When our twins were just babies, a wise friend implored me to seriously rethink traditions while my kids are little.
“Simplify them to start, because it is less stressful on everyone to add a new expectation down the road than to fail a tradition later because you were over-ambitious in the early years.”
This stay-present principle has totally set me free.
If you feel like your holidays have been hijacked, here are some ideas to reclaim Christmas.
Don’t Let Blessings Stress You Out.
When it comes to advent activities, I want to do them all: advent chocolate boxes to open, the Jesse Tree Bible story to read, a daily Christmas book to unwrap, a reverse-advent food box to fill, etc. Unfortunately, these daily activities have begun to swallow up our need for reflective rest in December.
So this year, I postponed the introduction of our “Shepherd’s Treasure.” We received this adorable Elf on the Shelf alternative from my sister. Every year, she posts daily about their shepherd’s antics. I was really excited to jump in to this fun new tradition. However, for some reason, the last 3 days of November had me panicked about it. It seemed counter intuitive that I was getting stressed in preparation for rest and calmness.
So I decided a late start date for our Shepherd was not going to deprive our kids. In fact, releasing myself from forced Christmas creativity (for too many days in a row at least) gives my family the greater gift of having a peaceful, present mama. So we might bring our shepherd out 10 days before Christmas, or maybe 7. Whenever it happens, it will be just as whimsical and enchanting.
Do you need to simplify an ongoing tradition? Try these ideas:
- Start a 12 days advent on Christmas Day, extending into January.
- Have your elf or shepherd come 10 days before Christmas.
- Unwrap 1 set of Christmas books a week (instead of 1 a day).
- Read your Jesse tree Bible stories 2 at a time on week days before or after school. Start 5 weeks before Christmas.
- Pick one activity a year. Store the others for the next season.
- Delegate. Does your child’s school do an elf on the shelf? Awesome. Let that be a school thing. Home can be focused on the Giving Manger, etc.
Trade Trendy for Whimsical
Another way I have simplified my holiday expectations is letting the kids pick the decorations.
My Pinterest board is stacked with Christmas decor trends and wrapping paper ideas. I crave all things cozy-minimalism! However, I am realizing that simplicity is not the same as minimalism. We shop for tree garland and my eyes light up when I see buffalo plaid; the kids lose their minds when they see silver tinsel. It’s pretty simple: we bought the tinsel.
I also bought batman Christmas wrapping paper. And Disney Princess wrapping paper. I kissed goodbye my dreams of brown paper packages tied up with string, with a sprig of eucalyptus tucked in the bow, and calligraphy monographs hand painted on top (thank you Pinterest).
I am literally pinning these ideas away to revisit them later, maybe when the kids turn 17. It’s going to be one pined-for Scandinavian-style, minimalism Christmas. Of course by then, it will no longer be trendy. I guess love is the trend I should be setting in our home instead. Let the kids be kids, and enjoy it while it lasts, right? After all, those memories are the truly timeless decorations of Christmas.
There you have it, saying yes to sparkly trees and batman wrapping paper (and said no to being stressed-out mommy) is a simple way to love our kids BIG this holiday season.
Whether it’s Facebook or family members that add subtle pressure to your expectations, remember, you can start simple now and build as you go. When we lower our traditions expectations, we find we have more time to reflect on the miracle of God-with-us. Time with Him teaches us to love sacrificially like He does–the best gift we can give!