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Why (and How) I'm Simplifying Christmas

For this mom, Christmas is about putting thought into the gifts and memories she makes with her family. Here's how she does it, so you can make the season less stressful for your family, too.

Christmas as a kid was magical. Christmas as a mom has a very fine line between magical and sanity-inducing, between giving and piling on debt, between merry and losing the meaning of the season entirely. So, I'm simplifying Christmas. Here's why, and how I'm still making the day magical for my family.

Why I'm Simplifying Christmas

My first Christmas as a mom, I wanted to go all out and pile gifts beneath the tree. My husband was thankfully there to remind me that our two-month-old couldn't even open gifts. I picked out a few things and sat him in my lap while opening the gifts that I myself had wrapped. It was simple, but it was a beautiful morning creating memories with our brand new family.

Fast forward a few years, and I have a toddler who will happily tear through presents and a nine-month old who will probably be more interested in eating the wrapping paper than playing with whatever's inside. While my toddler is old enough to open gifts, he's also young enough to be frustrated when he has to finish unwrapping before playing with the new toys and young enough that he's still learning what Christmas is about. And that's the biggest reason I'm choosing to keep Christmas simple—I don't want my kids to think Christmas is about getting presents. Following are the reasons why I'm simplifying Christmas.

To Teach Thankfulness.
Teaching a child thankfulness becomes impossible when he has every toy he could ever want. My kids are growing up in a society that has crowds piling through stores to buy more and more the day after the holiday of thanks. If I want my child to be different, I have to do something different.

To Spend More Time Than Money. My kids would much rather spend time playing with mom or dad than playing with toys -- even a new toy. Each item under the tree represents time spent working to earn that purchase, and of course the time spent to purchase and wrap that item.

To Put More Thought Into Gifts. Because I'm not buying as many gifts, I'm putting more thought into each one. I'm buying fewer inexpensive “filler” gifts that are justified with “it was on sale.” Instead, I'm putting a lot of thought into each gift.

To Tame the Toys. Our family happens to be blessed with two sets of grandparents that still work to make Christmas magical, just like they made it for us as kids. By the time the kids have opened gifts from Santa, grandparents, and aunts and uncles, they need a new toy box to put it all in. We're so blessed and thankful to have families that find joy in giving, but if I go overboard, there won't be anything left on the wish list for family to choose from or any place to actually put it all.

Because my Family Is Young. My kids haven't yet reached the age where they're jealous of what their friends got or are circling 500 different things in the toy catalogs. I'm hoping that by creating simple yet meaningful traditions while the kids are young, I can define Christmas by what works for our family, not by what everyone else is doing.

How I'm Simplifying Christmas

But, how do you simplify Christmas without being a Grinch? I love Christmas and everything that comes with it, which makes it so easy to go overboard. It's a matter of finding a happy medium.

Finding a Reason for the Number of Gifts I Buy. I buy each of my kids three toys for Christmas—representing the three gifts that Jesus received from the Wise Men. I love that I have a deeper meaning for what's under the tree then whatever happened to fit in Santa's sleigh (or budget) that year. I know others who do one gift that's a want, one that's a need, one to wear, and one to read. My parents spend a set amount of money on each child. It's not important what you choose -- just that whatever you decide has meaning to your family.

Prioritizing Giving, not Getting. Along with those three toys, I plan to let my kids pick out gifts for each other. There's joy in giving, and I hope to incorporate that by including my kids in the giving part, too. While my nine-month-old is too young to understand, my toddler is certainly big enough to learn about giving.

Talking to Family Members. Two years ago, we made a big step toward simplifying Christmas by drawing names for nieces and nephews instead of buying each one a gift. That would have never happened without simply talking to everyone. This way, we can spend a little more on each child, still make family Christmas memorable, and not spend quite so much with such a large family.

Making Memories, not Stress. It's very easy to get caught up in what you think Christmas should look like and quickly become stressed over achieving that. Consider what you are planning for Christmas, and only include the activities that create joy for your family, or you'll be swallowed up in busyness. For our family, that means choosing a Christmas tree together, but skipping out on outdoor Christmas lights. It means letting the kids create a new ornament every year instead of spending money on creating a Pinterest-worthy tree.

I don't think more gifts makes Christmas magical. In fact, it may even be the opposite when more gifts mean stressed-out parents. By simplifying Christmas, I'm able to create magical memories for my young family without creating stress and debt.

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