Simplifying Christmas Traditions


It makes a pretty light beacon if you are in the park.

I advise anyone overwhelmed by the frenzy of the December holiday season to spend a few moments in quiet reflection to determine the aspects of the season that bring you the most joy. No need to carve out a special evening to do so, just think about it while waiting at a traffic light or the line at the store to check out.

Then focus your efforts on these portions of the celebrations and avoid the others.

Here are some ways I have changed how I celebrate over the years:

~I think I have had the most changes over the years with the tree. In my first apartment, I hung Christmas cookies with fishing line from the overhead pipes in the shape of a tree. I’ve created tree shaped objects out of recycled materials. I’ve bought live trees that were planted outside in the spring. But I have struggled with the tree idea too. I don’t like the idea of killing a perfectly healthy tree in order to decorate it for a month and then toss it in the trash. For several years the amount of time it took to put up and take down a tree was difficult to find the in the business of raising children as a single parent. The above plastic tree was purchased off the display counter, saving it from the trash. I can reuse it for years. Yet, I am ambivalent.

~ I used to create a hand-made art card and sent one to everybody in my address book, including a personal note. Now, I send a hand-made art card with personal note to people who send a card to me. I especially like hearing from far-flung friends.

~ I used to bake dozens of cookies and give them away as gifts. I don’t really eat cookies anymore and many of the people near to me avoid sweets. Now, I don’t do any special baking for the holidays.

~ I used to make sure I had a hand-made or generic purchased gift for everyone that gave me a gift. I participated in the office Secret Santas. I kinda had the eight-year-old’s view that “more presents is always better.” Now, I only get gifts for my mom and my kids and grandkids. I tend to get consumable or practical gifts like socks. I try to find some little treat kind of thing that they would not likely buy for themselves.

~ I used to have themed gift wrap for every gift-giving occasion: birthdays, Christmas, weddings, etc. Now, I have one big roll of plain paper (this paper below was sold at IKEA as children’s drawing paper) that I dress up with ribbon, twine or hand made drawings. The twine, paper and cards below are compostable. It could also be used as drawing paper.


Not fancy, just festive.

~ I used to change the d├ęcor on my mantle, hang the children’s stockings and put a wreath on my door. I never did put lights on my house (too much work) but I put the lit tree in front of a window so passers by could enjoy it. This year my stocking is on my front door and the tiny tree is in the window. That and a pile of presents are my only decorations.


Note the memory box in the background as a prop.

~ I used to feel obligated to attend every family event I was invited to. That often involved a lot of driving in a short time on my part due to my work schedule and the kid’s visitation schedule with their father. One year, as I was driving my children through a blizzard from St. Louis to their dad’s house on Christmas eve, I realized how foolish that was and began to consider timing and weather and desire to attend before saying yes to those invitations.

The intention of these month long celebrations is joy and connection. I would love to hear how you have simplified your holidays to make them more meaningful and heartfelt.