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Originally Posted by Whisper
I am interested in any ideas about simplifying this holiday that always overwhelms me.

Simplifying in all areas: money, time, visiting, "to-dos."

Easy. But it took us about 2-3 holidays to get it to a science.

$$
Shop all year round. If its decorations and wrapping paper buy it after Xmas and put w your wrapping paper. Ditto for cards.

Gifts- we have stopped exchanging all together w family and work etc. Best thing you can do. If not, again shop all year round or start in Sept and buy a few gifts a month to spread the expense out.
Your kids do not have to have new outfits unless gifted to you. Dress them casually in all red shirts or something- very cute

time
Spread your time and to dos out. My Xmas cards are all set and ready to be labeled and stamped. Target portaits had a special so we got pictures taken and bought the cards in the package. I will buy the stamps this month and I paid for the cards last month. We will send them around the 5th of December.
Parties/events: Par down these to a minumum. Skip the Breakfast w Santa at $25 a head, the same w the Polar Express. Do the free "downtown stroll thru the lights etc" do the cookie exchange if you stand to actaully save time and not catch the flu from anyone's family

Visiting

The kids and everyone will be home for a while this time w Xmas on a Sunday. Also News Years. That leaves 3 days between the 24th to the 26th to visit. Whats wrong w doing it on the other days in there?? The kids will be refreshed on Monday and want to get out of the house, it can be a visit not to the mall kwim?
 

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i just finished reading unplug the christmas machine and i would highly recommend it. a few thoughts that i picked up from the book:

reduce gift giving. draw names, only buy for children, give family gifts (games, etc.). whatever works for your family.

be realistic about what you can and cannot do. i always wanna make handmade gifts but, realistically, i can never do it all before christmas. my mother may get her shawl for valentine's day. that's ok with her and ok with me.

think about all of the rituals/events that you did last year. what did you enjoy? what was not enjoyable? if you didn't enjoy it, don't do it this year.

so often, christmas is a women's holiday. we do the planning, shopping, gift wrapping, cooking, decorating, etc. involve your partner as much as possible. sit down with your partner and discuss his memories of christmas as a child and try to incorporate some of his meaningful family rituals.

for a lot of people, christmas is a huge build up and a big let down. one of my favorite ideas that i got from the book....don't rush the season and decorate too early.this year, i plan on decorating mid-december, celebrating the 12 days of christmas and taking down decorations on the 12th day, january 5th. i also plan to start a new tradition and do a special meal and small gift on the 5th which would symbolize jesus' gift from the magi. and to prolong the christmas spirit, i plan do some incorporate some fun activities during the 12 days: drive around and look at holiday lights, visit with relatives. after discussing this with my dh, he decided to start taking a vacation every year from christmas until january 6th which is another way of kinda preventing the big let down thing.

and, of course, if you are able to, help out someone in need. in our area, we can sponsor families and actually deliver food and gifts.

again, i highly recommend the book. it really helps to put things into perspective.
 

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This is something I've worked hard at for a number of years. A book that really helped me is "Unplug the Christmas Machine." The pithyest little bit out of that book is his list of the
Four Things Children Really Want for Christmas
1. Realistic expectations about gifts. To avoid the risk of your kids being "let down" by their Christmas gift haul, or, conversely, to avoid over-giving for fear that they might be disappointed (thereby upping the ante for next year, and the year after...) be upfront about what they should expect (eg. "One big gift from Santa, two fun but useful gifts from me and dad, and your stocking.")
2. Time with those they care about. Whole days with parents really focused on being with them. Time spent with extended family ... just being together.
3. Reliable traditions. Things that feel comfortable and familiar and come just as expected.
4. A reasonable pace to the holiday season. The biggest problem with the usual pace of the season is that it's all frantic build-up followed by an hour of gift-opening orgy and then a complete let-down.

In the past few years we've scaled our gift-giving back. The kids are happier than ever about Christmases now that they know what to expect. We've built lots of new traditions into our holiday season. Simple things -- the night we make hot apple cider, the night we go for a walk through the woods way after dark with flashlights, the day in mid-December when we make ice-lanterns, the day we're first "allowed" to play Christmas music on the stereo, the jigsaw puzzle we get out on Boxing Day, the egg-nog night we have when we invite Grandma over, the night we sing Christmas carols to the elves, a special video we watch every year, and so on. These traditions don't take a lot of time or money, but they are very much cherished, and they do spread the joy of the season around, so that it's a holiday season for us now, rather than a one-day boom & bust. There are still special things to look forward to after Christmas Day, and the simple but special traditions start long before Christmas.

We have had serious discussions with extended family and friends about the nature of our end of gift exchanges. We've told them that when the children (and their parents!) are overwhelmed with gifts the individual gifts lose meaning for them. We want the kids to grow up aware of the meaning that those gifts convey, and focused on the joy of giving as much as receiving. So we will be giving one gift to each household outside our immediate family, no individual gifts, and we will be trying to involve the kids in choosing and or creating those gifts. We're also going to try to choose gifts that help bring those households/families together in some way. And we would welcome them to follow suit. We work on gifts throughout the fall. They're simple; they're mostly hand-made, and we're usually finished by early December.

For Christmas dinner, I put almost everything in the fridge or freezer, ready to re-heat, over the few days before. Except the turkey, of course. Christmas Day is usually calm and nice. We have time to get outside together and play in the snow, even the grownups, building an igloo if snow conditions are ripe, while the turkey roasts.

Nevertheless I find I am always fighting back a wave of "gotta do more" anxiety, inherited from my childhood, when everything was focused on "The Big Day" and it had to be The Best Ever. So although I've made a lot of progress towrads holiday season simplicity, holding onto that progress, let alone building on it, is always a challenge.

Miranda
 

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GREAT THREAD! Miranda wonderful ideas. I love the ideas of really trying to make ita "season" rather thana one day blow out.

Christmas makes me crazy. I really don't like it at all and always feels as though I haven't "done" enough.I hate shopping butreally am not very crafty at all.

We are trying to pare down big for Christmas,really have gone overboard for DS in the past.... I am going to work really hard this year attrying to make it special ina non-consumer realted way.

I would love to do an alternate to a Christmastree this year...

any ideas?

Kathleen
 

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I can't quite recall where I got the tip, but it was within the last few months and dh and I plan on implementing it this year -- change the reason for the season.

Christmas is not about the number of presents that you/dh/kids/extended family get. For us it's about Jesus, and to try to keep that focus, we're doing three presents for each of the girls and those three gifts will symbolize the three gifts that Jesus received from the Magi.

This alone has simplified Christmas a TON!! Plus, we've put a lot more thought into what to get the girls in order to make the presents special, instead of rushing around at the last minute so that they have 'enough'.

Plus, for other family members we're giving gifts of service -- coupons for a homemade dinner by me, a lawn mowing from dh, free babysitting to those with children, etc. Those are the gifts people usually need the most anyway!!

If you're really itching for one special gift for some one, sometimes telling another will help out... .. let me give an example since I worded that terribly!! This year I really wanted to do something nice for my brother but we're completely broke... my mom suggested making a blanket or something for his car since he'll have to commute for his student teaching this year. I thought that was a great idea but then I told my mom that I didn't think I had enough time or money for yarn to crochet one ... then my mom suggested one of those easy-peasy knotted fleece blankets... she then told me about all the fleece she has and how she's been trying to think of ways to get rid of it! Worked out great for both of us! (and my brother!)

And, I must say I
the idea of Christmas being a season (aka Advent) rather than just a one-day huge shebang!
 

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Instead of a big tree in our family room . We are going to put a small tree in the kids room so they can decorate it themselves. Then in the spring we can plant it in the yard. I am also reading Unplug The Christmas machine.
 

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See, we are not a Christian Family. We don't really see a way around the whole Christmas thing, though, with the baby. People will want to buy him gifts. They'll want us to come visit. This is EXACTLY what I've been trying to think about!!

I love the Christmas Tree, the lights, the decoration, and all the food. It really never was about Jesus growing up (My family is Christian, but not REAL Christians). I'm trying to think about little things to do to make it fun, and not about the presents. We always give books or stuffed animals for christmas gifts to the children in the family, but this year we're going to do the Family Gifts instead. Last year, I did a gift for everyone. Not this year!!

There are some really great ideas in this thread. I'll probably use some of them in the years to come. My yearly tradition is to go to the Ornament store in the mall when they're abouit to close down after christmas. I usually won't go until the days that the ornaments are 70% off. I buy 3-5 ornaments (depending on how much I can spend) and have them wrapped up, and I put the bag in the closet with the Christmas Tree until next year. I forget what I've bought, and when Christmas rolls around again, I have new ornaments!

I'll probably start this as a tradition (each family member gets to pick out/make an ornament every year).
 

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adding to what I said earlier:

We try to focus also on the religious meaning of this holiday. Funny, in the Christian faith, Good Friday and Easter is much more important but Christmas gets a bigger billing.

We have a family lighting of the Advent wreath w the first candle and read the scripture. There are a few passages we rotate every few years.

We only give 3 gifts on Christmas morning. Jesus got three gifts. DD dosen't know any better so its easier.

We adapt a child from the tree at church. This year it will be a 3-4 yr old girl and fill her list. The lists contains usually a few toys and a coat, clothing, and gloves etc. There is always a coat on the list which pains me that this child dosen't have one.
 

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We've had to work hard to simplify the holidays, dp's family is all in town and there are several divorces, marriages, cousins...and everyone still loves him, but they don't get along with eachother, kwim. When ds came along it was harder and harder to just show up with a dish, eat a little and move on to the next shindig. So now at Thanksgiving we get a little harsh, we host, invite everyone, then when they rsvp we assign them a dish if they want to help. I do set a few separate tables so that different segments of family can sit together.

Flylady has a holiday organization template you can download. I don't follow flylady, but I downloaded that a few years ago and have adapted it to my needs. I actually love to organize, I'm just not good at following through, lol.

If anyone asks what dc want for xmas, I say they NEED clothes. I've been trying to do themes, stick to gifts I can give a lot of people, this year it's Sigg bottles and Animal Buddies heat wraps. Makes it easy, and if I find a coop it's even easier!

One grandpa's family has a white elephant auction. Everyone brings one gift (I usually regift something from last year, some people bring the most obnoxious things they can find), then we pile them in the middle and one at a time someone picks a gift, opens it, and then they can trade it for another gift that's already been opened. It's kind of fun, and usually the adults accomodate the kids so that they don't end up with the football shaped coffee grinder or something. You need the right kind of attitude for that tho, I know some segments of our family that just don't have the sense of humor for it.

I only do one gift per child from us (a book or science project, something more serious), one toy from 'santa' (I don't know why I do that, a tradition I find appalling and fun at the same time) and then a stocking. The fewer the things, the more they appreciate them.

I think it's important to let go if you need to, there have been years that I didn't bake because I came down with a cold around that time or something.
 

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Yeah, this year if we're staying home for Thanksgiving, I'm going to cook everything in the weeks ahead of time and freeze it. We're veggies, though, so the tough part (Turkey) isn't an issue. I'm going to be brave and try the Tofurkey this year.


Last year all of the Vegetarians I know got together and made a Gourmet Thanksgiving, which rocked! It was very healthy and organic, and the only 'junk' was the Pumpkin Pie 'Cheese'cake, which was vegan, and delicious.


I'm going simple this year for X-Mas. I can't travel, so I'm going to cook a nice dinner and open presents. That'll be about it. I'm going to be birthing any day by then, so I'll probably be happy with a bowl of rasin bran and some apple pie.
 

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Our mantra the past couple of years has been "Let's just have an OK Christmas." It takes the pressure off trying for perfection. The biggest help in simplifying has been dh having a falling out with his family. Sad to say, it's been a big relief to not have to live up to others' expectations and schedules.

I would consider refusing to leave your house and have limited company on Christmas day. I'm sure that seems harsh to those who are used to doing a lot of visiting, but it is great to have that time to focus on your own young family and develop your own traditions. It's also nice for babies and toddlers to be home and not travelling around making appearances.

Ds has received too many presents in the past, sometimes multiple gifts from one person. I set aside most of what was sent to him in advance and gave him them in dull moments after Christmas. It would have been easy to do one for each of the 12 days. I did peek at the gifts and chose not to give him a couple of things, like a fragile decorative train engine. My little boy wants things that work and those wheels did not turn.
 

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The only way I feel pressure during the holiday is when we have to deal with other people. So, naturally, I feel pressure all the time


I'm happy that my parents and IL's are scaling back this year. Finally, after how many years of me telling them to!

I try to slow down as much as possible and think about the fun side of it.

And Christmas day I get to stay in my PJs all day.
 

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Depending on if you celebrate the "Santa" aspect of Christmas or the Christ aspect of Christmas...I will reiterate the three gifts.

We don't buy for anyone but our children, we don't go ANYWHERE on Christmas Day (my mom and FIL understand this and plan around, my dad won't budge...his loss).

We don't do cards...waste of paper/resources for us.

If you do get together with your family for a dinner, try and do a potluck.
 

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Great thread! We insist on spending Christmas morning at our own home- I think it is important for the kids to be able to wake up at their own beds and find what Santa has left. We get together with DH's family at MIL's house later in the day. We buy gifts only for the kids in the families, not for our own brothers and sisters. I am trying this year to shop early for the people that I always have trouble picking gifts for (my mom, my MIL), and later for the kids (otherwise I keep finding neat things and adding to the pile). I'm giving my kids a few of my hand-me-down toys as gifts. I may do a larger family gift (a trip or other experience). I like the idea of making it a whole season of celebration. Inspired by this thread, I'm going to get out my calendar, note the few "can't miss" events that we do every year, then pencil in other things we want to do (go ice skating, see the Nutcracker, etc.) and a few social things, like inviting friends over.
 

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ooooh i LOVE the idea of making christmas an entire season rather than one single day. thanks so much for sharing that!

dd is still young (13.5 months old) and so has no idea when it comes to christmas. we have already made a rule regarding presents and that is: a total of 3 presents (absolute maximum). were going to make it very clear to my parents and in-laws that we don't want more than one present for dd as we would prefer for her to not think christmas is just about presents. i know both sets of parents will be on board with us regarding this.

we don't exchange many gifts. one gift for dd, one gift for my parents, one gift for dh's parents, and one gift each for dh's sister and my sister, is all that is on our list. i told dh that i want a slow cooker for christmas and he told me he wants a boxing bag stand. and that's what we are getting eachother. for dh's neice and 2 nephews that he never sees, we'll be getting some stockings and stuffing them to the brim with lovely little things. kids always love a bag of goodies.

dh has 2 brothers but we don't exchange gifts with them, as we don't expect a gift and neither do they. one brother has 3 kids (mentioned above) and we do the stocking thing for the kids. the other brother is single.
i have a second sister with 2 kids who lives overseas. we would send them something if the mail was reliable where they live. unfortunately it isn't.


so that's our entire immediate family. 7 gifts, and 3 stockings.

i don't believe in exchanging ten billion gifts. most of the gifts you receive from distant relatives, co-workers etc are really thoughtless last-minute-picked-out gifts anyway, and it's all just for the sake of exchanging a gift. that's not what christmas is about. we have made it clear that we don't exchange gifts with *anyone but our parents and siblings* and it works.

we give one card per family, assuming they are all living under the same roof. if not, they are sent individual ones.
 

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I think we've managed to keep our Christmas simple. It's a time of year that *I* need to be rich in tradition, but that doesn't mean it has to be rich in stuff or trappings (apt word!) or whatever.

I love the christmas season, so we do start during early November with Christmas music and creating homemade decorations. Nothing complicated and only what we feel moved to make. I line my mantel with plain candles and pretty much play Christmas CDs all day long. If it's easy to do so, I try to emphasize holiday colors - using the red and green napkins instead of the others, for example, but I don't go too far out of my way. We do a very small tree for only about a week. We also sing songs, read/tell stories, and watch certain videos that are reserved for the Christmas season.

Early in December we have a potluck holiday singing party. It is very informal and we sing whatever people want to sing. It's also a good kick-in-the-butt for me to get my house clean and as decorated as it is going to get while we still have a few weeks to enjoy it.

On Christmas Day I make cinnamon rolls in the morning, and my kids love this and count on it. We stay home all day and take it easy - I don't want any of us to have to travel that day. We do presents as slowly as the little ones can stand to, and we hang around and play games and relax all day. Visiting with relatives can happen on other days; I want our holiday to feel relaxed and simple.

DH and I exchange one gift privately on Xmas eve. On Xmas day, the family gets a handful of unmarked gifts...presumably from Santa, but no one knows for sure. These gifts are primarily for the kids; we usually include a few books, a game or two, and some family toy that everyone can enjoy (this year it's pattern blocks with a book on how to play games with them). Sometimes there is something like stargazing binoculars or an outdoor thermometer or something else for the family. We also "do" stockings for each person - usually only 2-3 small gifts, an orange, some dried fruit and nuts, and a tree ornament. Oh, we also usually find a bundle of lovely birch firewood under the tree for our fireplace.

We haven't even begun to have the kids pick out gifts for each other or for us. That feels way too complicated, and it just means more STUFF at our house. So for now we just enjoy the anonymous (okay, Santa) stuff that appears under the tree for the family to share. When the time comes, I will encourage homemade gifts. Relatives who give gifts to our children typically give them to us clandestinely before the holiday, so the pile under the tree sort of magically expands even if we keep our giving small.

My hope is that in later years my kids will also anonymously add to the pile under the tree. I like the idea of anonymous giving because it removes all obligatory social formalities such as thanking and reciprocation and the guilty practice of displaying certain things when so-and-so visits and so forth. I think it allows the recipient to just focus on enjoying the gift. I don't think we'll make it mandatory, but I think it's a nice tradition. We use shiny gold paper for the anonymous/Santa gifts, and no tag unless it's obviously headed to a certain person (rattles to the baby, for example).

We no longer exchange gifts with extended family, although my sisters and I have agreed that if any of us feel moved to give a gift (without obligation) we may, but only without any expectation of reciprocity. I provide certain of my relatives with a 5x7 pic of the kids each year - the first year we gave them a frame, and told them we'd send a "refill" every year.

I like sending Christmas cards. The kids make them (usually with just crayons), I put a pic and a little note inside, and I consider that a kind of gift in itself. I send out a lot of them (maybe 100) but only because I enjoy it. I admit this isn't simple, but it brings me joy, and by doing less in other areas I have more energy to put toward the things that have meaning to me.

We don't do any holiday baking. Sugar just makes us crazy, and we don't need any more craziness at this time of year.

I am so glad I gave this all such tremendous thought when our first baby was tiny. He turned out to be the kind of kid who wants things to be Exactly The Same every year - and by keeping it simple from the start, it's been manageable.
 

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Quote:

Originally Posted by 4evermom
I would consider refusing to leave your house and have limited company on Christmas day. I'm sure that seems harsh to those who are used to doing a lot of visiting, but it is great to have that time to focus on your own young family and develop your own traditions. It's also nice for babies and toddlers to be home and not travelling around making appearances.

We decided this year after 8 plus years of marriage and a child and one on the way, its time to take back our holidays. This was decided last year after another sleepness xmas eve when dd got up a thousand times from being overstimd after out late. 3rd year in a row. She also did not even know about Santa yet.

But the real reason- Dec 24th is my birthday. Its also a big blowout party at my folks house. They started it 34 years ago when they moved to a new area and got together w another family who also just moved there. Well it kept up and here we are with grandchildren, in laws, etc. Also we now invite my inlaws, my brother's in laws etc. Actaully that how my bil met his wife- my parents friends' daughter so now we are all related! But times move on etc. I have never had a "real birthday" so to speak since all these people are there plus getting ready for the party the 2 days before. Its just gotten out of hand and staying up late etc is not for us anymore. Also I really do not feel like seeing all these people on my birthday. So we are officially skipping it this year and seeing everyone (in my family) on the 25th. We may even call in sick to that
I can play the pregncy card this year so we will see!

Also another plus- the ils are going to my sil's house across the country and so are a few others. So we may have our quiet xmas after all incl going on my birthday to xmas eve Mass which I always wanted to do.
 

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Quote:

Originally Posted by amyamanda
My hope is that in later years my kids will also anonymously add to the pile under the tree. I like the idea of anonymous giving because it removes all obligatory social formalities such as thanking and reciprocation and the guilty practice of displaying certain things when so-and-so visits and so forth. I think it allows the recipient to just focus on enjoying the gift.
Amanda, your mention of anonymous gift-giving has given me much to ponder. I think that it would also be a helpful way of putting the focus of the giver on the pleasure of the recipient, rather than on his/her gratitude and the petty economy of reciprocating a gift of equal or greater value.

Miranda
 
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