Yesterday was so great. I sat at my little crafting table, turned on an old Steven Curtis Chapman Christmas CD, and started making my Christmas cards. This has become a yearly Thanksgiving weekend tradition for me. It was so wonderful to drink hot tea, create, and enjoy the quietness of my own home. I pictured all the craziness of the local shopping mecca and was filled again with gratefulness to be a producer rather than a consumer on "Black Friday".
The past few years I have tried to think more intentionally about Christmas, what I want the season to be filled with (people, warmth, creating, baking, hot drinks, celebrations, music, leisure, simple traditions, and heart-felt gift giving), and make mindful choices to follow through. And I can say that I have been deeply satisfied the last few years. I am getting out of the mindset that this is a "crazy time of year" and I have noticed that this year my thoughts have been "yea! a sweet meaningful time of year...I can't wait!"
Here are some ideas (off the top of my head!) for a simpler holiday season. Certainly some of these thoughts wouldn't make your particular season simpler but more difficult! Isn't it great there are no rules and we all have individual needs? Take and leave whatever you like...these ideas are my simple gifts to you!
- Make your own Christmas cards. It just takes a wee bit of creativity or none at all! There are so many simple ideas out there. My daughter loves to help me with this! I love taking the time to really think and pray for each individual that will receive my cards and to wonder at their lives and hearts. It reconnects me to the greater community I am apart of. Or purchase hand-made cards if you don't have the time...it will help someone else!
- Start some new traditions. We have the recent tradition of getting our tree the first weekend of December. I have never liked getting the tree in November because I like to enjoy the fall as long as possible. We buy it from a local tree farm that is a non-profit that helps disadvantaged children. For me it is a conscious choice to make sure my money benefits another...a way to keep my focus of giving and generosity. Another recent tradition is to have a mother-daughter Christmas tea time with Katie, my sister Leslie, and her daughter Hannah. We would love to begin including more mama/daughter duos as a way to reach out and give hospitality. Nothing fancy. Just come as you are, drink some tea, eat some cookies, giggle, make a little craft, and have some fun! Precious girl time. We also take time to spend an evening as a family driving around ooohing and aaaahing over Christmas lights and then indulge at Krispy Kreme doughnuts! Kids love seeing Mrs. Organic Mama stuffing in the the chocolate custard filled doughntus! :)
- Make your own Christmas gifts or buy handmade. Family Fun has some cute ideas of gifts you can make with your children. It doesn't have to cost much money and people always love receiving something that you took the time and heart to make. I have made women aprons, recipe books and cloth-covered journals. Small scrapbooks or photo calendars make great gifts. And if you simply do not have the time or energy for that, have you considered strolling through the online aisles of Etsy to find a special handmade something? You can find beautiful reasonably priced goodies for everyone on your list. Or support local craft fairs or another woman's home-based business by buying from her...sewn goods, knitted clothing, scrapbooks, a photography session, goods from the garden, etc.
- Give magazine subscriptions. This is an easy-to-give Christmas gift that is always appreciated. It means no wrapping, no shipping, and they enjoy the benefits for a year.
- Give a donation in each family or person's name. I got a beautiful catalog from Samaritan's Purse this year. You give money in someone's name for some amazing gifts. Feed a hungry baby for a week for $9. Supply a thirsty family with clean water for $100. Help poor farmers feed their families for $45. Fish ponds for $25. A brood of chicks for $20. Dairy animals for $70. And on and on. Very cool. This is a great gift for the person "who has it all"! :)
- Buy or receive local memberships to the zoo, children's museums, theaters, art museums, science museums, or state museums. This is a wonderful clutter-free gift that you really get your money's worth out of...and it promotes family togetherness, supporting local, and real-life learning.
- Just say no. To me this is one of the most important ways to be able to really focus on the Reason for the season...Jesus. When we overextend and not allow for margin we lose focus, heart, joy, peace, and love. We get into a holiday survival mode and miss the joy of people, celebration, and new Life in the form of a Baby. Choose thoughtfully which Christmas parties to attend...you don't have to go to all of them. Spend wisely and mindfully. Give yourself time for hot tea, coffee, music, enjoying the smells, sights, and sounds. Give yourself time to "welcome the stranger"...to have eyes and hearts open to the hurting, the lonely, the needy. What a beautiful time of year to show love, kindness, and the compassion of Jesus. Give yourself and your family space to worship and reflect...read stories together in front of a fire, teach them Christmas carols, and pray for the world that they would know baby Jesus. I think the key is to know your holiday limits and choose the most important things.