My family Christmases have always been pretty simple, family focused affairs. When I married my husband, it was a little more tricky. We now had two families to visit... but since everyone was pretty close, we made it work fairly easy. Then we moved to Montana which is two states away. If that wasn't enough, we had our first child on Christmas day last year. Needless to say, our Christmases have gotten quite a bit more complicated.
Oh, and did I mention my extended family lives in Florida? Yeah, I just kicked that up a notch.
This year is the first year we're trying to figure out a long-distance Christmas/birthday.
We're going home for two weeks over Christmas and New Year’s Day, so we will have plenty of time to spend with family and see some friends. Also, we're bringing our dog, just to make it that much more complicated.
Our holidays will look somewhat like this:
Christmas Eve morning/day spent with my parents. Call/Skype my family in Florida.
Christmas Eve evening spent with my husband's extended family.
Christmas Day morning spent with my in-laws.
Christmas Day dinner at 2pm with my parents and my in-laws.
Nels' birthday celebration with cake & presents after Christmas dinner.
New Year’s Eve is up for grabs, we'll wait to see what other people are doing and decide how we'd like to participate. We kicked it low-key with our friends while the babies slept in the back room. It was just my kind of celebrating.
In addition to the celebrations, I am also making and sending gifts to my extended family, making gifts for several of my friends' kids and for a few of my closest girlfriends. In all, I have 10 kid gifts, 3 gifts for friends, gifts for my parents, my in-laws, my brother and sister-in-law, my husband's sister and her husband (I just settled with sending them a baby gift since they are expecting early next year), my husbands second sister (who loves books), and a box of homemade goodies and a photo book for my Florida family. And most all of it will be homemade.
Seems complicated, right? It's getting more so every year. These are a few things I do to simplify.
I wrap all my gifts with brown package paper (I bought a large roll off Amazon for $8 three years ago and I still have enough left for this year and part of next year) and I buy one multi-pack of ribbon (for about $5) to embellish. I don't use tags, I just write who it's to on the wrapping paper with a marker. My only supplies for wrapping gifts is one roll of paper, one spool of ribbon, scissors, a marker and tape.
I use Amazon wish lists, especially for my sisters-in-law and brother. I don't get really hung up on surprising people. I know they like to get gifts, and most of the time it doesn't really matter if it's a surprise or not. Call me cruel, but I often don't buy my husband a gift. He is really hard to buy for and if I can't find something he'll really use or love, I just write him a really nice (aka sexy) card and call it good. Disclaimer: I forgot the card this year… Sorry, babe.
I make gifts for my friends' kids, mostly. This year I'm making caramel corn to give to my adult friends in a pretty canister (aka recycled formula can wrapped and tied with a bow). My best friend and I agreed to give each other an experience instead of a gift. I'd like to do this a lot more next year. We ended up making sugar cookies with her two year old while the younger babies slept. It was really fun and I felt really special being a part of her long time family tradition.
I let other people cook for me. I'm fortunate that I have two mothers willing to cook amazing dinners and I don't have to lift a finger if I don't want to. Of course I always try to help with cleanup, but even that's optional. I cooked Thanksgiving dinner last year, just because I had never before cooked a holiday dinner and it seemed the thing to do on our first major holiday away from family. I don't know what I was thinking cooking for 6 hours while 8 months pregnant and severe nerve pain in my hips. I did most of the cooking from a computer chair. It turned out delicious anyways.
And now, for the big shocking plot twist: I don't decorate my house for the holidays. I have one stocking that I bought for Nels hanging on the coat closet door, but that's it, folks. No tinsel, no lights. Not even a Christmas tree. I do kind of want to decorate, but the reality is we'll be gone for Christmas so I would just have a lot more work to do when we got home. And if I want Christmas cheer, I go to my friends' beautifully decorated houses. I have to say this is the biggest stress saver for me. It won't be this way every year, so don't fear little elves, but for now this is just the way it is going to be.
And lastly, I always remind myself why we're celebrating in the first place. If your focus is on perfectly decorating the house and perfectly wrapping the perfect gifts, you are way off the mark. Even if you settle for imperfect decorations and imperfect gifts. That is not what this holiday is about. We are celebrating the birth of the most important man in the history of history. The birth of our Savior, the beginning of the greatest story ever told. Don't lose sight of the importance of the birth of Christ. All the presents and Christmas trees and Christmas hams and Polar Expresses in the world don't add up to a single drop in the ocean of His sacrifice and love and He deserves a lot more of our attention than we give Him.
Be generous. Spend a good part of your holiday this year praising the one who gave his life for you. Make a meal for someone else's family who can't afford it, or better yet, invite them to your house to share in your bounty. There is more than enough food on most tables to serve twice the people than are in attendance.
Be radical. Give all your gifts to a family who really needs some cheer in their holiday. Spend your whole Christmas budget on people who need to witness the love of Christ on this earth in a tangible way. Remember Christ came not to call the righteous, but to save sinners (Luke 5:32).
Be in prayer. Never forget we have a direct line of communication to Jesus, anytime, anywhere. You don't even have to bow your head or close your eyes. He loves to hear us and He's always listening.
What do you do to simplify the holidays?