An Uncomplicated Holiday: Resisting the Rush

The following post is by Megan Tietz and originally appeared in December 2009. With just a little less than two weeks until Christmas, I thought her words would serve as a good, gentle reminder to keep the holidays simple for our kids and for ourselves. Enjoy! – Kara

With just ten days left until Christmas Day, the pace is beginning to quicken in my home.

Does it feel that way for you?

It seems that no matter how devoted I am to the pursuit of an uncomplicated holiday, the days leading up to Christmas and New Years feel more and more frenzied.  I find myself doing frequent “tension checks” throughout the day – noticing the curt responses to my children, the nagging weight of gifts still not purchased, and the inner turmoil over the dwindling Christmas budget.

When I take a moment to step back and assess what helps me resist the rush in the countdown to Christmas, I’ve noticed three practices that inspire me to an enjoyment of the season rather than an attitude of “I must endure.”

1) Stay out of the stores.

We’ve thoughtfully planned out our children’s Christmas presents, using the “Something she wants, something she needs, something to wear, something to read” idea as we made our purchases.  Yet a simple dash into the discount store or a brisk walk through the mall leaves me feeling bombarded with all that my children will not be receiving this year.

My days are so much more simple and guilt-free when I can stay out of the stores (and curtail my internet browsing as well!).

2) Keep a visual.

Place visual reminders in your path that guide your expenditures of time, money, and energy.  Perhaps you might bring your checked-off Christmas gift list with you on outings to assure yourself that you really don’t need to buy anymore.  Leave a spreadsheet with your Christmas budget open on your desktop.  Refer to your family calendar often so you can know how to respond to last-minute invitations and activities.  Tape the list with your three Most Important Things to your bathroom mirror so that you start each day with the essential in mind.

This season abounds with opportunity to over-commit and overspend, and a visual guide does wonders to keep me in check.

3) Pursue (and delight in!) the simple pleasures.

Yesterday at Zen Habits, Leo shared some thoughts on How to Be Mindful During the Holidays.  His encouragement to focus on simple pleasures reminded me of precisely what has filled my heart with happiness this season: the way our two year old squeals with delight each evening when our neighbors turn on their outdoor Christmas lights, the way our preschooler beams as she performs the songs she’s learned for her school’s Christmas program, the Christmas cards that arrive daily bringing the faces and news of those we love into our home.

The stuff of the Christmas season brings me stress.  The spirit of this season brings me joy, hope, and hope.  I want to honor the spirit and not the stuff with my thoughts, words, and deeds.

How does your family turn mindful ideals into practical application throughout the holidays?

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  1. Lovely article. We’re trying to have a simple christmas, but what with flying to visit my family in England last week and not even having decorations up yet I fear we’re getting behind and beginning to rush. This is a nice reminder to slow it down.
    .-= Satakieli´s last blog ..Oh, Hello Winter! pt.2 =-.

    • Oh my! I can only imagine how a trip like that could throw things for a loop. But what an amazing thing to get to experience this time of year, too. Slow down and take it a bit by little bit.

  2. thank you for this.

    i had lost track of when christmas is (despite two advent calendars!). i thought there was an extra weekend between now and christmas and earlier this week when i realized there was not, i went into quite a tailspin.

    what helped to get me out of it was getting outside. my kids and i spent yesterday afternoon hiking in the woods talking to the gnomes and fairies, photographing moss, listening to birds.

    it was just what i needed to refocus on what is important to me during this special season…simple beauty, magical moments, and being fully present with my loved ones.

    today we’ll spend some time making ornaments for friends and then getting back outside for another nature walk!

    .-= exhale. return to center.´s last blog ..mamaste mothers’ circles begin in january =-.

    • Oh, Erin! What a thoughtful and timely response. It’s been so cold here (well, cold to my warmth-loving self) that I’ve been avoiding the outdoors. It’s starting to take its toll on me, I can tell. Thanks to your inspiration, we are going to bundle up and go for a walk today. I need outdoor reconnecting time in a big way – especially today! Thanks for sharing this. It means so much!

  3. Hello,

    I live abroad and am the charity person for a small women’s association. Between raising $80,000 at our annual Christmas bazaar, organizing a January food drive, planning one Christmas party for families in need and one for a gerontology/rehabilitation center, and looking for a beneficiary for our breast cancer event in March, I have had no time to get caught up in any kind of consumerist hullaballoo. I guess I haven’t for years now. A tree goes up on the 24th, one or two gifts are purchsed for my two girls around that last week, a simple dinner is prepared, cards go out if I thought of it, my mom gets the same journal every year, my dad insists he doesn’t need/want anything. I never have any wishes for myself except to be more at peace. I have to say I am ever so glad not to own a television and, probably, to live abroad where life is slower by itself without having to hang on catchwords like simplicity, ya know? Have a beautiful holiday season!

  4. We made some simple ornaments last night and it felt really nice to sit quietly and work. It counters the business of the season. (However I feel that the big bad wolf is at my door.) I surrender to simple ornament making this week as a remedy.

  5. We are minimalist this year about gifts and I’m proud to say that I’ve successfully avoided the malls! It’s my first time ever….can I take a bow? My husband and I decided to give one another tickets to a Broadway show and we’re keeping it simple (leave it to the grandparents to go a little nutty with gift-giving!).

    We were snowed in today, and it was perfect. Pajamas all day. Movie. Popcorn. Fire. It was the perfect prelude to Christmas.
    .-= turnitupmom´s last blog ..Small Beef Bites and Easy Apps for Families =-.

  6. I love, love, love the idea of “something she wants, something she needs, something to wear, something to read.” I think it is a fabulous outlook to take in terms of gift giving for the holidays.

    We definitely followed most of your ideas here as we moved into the holiday this year. I simply refused to let Christmas become a time of “must.” Must shop. Must bake. Must produce. We tried to shift our focus to doing the things we enjoyed with the family. It was helpful that I bought the presents for the kids throughout the year at second-hand stores or church bazaars, so we came to the holiday feeling prepared and not overwhelemed.

    We baked because we enjoy baking. We only shopped when absolutely necessary, but when we did so, we looked for gifts for the grandparents that inspired us…not gifts for the mere purpose of giving “something.” We did lots of crafts together because we enjoy crafting together.

    Thank you so much for this post!
    .-= Amy´s last blog ..Pretty Girl =-.

  7. I’m so glad to hear that these thoughts were inspiring. I honestly had to refer back to many of the things I wrote so I keep my own sanity and intention in check. Thank you all so much for sharing the ways you have kept your holidays minimal and ENJOYABLE!

  8. Very nice post, Christmas can be a lot of mess and exceeds


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