Every year I dream of a simple, minimalist Christmas. One where we can skip out on exhausting holiday festivities, social gatherings, and mounds of gifts in favor of a quiet, relaxing celebration at home.
It’s not that I hate those activities; it’s just that I yearn for a less stressful holiday season without a hefty helping of obligations and pressure.
Over the years, we’ve figured out how to minimize the stack of Christmas presents, but not the long list of holiday commitments.
I dream of a holiday with less stuff and more laughter. I want to ditch joyless parties and traditions without feeling guilty about it. When Christmas Day arrives, I want to sit back, snuggle in with my family, and feel calm and joyful.
The Time for a Minimalist Christmas
In a typical year, I push my minimalist Christmas ideas aside. How can we turn down invitations or say no to family traditions without hurting everyone’s feelings?
How can we carve out time for ourselves without seeming selfish or greedy? We can’t, or at least I can’t figure out how to do it. Believe me; I’ve tried.
Usually, we fulfill our family obligations, but this is 2020. We are in the midst of a global pandemic where everything is changed!
Instead of feeling overwhelmed by our typical holiday to-do list, 2020 is handing me a minimalist Christmas on a shiny, silver platter.
What is a Minimalist Christmas
For the record, 2020 is bringing more than I bargained for, and this Christmas will be more minimalistic than I would like.
A minimalist Christmas shouldn’t involve stripping out all Christmas activities. It should involve intentionally picking which ones we want to keep. This year we don’t have much choice in the matter.
This winter, we won’t watch our son’s holiday show. We won’t make Christmas ornaments at school or huddle together waiting for the town’s Christmas tree lighting. We also won’t attend any holiday parties or visit with our families on Christmas Day.
This year we aren’t choosing to cut out celebrations. We are limiting our activities to protect friends and family. It feels strange, sad, and downright depressing. As hard as I try, I can’t imagine a Google Meet Christmas.
I know loved ones can’t always make it home for the holidays, but I’ve never missed Christmas dinner with my family. It seems strange to think we will all be celebrating separately inside our homes.
We know deep down that Christmas is not about gifts. I feel that this year more than any other. Forget exchanging presents; I just want to share Christmas with all the people I love.
I could take this time to mourn the Christmas I want or make the most of this unexpected change. I’m choosing to embrace it or at least try to.
It’s time to break free from our typical Christmas traditions and aim for that minimalist Christmas after all. This is the year to throw unwanted Christmas traditions out the window.
Minimizing Christmas Expectations
Given the less-than-ideal circumstances in 2020, I sat down to envision the Christmas I want to celebrate. It might not be everything I want it to be, but it will be quieter and calmer.
I’m not sure why I’ve never done this before. Instead of filling the calendar with events, I decided to pause to ask myself how I want it to be. In this case, what should Christmas look like during this crazy pandemic?
I decided this year we won’t have extra high Christmas expectations. We won’t plan the perfect holiday dinner for twelve people or take our children on lots of holiday adventures. We won’t aim to have ideal gifts picked out for everyone on our list either.
This year we are making new traditions. We will bundle up for late-night winter walks to see Christmas lights in our neighborhood. Then bake ninja sugar cookies after reading The Ninjabread Man. On Christmas morning, we will ride our bikes while wearing pajamas.
Maybe we can’t perform all of the activities on our typical advent calendar of good. We can’t volunteer like I initially wanted either, but we will donate money in unique ways to spread joy and love.
We will switch up the Christmas traditions and try new activities.
Minimalist Christmas Gifts
This is not the first time we’ve pared down Christmas. We started many years ago. Our first task was to cut down on the number of gifts we were giving and receiving.
My mom proposed the idea of a no-gift Christmas a decade ago. We started small, but gradually cut back on presents until we stopped giving them all together.
We stopped buying for our parents, siblings, and friends. Everyone agreed on this approach, and there weren’t any hard feelings. By that time, we all had children, so we focused on buying them gifts instead.
I was happy to stop stressing out about finding the perfect gift, and I was even more delighted to end the thoughtless gift giving cycle.
Minimalist Gift Giving for Children
We don’t typically buy much for our kids. When I do shop, I search for exciting experiences and consumables.
This year it may seem more challenging to provide experiences. We can’t plan trips to nearby hotels, zoos, climbing zones, or bowling with everything closed down, but I haven’t given up hope.
I’m searching for online lessons, and creating coupons for a day of playing games, making their favorite foods, or cooking in the kitchen together.
Now that the kids are slightly older, I also have a better understanding of toys that last. Legos, blocks, play tents, and outdoor equipment gets played with much more than single-use toys. I don’t mind buying them toys they love. I just want to limit shelves overflowing with items they won’t use.
Minimizing Christmas Traditions
If you’ve held on to unhealthy holiday traditions, this might be the time to throw them out. Look at your typical December calendar activities and decide which you love and which you don’t.
This isn’t easy to do, but sometimes it’s necessary.
In the past, my husband and I would drive an hour away to cut down live Christmas trees with other members of his family. A week or so after Thanksgiving, we piled into our cars and headed to a Christmas tree farm.
We tortured ourselves by waking up early, driving far away, and walking around in the cold, searching for a tree. We always went when it was convenient for the rest of the family, and once we set the date, we had no choice but to go. This often resulted in searching for trees on rainy days or days that were terribly cold.
Now, this could have been fun. We could have pulled on our boots, grabbed a raincoat, and headed out, but the adventure was never enjoyable. Extended family members complained about the weather, the lack of trees to choose from, how long the line was taking, and oh so many other things.
One year my husband finally said, “Enough! This isn’t fun for me, and I don’t want to do it anymore.”
So, we cut the tradition out of our routine. It wasn’t easy. His family was, and is, still disappointed in this decision. But the choice has been so much better for our family.
Now, we drive to a local lot on a grassy spot and search for a tree we like. We still have that grassy, outdoor feel, but we don’t have to wake so early to join other family members or drive an hour to pick it up. We don’t have to listen to the constant complaints either.
Our kids don’t remember picking out trees or cutting them down, so they don’t mind the new approach. They are just as happy walking around the lot as they would be at a farm.
As an added perk, all of the trees in the lot are beautiful compared to the sickly ones we used to find.
Think hard about your Christmas traditions. Which ones do you love and which ones do you want to get rid of?
Minimizing Christmas Decor
Some people store boxes of ornaments while others want to minimize their Christmas decorations. I’m a sucker for a big Christmas tree with a ton of lights, but over the years, we’ve pared down our box of ornaments.
We also pared down our decorations. We kept the singing angel that sat on my grandmother’s living room table, the snow globe my husband gave me one Christmas, and five wine bottles decorated like Santas, elves, and penguins that I adore.
I’ve also made a tiny forest of Christmas trees around the house. Fake little trees I bought on the day after Christmas two years ago. We string them with battery-powered lights and glittery stars. They sit near the fire, on the mantle, in the dining room and entryway to our house.
I’ve always been a sucker for those sparkly lights, and I want to fill my home with them. Like choosing which traditions to keep, I’ve decided how much or how little I want to decorate. If you’re going to minimize your holiday, I suggest you do the same.
A Different Christmas This Year
Although I am looking forward to changing up Christmas, this holiday season will be hard. As much as I sometimes feel stressed out by get-togethers with family and friends, I now realize how much I treasure that time together.
Twenty years ago, I pushed my friends from college to get together at Christmas, and I don’t think we’ve missed a year since that time. Without that arrangement, I’m not sure that we would be as close as we are today.
This will be the first year we won’t see each other, but all hope is not lost. We are moving to a Google Meet instead.
I am grateful for my family. I know that many will celebrate alone this year. We dropped off a tiny Christmas tree earlier this week for a friend who will spend the holiday by himself without friends, family, or decorations.
It’s important to be grateful for all that we have, including the privilege of choosing a minimalist Christmas. Not everyone is so lucky.
How Do You Want to Celebrate Christmas This Year?
This year more than any other, we will sit down together to decide how to celebrate. We won’t be visiting our parents. My kids won’t see our grandparents. What can we do instead?
Should we prepare an extra tasty meal or make this the year to order Chinese food? Should we sit around reading Christmas stories, watch a movie, or drive around in search of Christmas lights in our area?
How can we make this holiday a special occasion without the typical Christmas traditions? How can we celebrate a low-key Christmas at home that is just as magical?
What plans do you have for Christmas this year? Which traditions will you be able to keep and which will you change? Will you aim to create a minimalist Christmas, or do you feel compelled in this crazy year to make it bigger than ever?