How to simplify Christmas, maybe

By Karen Stiller

The other night, our church hosted a discussion about how to simplify Christmas. We invited a local expert — a busy mother of eight with years of experience fine tuning Christmas — and we sat around and shared ideas.

Our church recently hosted an eye-opening discussion about how to simplify Christmas.
Our church recently hosted an eye-opening discussion about how to simplify Christmas.

It quickly grew clear that everyone in the room loved Christmas and the opportunity to host events and cook great meals for the people they love. It also became clear that everyone in the room also felt they were probably doing too much, and receiving too little help.

Another common theme I noticed was that adult children seem to revert a little bit, and they (we) can act like big babies at Christmas.

Yes, it’s true.

And if you are an adult who goes a bit weird at Christmas (like I probably do sometimes) when you arrive at your parent’s home, you need to know that they see what you are doing. They see that you still want your stocking stuffed, and get your nose out of joint if traditions change in the least little bit.  And they see that you are sitting on the couch and maybe, just maybe, not helping very much in the kitchen. And maybe, after a while, have your kids (as adorable as they are, and as Christmasy as it all is) pipe down just a bit and stop tearing apart their grandparent’s house?

Yes, that’s what I learned as I listened to my mothers  in Christ talk about hosting Christmas dinner for their weary (and dare I say, sometimes demanding) adult children.

I host Christmas at my house, because my husband is a pastor and so our parents come to us. And I confess, for years, when it was my parent’s turn to come, I grew lazier the moment my mother walked in the door. Some years I said, “Here,” and handed the turkey to her.

The root of all this evil is likely our own busyness of course, and the exhaustion that results from it, with a little dash of good old fashioned taking for granted of the people we love.

Here is another smattering of good advice from Christmas warriors in the trenches:

  1. Don’t ask what people want for Christmas. Just give them what you want to give them and keep it simple.
  2. Used gifts in good condition are good for the environment and the wallet.
  3. If there are toxic people in your life, don’t invite them over. Find another time to work on relationships when there’s not so much pressure.
  4. Attend the Christmas concerts of other churches in your town for inspiring and festive, and usually free, events your whole family can enjoy.
  5. Don’t exchange gifts with the wider family. Just stop it. No one needs anything.
  6. If you have a potluck, specify how large the dish should be. Say, “Sweetheart, you need to bring carrots for 28 people.”
  7. Spread Christmas out over the holidays. Not everything has to happen in the space of two days.

The only thing unchanging about Christmas is the message — and the Saviour — it brings. Pretty  much everything else should be up for discussion. Experiment with traditions. Be willing to let some things go and embrace new ways of celebrating. If it doesn’t work out, there is always next year.

Karen Stiller is a senior editor of Faith Today. Make Christmas gift giving even easier this year by giving subscriptions to Canada’s Christian magazine. Perfect for stuffing into stockings (or even the main gift!). 

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