Monday, December 8, 2014

Simplifying in a Season of Excess

By Niki Turner

Remember how hard it was to wait for Christmas to arrive when you were a kid? From the arrival of the Montgomery Ward and Sears Christmas catalogs, to opening the doors on the Advent calendar every day (I had the kind with chocolate), to finally getting to Christmas Eve and anticipating all the joy to come the following morning, preparation for Christmas seemed to take forever.
You can still find chocolate-filled advent calendars! 
Fast forward to adulthood, when Christmas seems to fly at you at warp speed. There are plans to make, shopping to do, baking to be done, events to attend, and traditions to uphold, all while keeping oneself and one's family focused on Christ and his coming. It's a challenge. It can be overwhelming, exhausting, and downright distracting. I clearly remember frantically wrapping gifts between contractions on the night my youngest son decided to arrive, just two weeks before Christmas.

This year, with no little ones in my living space to amuse and entertain with Christmas decor, I decided to simplify. No tree, no decorations, no lights... just my advent wreath on the table where I spend time every morning in prayer and Bible study. I'll shop for gifts for immediate family over the next week, take granddaughter to The Nutcracker in Aspen next weekend, and maybe mix up a batch or two of penuche, but that's it. That's all I feel "led" to do this year.

Half of me feels guilty, and the other half feels unreasonably relieved: Guilty that I'm not frenetically hanging Christmas lights and crafting three-story Victorian gingerbread houses, yet relieved that I'm not facing days of clean-up after Dec. 25, and can focus on preparing my heart and mind for the coming year, considering new ways to give Christ reign in my day to day life, seeking His plans and purposes for me in the year to come. It's making for a different, and interesting, Christmas season for me. I was the mom who put up a fully-decorated tree in every room of the house, had wreaths on every door, Christmas cards sent to every acquaintance in my address book, and so on.
(NONE of those things are bad, BTW! If you want to do them, do them with all your heart!)

Have you ever had a Christmas season where you set aside all the traditional trappings? 
Or where you changed around your usual methods of celebrating the season? 
Did you stick with those changes, or return to your former routines?


  1. Niki, it sounds like you're done with Christmas commercialism overload and are settling in to enjoy the true meaning of Christmas. Kudos for being brave and wise.

    Nelson and I always used the very same advent calendars you picture in your post. Because of the boys' milk allergy, I used to buy them, open the box, slide out the tray and empty the chocolates into a bowl. Then I'd refill with milk-free melted chocolate, cool, slide the tray back in, and re-seal. They loved it because it made them feel the same as everyone else. After a year or two, I noticed that the advent calendar chocolates didn't contain milk ingredients any longer and so that saved me a lot of time.

    Last year I found our advent calendars piled - forgotten - under a list of mail, and so this year is our first without it. None of the kids have called home asking if their calendar is waiting for them. And Nelson and JJ haven't asked either. So that's one tradition we won't be keeping this year, either.
    I mean, I don't really need that itty bit of chocolate to end my day, eh.

    1. That chocolate was different than any other chocolate I've ever had, Anita. One of those flavors that sticks in your memory!
      I bought the chocolate advent calendars last year for the grandbabies, but forgot all about it this year. It's OK, they probably don't need the extra sugar! And neither do I!

  2. I never had a chocolate advent calendar, but we do have the paper kind with pictures behind the windows. We also have a Lego advent "calendar" and one of Noah's Ark, where the animals all have Velcro tabs and you stick them on the scene.

    We attend a Liturgical church so we have an advent wreath, too, and we use a book of devotions to accompany our dinner conversation.

    That said, I am already tired from activities and am a bit upset at myself. I want to savor the true meaning of the season and really enjoy it this year, not let it get trampled under the busyness going on. So far, I'm not doing as well. Plus, I have to write like crazy for a deadline. Time to spend some quiet with the Lord, I think!

    1. I love my advent wreath! I light it in the morning during my quiet time and it just sets the right tone for the day.

  3. With the kids getting older, everyone seems happy with keeping Christmas focused on family and God. We keep presents pretty minimal these days. And my goal every year is to recycle as much wrapping stuff from the previous year as humanly possible! I've also cut way back on parties. It seems like for a while, the parties got so out of hand that they completely ruined my holiday.

    1. I'm the same way, Dina, going out and buying all new everything to wrap with seems crazy.
      And parties??? GAH! NO! ;)

  4. I'm decorating this year for the first time in at least seven or eight years, because I'm hosting. Overall, I've given up most of the traditions (I only make one kind of Christmas cookie nowadays) And our family only buys gifts for the kids and don't exchange between adults. To me, it's so much more relaxing and enjoyable.

    1. Ah, yes, if I were hosting (wait, that would require me to have my own house to host in!) I would feel more excited about decorating.
      We also only do gifts for the kids. They appreciate them more! I told my young adult sons last night if they don't get me some Christmas gift ideas by Thursday they're getting ugly Christmas sweaters, socks, and underwear!


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