In Traditions

A “Less is More” Christmas

Today, on this lovely Monday morning, I have the special privilege of introducing Lynnette Sheppard who has kindly agreed to guest post here at Writing in the Stillness. 
Lynnette Sheppard lives in Arizona with her husband and five children. She loves chocolate, sunshine, trying new recipes, and curling up with a good book. She encourages others to live authentic, intentional lives that are grounded in roots of faith and simplicity on her blog, Simply for Real. You can find her on FacebookInstagram, and Twitter.
How a “Less is More” Christmas Can Joyfully Transform the Holidays
I come from a family where Christmas was a huge production. The grand finale featured a mountain of presents that sometimes reached almost halfway up the tree. As a child, I looked forward to it all year long.
I cannot deny that the magic was real for me back then. I could not wait to sneak out before Mom and Dad woke up on Christmas morning and attempt to count the number of gifts that had my name on them. That was usually an exercise in futility because there were so many brightly wrapped packages arranged around the majestic tree, but that did not stop me from trying.
There were many years where money was tight, but that did not necessarily result in fewer presents. It only meant that thrift and creativity was used in the acquisition of that enchanting mountain. It was the one time during the year when we were rather spoiled.
I remember feeling sorry for my friend one year because she only got one gift when I could not even name everything that I got without looking at the stash. I was sure that she was deprived of the Christmas magic that I had grown to love. For me, that magic consisted of stuff…and lots of it.
However, I also remember that, despite the amount of time, thought, effort, creativity, and money that my parents invested in order to make Christmas big and memorable, it seemed like there was always somebody unhappy after all of the gifts were opened because they did not get what they wanted. I felt bad for my parents when that happened, but I brushed those feelings aside when I looked at my own stack of gifts.
Many years later, when I had young children of my own, my husband and I decided that we no longer wanted to carry on the tradition of big Christmases. While we loved it as children, as adults we did not enjoy the frenzied shopping, endless wrapping, and staying up late on Christmas Eve to make sure that everything was perfect.
But, more than that, we did not enjoy watching our kids open one gift, look at if for a moment, and then toss it aside like it was no big deal while they waited for us to hand them something else. We wanted them to be grateful for what they received, and we knew of no better way to teach them that than to give them less.
From that point on, we told the kids (the oldest of which was eight at the time) that they would only receive one present from Santa and one present from Mom and Dad. That was in addition to a pair of new Christmas PJ’s, one new book each, and one gift from the family member who drew their name out of hat. The pile of gifts under the tree on Christmas morning became significantly smaller, and that was a beautiful thing.
The best part, however, was that the beauty extended beyond the number of presents. Not only did I feel like the kids started to appreciate their gifts a whole lot more, but we all began to enjoy the events of season more than we had in the past. Fewer gifts translated into fewer hours spent shopping and agonizing about whether we had enough. It meant that we spent much less time wrapping, and late nights on Christmas Eve with a roll of wrapping paper and tape in hand were only a memory. It meant that we worried less about how we were going to hide everything in order to keep little eyes from seeing their surprises before Christmas morning. At the end of the day, less time spent in the pursuit of stuff resulted in considerably less worry and stress surrounding the holidays.
Although the month of December will never be void of busyness, especially now that our kids are older and have their own busy schedules, our deliberate decision to simplify our gift giving has really simplified our whole approach to the holidays. It has indirectly created more time and energy to do the things that we love: watching Christmas movies, reading Christmas stories, attending concerts and plays, enjoying the magnificent lights and sounds, cooking, eating, spending time with friends and family, and focusing on the birth of Christ, which is, after all, the real reason for the season.
Because it has made a huge difference in our family, I wholeheartedly recommend a minimalist approach to Christmas for anyone who tends to feel more overwhelmed than joyful at this time of year. Less is truly more: more gratitude, more energy, more joy, and more time to focus on what matters most.

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