December rolls in all glitter, rush and expectation. It rolls in with high excitement and sometimes with an undercurrent of desperation. Everywhere we turn, we are asked, are we ready for Christmas? Do we have all of our gifts? Have we bought a new dress for the endless rounds of Christmas dinners and parties? Have we chosen the perfect picture for our Christmas card yet? Baked? Cleaned the house? Written long wish lists so that no gift is left to chance or a happy surprise?
Are we ready for a season of distraction?
Christmas has become something of a competitive sport with many of us looking toward the outward preparation rather than inward. Though not bad in and of themselves, a beautifully decorated house, expensive heaps of presents under a glittering tree, the Christmas shopping frenzy that people enjoy getting caught up in are all ways that can complicate Christmas. These things are not wrong but alone, they do not necessarily denote a readiness for Christmas.
Many people crave simplicity and are seeking a way out of the grasp of materialism and consumerism. A way past the sense of dissatisfaction, emptiness and unease they leave us with. Many of us are looking for ways to be counter-cultural, to avoid the famed "Christmas rush," to fill our hearts with something more than what can be purchased.
How can we do this? How can we ready ourselves for Christmas with a spirit of simplicity?
1) We Can Rethink The Way We Go about Giving Gifts
Most of us have so much that we need very little. We live in a time when acquiring what we want is easier than ever before. It used to be that people received new things once or twice a year making the idea of gifts something to genuinely look forward to. We can decide to rethink the act of gift giving in a way that is actually more generous and satisfying than simply fulfilling our own wants or shopping to excess.
We can give the gift of our time. It is easy to buy someone a gift, it requires little of us. Sometimes offering our time to a person demands more of us than giving a gift does. Offering to take someone out for coffee or dinner and making a point of enjoying that time is a precious gift. A gift of connection and love. I include myself in this when I say, we are often far more generous with our money than we are with our time.
We can donate to charity in someones name. This is a beautiful expression of compassion. We all have causes and charities we feel strongly about. Make a donation in a loved ones name instead of buying physical gifts and enter into what the spirit of Christmas is really about.
We can buy gifts for those who don't have the means to do so themselves. Many organizations accept gifts for families that can't afford to buy any at Christmas time. This is a wonderful thing to involve small children in. Encouraging them to choose a gift that they would like to give to a child who otherwise may not receive anything at Christmas.
We can give thoughtful small or homemade gifts. This is a considerate way to show people we love them as well. Creating something by hand, or choosing something small yet thoughtful is a loving way to say, "I see you and appreciate you." These gifts often mean more than a generic expensive one does.
We can donate. The Christmas season is also an excellent time to look for gently used toys or clothing to donate to charities. Clearing some of the clutter from our homes can help us to focus more on the needs of others.
2) We Can Choose Carefully What Events We Attend
We are under no obligation to anyone. We can say no graciously to any party, dinner, or gathering that we do not want to attend. A part of simplicity is saying no in order to be able to say yes to the things we really do think are important.
3) We Don't Have to Send Christmas Cards to Everyone
Cards are a lovely way to send Christmas greetings and I enjoy them but for many, the pressure to choose a perfect family photo and create the cutest card and then to send it to everyone in the address book is an unnecessary stress. Keep card giving as simple as possible. If this is an area of stress, keep your list short, your greetings personal and thoughtful but again, succinct.
4) Choose What We Love And Celebrate It
We are free to choose our own ways of celebrating Christmas. We can let go of feeling burdened by what others expect of us or feel is the proper way to celebrate. If what matters is faith, then make spiritual preparation a priority during Advent and at Christmas. If making memories with ones children, families and friends is the aim, then do the things that align with that. If we prefer to travel and not take part in the Christmas rush at all, then by all means, we should do so and enjoy every second. If we love the Christmas rush and the shopping and decorating and parties, then we should be allowed to enjoy that too without being made to feel bad.
The key is that simplicity lies in being true to what you genuinely love and editing our lives to fit this vision.
In the end, there should be no guilt or anger because others choose not to enjoy the season as we do. Let Christmas be a time of deep joy. Let us try to seek peace in our hearts, our homes and our families. Let it be a time of forgiveness and authentic love for ourselves and others. A time of generosity of the soul and openness of the heart.
Let's get ready for Christmas! May the coming year be full of joy for you all!