Written by contributing writer Ashley Haupt at Little Pieces of Ordinary blog.
When it comes to overblown Christmas expectations, you can call me Queen Bee. Every year, I would make an insanely long list of people I wanted to bake treats for, I wanted to decorate our house inside and out, and I often overspent our Christmas budget. I also felt slightly crazy throughout December, chasing my tail and all these high expectations.
My husband is a pastor, and I had the grand goal every year that we would bake homemade treats for ALL the widows in our church and deliver them in person with our adorable children in tow. We had a large number of widows and baking so many individual treats was more work than I bargained for, so we ended up making deliveries right up to our last trip out of town to visit our families for Christmas. It was well-intentioned, but exhausting and stressful.
It’s only taken nine years and four kids, but I have finally learned my lesson. Lower expectations.
This is what I want for Christmas this year.
A realistic list of treat-baking.
This list is something I will pray over, but it will be much shorter than ever before. I have four small children, and while people do appreciate homemade treats, we all get a lot during the holidays. A simple card or even a hug and a smile will go just as far.
Candles and hymns with my family.
Advent calendars are very popular for families with children, but keeping up with all those activities is very exhausting to me, and if we miss a day, it feels like failure. Maybe someday. Candles and carols by the tree sets the tone for the season.
Only the favorite decorations.
Only my favorites this year will make it into our home. I’m tossing or giving away anything that doesn’t blow my socks off with joy.
Christmas card display.
I have not sent out cards for many years (maybe someday!), and I am not planning to do it this year either, but I do plan to hang a garland of burlap and ribbon with clothespins. As the cards arrive from loved ones, I will allow the kids to update the garland and enjoy seeing the cards from friends.
We have the Little People nativity, and I want to allow each of our children to tell the Christmas story to the family using the set. Abby, my seven year old, is working on making her own nativity scene out of cardboard. We also have a beautiful hand-painted set from a family member. All of these sets help us remember the meaning of Christmas.
As a minimalist, I opt for functional gifts whenever possible. I know some families choose not to give gifts on Christmas, and while I do admire that, Christmas is a good time for us to add special pieces to our lives. We don’t buy random gifts for our kids, so we really enjoy getting to spend a little extra at Christmas. Some of my favorite ideas:
- Blank books! Kids can’t wait to fill them up with imaginative stories when they see these. Even my son, who rarely writes stories wanted to write one when we got these.
- Nice art supplies. Most children’s art kits contain terrible brushes and the paints are thin and runny. Same with the typical pads of kid’s art paper—too thin to hold up to the art process. Since it is Christmas, just spending a little extra money on some water color paper, a sketch book, acrylic paints and nice brushes makes the painting experience new and exciting. Steer clear of the kits, which tend to use lower quality materials. Make your own kit! You can “wrap” it in a cute tub that will also provide storage.
- Goblet Gobblers. Wooden and durable, it’s a kid’s game, but I promise you will find yourself playing it with your spouse. So fun!
- Puzzle stools or personalized puzzles. A little pricey, but a wonderful combination of function and play and color and decoration.
- Special lessons, tickets to a play, or a scrapbook of a special day: alternatives to traditional toy-gifts. I made a small scrapbook for our son one year that also read like a book about him. He loved it then and still loves it now.
- Zoob Bug. This is definitely a toy, but one that allows wonderful scope for the imagination. My boys (five and three) play with them every single day.
That’s it. Those are my goals for Christmas this year. I want to feel the full meaning of the season and I can’t do that when I am rushing hither, thither, and yon, so I will keep a careful eye on the calendar squares, too, to ensure they don’t fill up. I will also be vigilant with hand-washing and healthy eating to prevent (as much as possible) sickness, which can ruin the holidays.
When Mary experienced all the ordinary and extraordinary blessings of the first Christmas, the Bible tells us that she treasured it all up in her heart. This is what I want, too. I want to treasure the experience, savor it slowly, and worship from a glad heart.
Here’s wishing you a merry little Christmas this year.
Also, I will be keeping a Merry Little Christmas Journal about our family of six as we move through the month of December, striving for a meaningful season. You are more than welcome to join us.