Keeping It Simple

Nativity card

Do you feel, as most seem to feel this time of year, especially harried and overwhelmed with all the tasks and activities you think you’re supposed to do to feel the peace and serenity of the season? “Are you ready for Christmas?” we are all asked several times a day. The question probably spurs you to consider such things as shopping, gift wrapping, card sending, baking, and a thousand other et ceteras. I ask you, if you’re celebrating the birth of the Savior and all that that means to us, what do all of those activities really have to do with the price of cheese in China? Christmas will come regardless of any preparations you make. The sun will continue to rise and set, and believe it or not, you are the main one who will notice what you didn’t do.

Take, for example, the time I was in charge of planning games for a homeschool children’s holiday party. We expected around a hundred children, all ages from toddlers to teenagers. I researched fun games online, tried to consider what would appeal to such a mixed group, and carefully planned what all I would need to prepare and bring to facilitate the playing of each game. The kids were excited for the party, but it was difficult to get them to line up and listen to the instructions and play the games. It felt too structured. (And isn’t that partly what we were trying to avoid by homeschooling in the first place?) Then one of the moms showed up with several large plastic bags filled with dozens of blown-up balloons. Forget structure! The entire room of kids, all ages, went for the balloons. For the next hour there were kids running around and around and balloons being hit and floating everywhere. It was the longest and the most fun all of the kids had at the party. Maybe the balloons had been meant for decorations—I don’t even know. But I do know, if the balloons had been taped up anywhere to decorate, I doubt they would have been appreciated or even noticed.

I’m not saying not to do anything for Christmas, or to pretend it’s just another day. I’m saying to let it happen naturally. You are not in charge of the occurrence of the holiday. Stop with all the structure, unless you happen to be one of those six people worldwide who thrives on holiday stress. We don’t even do much gift buying, and certainly not for family outside the immediate family. They don’t expect it, and they all survive just fine. Here’s a secret: Kids don’t naturally expect numerous, expensive toys. They have to be taught, and that happens by experience. You know how it goes for one-year-olds at their first birthday party? How they receive all these cool gifts but end up playing with the boxes instead? So why aren’t we just giving them boxes? Because the adults want to give the fancy things, thus instituting the expectations of the kids in later years. Our family laughs when we remember one of our sons, when he was around five or so, asking Santa at the church Christmas party for a DYMO label maker, just because he liked to punch out letters and label things. You can bet he got one too!

For me, I love baking so I look forward to trying several Christmas cookie recipes. I love looking at Christmas lights. Our family recently drove around an area we hadn’t been to before looking at some very high-class light decorations. It was a totally unplanned, spontaneous evening, and it was fantastic. The whole family declared it a memorable night, and it didn’t require any scheduling, invitations, shopping, decorating, cooking, or cleaning.

I love the short, one-page inspirational Christmas stories we receive from various places. I keep them all. I think this year we’ll celebrate the twelve days of Christmas by choosing one each night to read aloud. I love to listen to Christmas music on the radio. I love watching Christmas shows on TV.

So if this is a stressful time of year for you, start thinking outside the box and relax so that you can answer the big question like I do, “I am ALWAYS ready for Christmas.”

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