Why Simplifying the Holidays Matter and 3 Ways to Give Your Family a Peaceful Season
by Kate Saffle
A week ago
What memories do you have of the holiday season? Was it harried and chaotic or slow and peaceful? As a child growing up in rural Indiana, our holiday season was quite slow and simple; our Christmas centered around time with family, enjoying the snowy quiet of December, and connecting through our traditions. Today, holidays in North America look quite different. It’s the first week of November as I write this and already retailers are stocking their shelves with Christmas wares. Halloween has scarcely ended and Thanksgiving (in the United States) is several weeks away, yet marketers hope we start decking the halls. As a society, we’ve become engrossed with more gifts, more parties and commitments, and more expectations. Is it a surprise that many families reach out to me to help them simplify the holidays and regain a sense of control and sacred tradition?
If you’re already worrying about the busyness and expectations the holiday season can bring, the next month of articles will give you the confidence and tips you need to create a different and more fulfilling holiday family culture. Because here’s the deal: the way we celebrate our holidays is how we communicate our values to our children. If we spend most of the year choosing simplicity and less but better, and then go on a shopping frenzy in December, what does that show our kids? If you’ve felt this disconnect in your holiday season before, please know that all of us are continually evolving as a family and that includes are traditions and holidays. Here are 3 ideas to create a peaceful holiday season:
Leave the White Space
Toward the end of November as we round the bend into the holiday season, the party invites and the expectations for our time start piling up: work and school parties, hosting extended family, sending holiday cards, and squeezing in family traditions can all feel like a race to the finish line. We don’t enjoy the experience, because the focus is on filling up the calendar rather than simply being present.
Here’s how to change that: as a family sit down and open up the calendar. Make a list of all of the typical engagements of the holiday season as well as the dates of any parties or events already scheduled. Ask yourselves about each commitment: will this fulfill our desire for a simpler holiday or complicate it? Give yourself permission to say no to any responsibilities or activities that are outside your family values. Full stop. If your children are very young, now is the time to carve out your own approach to celebrating and set boundaries. Otherwise, extended family, work and school, and the media will set your holiday expectations for you. Leave the white space on your calendar and instead enjoy connecting in simple and nourishing ways as a family.
Simplify Gift Giving
Many families worry about this time of year because of all of the pressure on gift giving. It really is incredible to think that a time that centers around family togetherness and faith (depending on what you celebrate) would also coincide with the busiest shopping season of the year. We give as a way to let the other person know we care for them, but giving traditional gifts is not the only way to convey that message. Consider acts of service, homemade gifts, and experience based gifts as alternatives to hopping on Amazon or heading to the local mall.
For your children, explore different ideas for intentionally giving gifts to them. What do the gifts symbolize or represent in your family? How many is enough to convey that message without overwhelming young children with too much? Some families enjoy following the maxim of “Something they want, something they need, something to wear and something to read.” Basal Baby founder Michelle Briggs, consciously chooses items for the shop that help parents say yes to less, but better and intentionally step outside the expectations of the media and marketers.
As parents and caregivers, we have the opportunity to shape our child’s experience of the holiday season. When we consider our end goal of raising our kiddos, ask yourself: what do I hope they will remember from the holiday season? We can create new traditions or embrace ideas from our childhood; there are so many ways to simplify the holidays AND create family togetherness.
Ask yourself: which of our current traditions support the way we choose to live as a family and which do not? Give yourself permission to discontinue any traditions that are no longer in alignment with your values and instead create new ones. Here are a few ideas:
- Make a thermos of hot chocolate or spiced cider to drink while driving around to look at Christmas lights in neighborhoods near your home.
- Serve as a family at a homeless shelter, sing Christmas carols at the local nursing home, or collect supplies for the animal shelter.
- Hit the library for a collection of winter and holiday season books to read nightly by candlelight as a family.
- Have a do nothing day: wear your pajamas, eat good food, and play board games or listen to audio stories as you lounge around.
Have fun creating your own family holiday traditions and know that early childhood is a great time to experiment with finding the right balance for your family.
It can feel so counter-culture to step outside the typical media-hyped holiday approach, but remember why you even choose to celebrate holidays and what they mean to you. Doing so will give your family the simplicity and peace you’re longing for this holiday season.
Which of the ideas above are you most excited to try?