Doesn’t that sound depressing? A minimalist Christmas. I picture a Christmas tree under which there are no presents, a house sparsely decorated and no joy.
But minimalism is not about getting rid of things for the sake of getting rid of things. It’s about getting rid of the extra, the not really valuable, to make space and time for what is.
A minimalist Christmas will look different for different people. For one family it might mean minimizing decorations, keeping only those they truly love (creating space). For another family it might mean paring down the invitations they accept to parties (creating time). For another it might mean a complete re-prioritization of the season – this might take the form of a bigger tree and more intentional traditions (creating value). Of course it could be a combination of all these things.
For us, minimizing Christmas does not mean getting rid of things. Besides the broken ornaments and a few items that have no value for us, we are not getting rid of much this season. In fact, we bought some decorations.
Neither is over-commitment a problem for us during the holiday season. We are working on establishing valuable traditions for our family, which sometimes means putting items onto our calendar.
But what about presents?! Of course this will be different for each family, as well. Some families give no presents (which really does sound depressing). Some probably keep it to one gift each or three each or something along those lines.
We decide on an amount of money to spend on each child instead of a number of gifts. It is not a huge amount, but it allows us to get each of our children several nice gifts that (hopefully) they will truly value.
So there will be presents under our tree. We do have some decorations. But my greatest hope for us this season is moments of real, deep joy…especially that miraculous kind found in a drafty, dirty stable a really long time ago.
This holiday season has snuck up on me. Last year I was on top of it all, which had everything to do with the fact that I was due to have a baby on December 23. As it turned out, I had exactly enough time to be completely ready. Right after we put the presents under the tree on Christmas Eve and were ready to “settle down for a long winter’s nap,” my water broke. So it was not much of a winter’s nap, but the next day we got the greatest Christmas present ever.
Though tomorrow is the first day of December, I have not started ANY shopping. I have, however, given a little thought as to what I’d like the next few weeks to hold.
But before I get to our actual plans, I need to explain our current approach to the Advent/Christmas season:
For a few years we tried to observe only Advent until it was actually Christmas, and then celebrate Christmas for all 12 days. It really didn’t work for us. It felt like we never celebrated because Christmas day would finally arrive, fly by, and then everyone and everything would move on (except our parish – it stays decorated and we sing Christmas carols). Then it felt like our attempt to observe the “12 Days” was really just us pretending that Christmas was not over.
So we are trying to find a way to truly celebrate Christmas while also observing Advent.
We do Christmas-y things during Advent like listen to Christmas music, get a Christmas tree and watch Christmas movies.
But we also listen to the readings in Mass each week and think about how we are waiting. With the whole church we celebrate that He came as a baby and we wait for him to come as King.
With all that being said, here’s what we plan to do this Advent/Christmas season:
Get a Christmas tree! We’ve always gotten a real tree, but last year we actually cut the tree down ourselves. We plan to do this again, and the kids are looking forward to the whole experience (wagon ride, picking our tree, cutting it down, watching the trees get bailed and then seeing it loaded on our car). Then, of course, we will decorate it.
We plan to light this countdown candle and open a window of this advent calendar each night at dinner. I’m opting for one candle this year instead of the traditional five (purple, pink and white) that are lit each Sunday in Advent. Our table is really small.
Celebrate St. Nicholas Day with a surprise new book for each of our kids and brownies. We’ll try to talk about the real St. Nicholas, too, and watch The Polar Express.
Celebrate the feast of the Immaculate Conception by going to Mass in the evening and probably have dessert afterwards.
In the 2nd or 3rd week of December
Bake and decorate (gluten free) cut-out cookies. I was excited to find this mix from King Arthur Flour, as we’ve had great success with their gluten free mixes.
In the week leading up to Christmas Day
Build a gingerbread house! We did this last year and it was really fun, especially since we used a boxed kit and did not have to make the gingerbread first. The kids had a great time putting the candy decorations all over the house.
Go see Santa Claus at the mall. It still surprises me that our kids are into Santa and that we encourage it! We try to avoid outright lies on the subject, but so far it’s been fun and sweet. Last year was the first time any of our kids met Santa, and our mall Santa just happened to be a GREAT one. Before I knew it we were putting milk and cookies out for him – and an apple for the reindeer – on Christmas Eve (I ate the cookies and drank the milk before my water broke).
Take a drive to see Christmas lights. It’s amazing how much work some people do to make their houses look beautiful (or at least Christmas-y) at this time of year, so we drive around to enjoy it.
Go to the Christmas Eve vigil Mass. We would love to go to the midnight Mass at our parish, but it would be so hard for the kids. And then the next day would be so hard for us. Hopefully when they are older we can do that again.
So those are our plans in a nutshell. What do you do to observe Advent and Christmas?