How To Enjoy A Simple Christmas

You're in the middle of the holiday season, friend.

Your social calendar's packed with parties and get-togethers.

You still have to buy a few more presents (including a friend who's super-difficult to shop for).

There's a Pinterest project you wanted to try to brighten up your living room for the season. Oh, and a new Christmas cookie recipe to bake up during the weekend.

And wasn't there an office Kris Kringle you have to prep for?

'Tis the season to be jolly stress out.

Or is it?

I too have run myself ragged every December, as if Christmas was a laundry list of To Dos to check off. But I've found it doesn't have to be that way.

In fact, it shouldn't be.

Because when our packed holiday schedules leave you and me exhausted, we miss the point of the season altogether.

Christmas is the season of joy, of holiday greetings exchanged, of gift-giving, and of families united.
— Norman Vincent Peale

Instead, imagine a Christmas that brings you joy.

A season when...

  • You connect deeper with family and friends.
  • You give gifts that show the people in your life you appreciate them.
  • You celebrate with food without gaining the dreaded extra Christmas pounds.
  • You find meaning this year in helping others enjoy the season.
  • You finish the year contented and ready for the year to come.

Doesn't that sound like an amazing way to savor the season? That sure sounds like a Christmas I want to have.

And it's more doable than you think.

It's all about keeping things simple so you can enjoy a season that means something instead.

Here's how you can adopt a simpler way to celebrate this year:

1. Let go of expectations.

A lot of what stresses us out about the holidays is what we feel expected to do.

Hosting a classy party, giving the best new presents, snazzing up your home... These are all legit, but do they need to be Martha Stewart perfect so people around you enjoy them?

You'd be surprised.

Most people are glad to be remembered through your presents and invites during the season. If you make them feel like a part of something special this Christmas, they could care less if the little things don't turn out as planned.

That means you can calm down.

Focus the time you'd spend on the bells and whistles you don't care about on what's important to you.

And speaking of what's important...

2. Do things that get you into the spirit of the season.

What would make the holidays meaningful for you?

Is it about spending time with family? Reflecting on your faith? Joining an annual tree lighting or a caroling group?

It could be as small as sipping a hot chocolate or as big as a dinner party for friends.

Like in my case, it's all about listening to Christmas songs about Jesus' birth, joining my church in holiday activities, and hanging out with the people I love.

Make a wish list of experiences that would make your holidays merry and bright.

Then schedule them into this month's calendar.

If you need more help with the scheduling part, check out my free course Busy Without The Crazy!

Because as cheesy as it sounds, the holidays are less about the presents you got and more about what's in your heart.

Love is what’s in the room with you at Christmas if you stop opening presents and listen.
— Bobby, 7 years old

3. Say no to holiday stress.

Where will I find the time to do the things on my wish list, Daisy?

By letting go of holiday obligations you don't really want to commit to, my friend.

Yes, there may be some things you definitely have to show up for this season.

But when you're intentional about how you want to celebrate Christmas, you'll find you have less non-negotiables than you thought you had.

For example, I've decided to trim my gift-giving list waayyyy down this year.

Not because I'm cheap --- maybe a little bit? Ha! --- but I've found the gifts that are remembered in the long run are more about experiences.

I'm still buying some things to give as gifts, but only when I know the giftee will actually use them. I no longer plan to buy the trendiest thingamajig just because I feel obligated to give cool presents.

I also noticed last year that the presents that delighted the most were those I spent effort on: learning what people secretly wanted, writing out actual messages on each gift tag, and so forth. It really is the thought that counts, after all.

By the way, I wrote 12 last-minute gift ideas your people will be delighted with to help!

Maybe you've got gift-giving down pat, but you'd rather attend less work functions this Christmas.

Or maybe it's about being less high-strung about decking out your home with boughs of holly.

What can you say no to this year so you can say yes to a simply special Christmas?

4. Don't forget to brighten the holidays for people in need.

Christmas is most truly Christmas when we celebrate it by giving the light of love to those who need it most.
— Ruth Carter Stapleton

Regardless of how or what you celebrate, I've found sharing what you have with others makes the season truly meaningful.

And if you're strapped for cash, it doesn't have to be your money. You can volunteer your time and even your skills to help out someone who needs it.

Check out your local charity or church for opportunities to help out this Christmas.

5. Take time to reflect.

Aside from the spirit of giving and thankfulness, Christmas is also a great time to look back on your life this year.

  • What's been awesome?
  • Who has been a help to you this year?
  • What have your fails been?
  • What do you want to do better at next year?

Sure, it seems to be tradition to do all this during the New Year, but I've found one or two days isn't enough to really dig deep and reflect. A quick New Year's Resolution written out for the heck of it never did change any of my habits in the year to come.

Here are three ways to reflect this month:

a. Write a list of what you're grateful for.

Your favorite cookie, a person who got you out of a bind, the weather... The sky's the limit here, friend.

b. Write down something you want to let go of this year and throw it out.

I threw a bad habit into a fire once, and the symbolism helped as I planned out how to wean myself off that habit in the next year. Tearing it up and throwing it into the trash also works.

c. Adopt Leo Babauta's mindfulness bells.

According to the Zen Habits blog (it's the third tip in the link), a mindfulness bell is a chime you've arranged to regularly go off on your phone or computer as a reminder to be present in each moment. You could definitely do this throughout the holiday season.

Ready to enjoy the rest of the holidays?

Let's downsize on the bells and whistles we don't care about this Christmas so we can fill the season with meaning.

You with me? Sound out in the comments below!