Simpler Christmas

Simpler Christmas

Regardless of what you call those special days at the end of the year – Christmas, Hanukah, holidays (even Festivus!) – you are being encouraged to shop, spend, give, party, and visit. Commercials give you unsolicited advice about the purchase that will make you a winner to friends and family alike; the Hallmark Channel implies true love will come at last; and everyone has a manic fascination with snow that they will then complain about once it starts falling.

Pretty much everything except singing and viewing decorations is an investment of time, money, or relationships. If you are as invested as Clark Griswold in having the perfect Christmas, regardless of the costs, you increase the likelihood of emerging on the other side of New Year’s with a lot of bills and relationships that still aren’t perfect.

For years, I’ve had a fascination with “Simple Christmas.” You may call it by another name, but the idea is the same: enjoying the holidays without dreading them or suffering the aftermath.

There’s still time! Here are some ideas to help:

Realistic spending. Gallup says the average U.S. adult plans to spend $885 on gifts this year. If you can’t afford to be that “average,” perhaps deciding what you want to do and spend now is a smart move. Yes, that can mean setting up a budget, but it can also mean being creative.

Got a large family? Draw names for gifts. Or, teach a skill.

Create handmade gifts. My friend Tanya makes cute ornaments each year for children and friends. Many of those can still be found on our Christmas tree years later.

Use your words. A personal, heartfelt message in a letter can be treasured by those that receive them.

Realistic expectations. If you truly believe, deep down, that this year you can finally straighten out your relatives about politics, or that years of slights and disagreements will magically melt away because of the spirit of the season … well just get over that. (See “Hallmark” above.)  Families aren’t perfect.

Instead, lower your sights a bit. If a full calendar or long car trips stresses the family, be involved in less activities and travel less (or at least break up the marathon with some fun). If you knock yourself out with preparations, do less or involve more.

If you remember experiences more than gifts from years past, others will too! Plan activities, work a jigsaw or play games. A former co-worker got together with siblings each year and they all made chocolates together. Traditions are meaningful for kids of all ages.

Realistic assistance. Do you believe it is better to give than receive? Consider helping many people with many needs, in ways that are meaningful to you.

About 31 percent of giving happens in December, around 12 percent just in the last three days! Give smart: If you are looking for a charity, find one that addresses your passions in the most financial responsible way.

Organizations like Charity Navigator and GuideStar evaluate charities and suggest ways your gift can be smarter and go further. You may ask for others to make a donation in your name as a gift, or do the same for others after checking with them first. Donorbox has a list of ideas to “party for a cause.”

Closer to home, volunteering to help others or Angels Tree charities are examples of ways to make a difference locally. Adapt the ideas above to benefit someone else!

From budgeting to travel planning to baking and crafts, our library collection and staff can assist you in your research. Let us help make your holidays less stressful and more satisfying!