christmas. We got the stomach flu and my daughter got a crazy rash. Out the window went all of “my” plans like making lots of cookies and doing more. Instead I felt God was telling me to focus on being a mom and a wife instead of a homemaker. I took care of everyone, we didn’t rush around anywhere and I saved energy to celebrate my husband’s birthday (Dec. 22nd). It was a wake up call and a good one.

    The reason I write this is because here we are again in December and guess what? I have a baby, 2 year old and 4 year old…and the whole family has colds. Another year of “plans” changed. We stayed home and tried a few new pumpkin recipes and we let the kids decorate the tree and we put up our mangers.

    I am very thankful to the Lord for the “interruptions” he gives us. My advice this year and probably every year is hold it all loosely.

  6. Here’s some ways we celebrate Christmas (which is not very simply but we’re working on it).

    Each year we paint plaster decorations for the Christmas tree. It’s fun to read the dates on the back and try to remember what we were doing that year. It’s also nice to see how the children’s painting skills have changed over the years. This year we also painted some plaster houses for on top of our new fireplace. I think next year we’ll try baking them instead to save on some of the expense of purchasing the decorations.

    Every year we also receive unique (purchased, sorry!) Christmas decorations, the idea being that when the children begin families of their own, they can take these decorations and the memories they contain for their own tree. When my daughter was quite small we bought a beautiful Christmas angel and have used it for several years now. This year we bought a Father Christmas in honour of our son who is three. We intend to rotate these tree toppers every year – again, when the children move out, they can take these ‘family treasures’ for their own trees.

    We bake a lot and give the surplus to friends as gifts and we also make our own wine to give away as well.

    We are involved in our church and each year 10 local families are sponsored for Christmas. There is “angel tree” where you can pick a paper angel that outlines a gift suggestion. Each of us picks one angel -usually someone who mirrors ourselves. We make sure our children are present when the gift is purchased so they are part of the process. This year, my son picked a boy close in age who wants a toy car and I picked a mom who wants bakeware. (As an added bonus, when we give the church the receipts for these gift purchases , we get a tax receipt). Since joining the church 2 years ago, the Christ has certainly been put back into Christmas as they say.

    We probably still buy a little too much. But we rarely buy clothing or treats ‘just because’ throughout the year. These things come almost exclusively at Christmas, birthdays and back to school time.

    Merry Christmas one and all.

  7. Wonderful ideas, everyone! Thanks for sharing!

    Hi Diane- yay for you commenting for the first time! (Diane is my dear in-real-life friend who has a wonderful, generous spirit that I admire)

    Beatrice, it’s ok to do “busy” things (like making ornaments) or having lots of bought ornaments if they’re things that make Christmas more meaningful and special for you and your family. Every family will look different, and it sounds like yours is working hard to choose the best things, without giving up special traditions at the same time! 🙂

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