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Simplifying the Holiday Season

by Naomi Cramer Overton

essentials

December 3, 2013

Simplifying the Holiday Season

Several years ago I determined I wouldn’t end up so tired, so empty during the holidays. As I thought about what had worked for me in the past, Here’s what made my Christmas wish list for simplifying the holiday season:

Give some of my gifts early

Starting early in December, I’ll give Advent gifts (using the Advent calendar’s countdown to Christmas) to most of the people on my gift list – leaving me only a few family gifts to give during those final days.

Wrap my gifts earlier

And I’ll throw a sheet over a pile of toys if it’s late and they’re still not wrapped or put them in a big plastic garbage bag with a bow around the top.

Keep the great news of Jesus in front of us

Find a way – any way. I won’t worry if I’ve found the “perfect” book to read every night. Or if the older kids laugh at some of the simple stories chosen for our youngest. I won’t give up because we missed our reading tradition for a week. We’ll keep reading and remembering these ideas by talking about them whenever we can.

Set a budget for my kids’ gifts

Help my children identify what they want most and then buy only those gifts – instead of gathering and stashing trinkets year long. (Even if the budget doesn’t overwhelm me, the sheer number of gifts does).

Help my kids learn about giving

Help my kids choose gifts for other children, or sing at a nursing home or throw a neighborhood birthday party for Jesus.

Save time for me and my husband

Spending time with a lot of other people during the holidays is stressful. I’ll reserve times around Christmas just for the two of us – planned or not – to fill or not as we choose, together.

Get rid of things that no longer fit

Whether it’s extra ornaments or outdated traditions, we’ll remove whatever distracts our family from what we believe is at the heart of this season.


How do you simplify the Christmas season at your house (or do you)?

How do you simplify the Christmas season at your house (or do you)?

 

Related topics: winter, organization, christmas

Share your thoughts

We try to keep it simple with gifts. My husband and I don't exchange, however, we take the kids out shopping to buy something for us. Does anyone do the "Something they want, something they need, something to wear, something to read" for their kids' gifts? I've found to shop early, otherwise the selection gets pretty picked over. I was also on a last minute quest for a t-shirt for my son's high school next year and the only sizes I found were XL and larger.

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I try to purchase our gifts by Thanksgiving so that I can enjoy celebrating the Christmas season without the worries of shopping.

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Soup(I make ahead of time) and Christmas cookies for Christmas eve so it's a time to focus on the real reason for the season, Jesus.

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Normally I just over buy this year I am trying to buy less and keep it all together. I tend to buy all year and then end up with way to much. I waited until December this year and just bought in December unless it was a great deal.

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I buy as many gifts as possible online.

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We simplify by reducing the amount of gifts we buy. For our children, we buy 4 gifts (something they want, something they need, something to wear, something to read)...each of these within a reasonable amount. In our extended family, all the adults draw a name and we set a limit ($25 dollars) for a gift. We focus more on creating special memories together and remembering the real reason for the season!

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Saying no to adding too many to-dos on our list.

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I like the idea of giving gifts early. Something we do is we decided a few years ago that we'd simplify our Christmas and just give one gift per person. This, combined with gifts from friends and extended family, is plenty for us. We also sometimes will get a gift for the whole family. We enjoy sitting down and mapping out our weeks leading up to Christmas and what activities we'll do together and when--setting up decorations, watching a Christmas movie, looking at Christmas lights, reading the story of Christ's birth, playing board games, decorating cookies for Santa, etc. It becomes a really fun 2 or 3 week celebration of Christmas that's full of quality family time. We also like to go on trips sometime during the month off, and because we save money on the presents, we can use that money toward a family vacation.

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I do minimal decorations. I don't want to have to rearrange my entire house with decor. We do a tree, lights outside, and some decorations on the fireplace mantle.

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On Christmas morning my husband, son, and I reserve time to enjoy each other as a family. We sleep in, have brunch, then open presents. This is such a lovely way for the three of us to appreciate a bit of family time before the chaos of extended family Christmas celebrations resume in the afternoon.

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I buy gifts early and wrap as soon as I buy

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In an effort to simplify Christmas gift giving and to save money, each year I attempt to DIY all of my Christmas gifts. Most of the time I end up with more 'pinterest fails' than successful homemade gifts. But it's the thought that counts, right?

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Money is always tight for us, so I try to start buying gifts a few months in advance and I also try to limit how many gifts I give and/or amounts.

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We love the "want, need, wear, read" for gifts!

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We have the kids go through their toys before Christmas to make room for some new toys. My husband and I follow the something to wear, read, want, and need for both kids. I also bought some board games and other fun things for the whole family :)

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We do one 'big' gift for each of our kids. It doesn't necessarily cost a lot but is something they've been talking about for quite a while...like more than a month. :) I also shop the clearance sections year-round. I don't buy something unless it jumps out at me as being a perfect gift for a specific person.

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I de-clutter as much as possible before the Holidays and try to keep it simple with the traditions. I'm excited to hang these on the tree this year! http://shop.familylife.com/p-3146-adorenaments-his-christmas-names-2013.aspx

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Trying to focus on a few key traditions, skip things that don't bring it back to what the season is really about (like Elf on the Shelf), and remembering that it's ok to say "no" to things so that I can say "yes" to others with my whole self.

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Like others, this year we are focusing more on Jesus being the reason for the season with my kids. We are reading a different advent bible verse each night. I'm also choosing not to get carried away by having to attend every Christmas event in the community.

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I am still learning how to balance Christmas with two little ones (2 yrs and 5 months old) and LOTS of relatives. We have so many different houses to visit within a 3 day span. It is really fun, but- really tiring. I am definitely going to focus on Jesus's birth and on trying to show His love and compassion to those in my circle- even though I may not have the budget to give the presents I would like to be able to give to those I love.

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My family and I enjoy this season very much!! We have drastically cut back on the trips we take during this season. We make it a priority to visit our parents but cut many other traveling engagements out. Since my husband has many siblings, we try to think ahead and prepare gifts that are special and unique by making some of the gift ourselves. We have many fun traditions that we enjoy with family and friends. Some of our favorites including getting an ornament for our tree that beat summaries the year, looking at Christmas lights while drinking a favorite hot beverage, and shopping for each other for simple yet thoughtful gifts. My prayer is that through this holiday season (and throughout the year), I will bring glory and honor to God through my actions and choices of how time is spent. I pray that my children and those around me will be able to glorify God during this season and throughout the year. Merry Christmas!!

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I try to stay on budget & keep up with all the good deals & sales. I try to get my young boys to know the true meaning on Christmas. We really enjoyed putting together the Operation Christmas Child boxes.

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I always shop sales through out the year. I do secret shoppers too so I can earn items for free. We limit social gatherings, no more than 1 a weekend and none on school nights. I also cut back on my holiday decorating. Much less to put out, dust, and then put away!

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For gifts, I try to buy throughout the year, when things are on sale, or when I have a coupon for them. Something extra I'm doing this year is hand-crafting "Mommy & Me Coupons" for my kids. Each of my children will receive a coupon booklet to use throughout the year for fun things like going bowling, rollerskating, going to the movies, going to a play, going out for ice cream, etc. Spending quality time together will create such fond memories!

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I feel much less stressed because I stepped away from my "Christmas Ideas" board on Pinterest!!!! :) I think Pinterest makes me crazy -- I lose my sense of perspective really quick!

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I'm not sure I'm more organized this year, but I'm taking a break from the craziness to make time for Truth in the Tinsel, and I'm so glad!!

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I am trying to be organized... I've succeeded in making a long to-do list... but I don't feel that organized. Thank you - would love to win a gift card!

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We focus on Jesus rather than Santa so that simplifies things a great deal.

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We keep things simple by following only a few traditions otherwise it can be too overwhelming. We also limit the gifts we buy other adults in the family. Our system works for our family. We just try to keep it simple.

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My husband is from Mexico and we have implemented some of the traditions he grew up with. Our church, which is a Spanish speaking congregation has posadas-- taking place the nine days before Christmas. They traditionally reenact Mary and Joseph's search for shelter in Bethlehem at a different house each night. Though we don't do the theatrical part, amidst all the celebration, reflect on the true history of Christmas. We also take ideas from Kings Day (Jan 6) and implement them into Christmas day, we choose to explain that we do it as the kings/wisemen did, and must remember that Jesus was and is the most important gift of all.

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(1) I buy presents early. (Santa delivered his gifts in early November.) Then, I can enjoy the holiday without stressing over (a) what to buy (b) long lines (c) out of stock items. (2) I am also a horrible gift giver, so I ask for a wish list. What I think is the perfect gift is usually too practical. When I hear someone say she likes something, I write it down. Then, I don't worry that my relatives won't like what I bought. (3) We have a tradition of 3 gifts from Santa and one from mom/ dad/ sister. That prevents my trying to keep up with what everyone else buys their children.

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we focus on the Biblical part of Christmas and the story of Jesus' birth and not so much on the comercial part of Christmas :)....also, try to do something special for someone who is financially struggling.

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Meet as a family at the end of each season, and decide what traditions everyone liked and wants to continue, and scrap the ones that weren't a hit. This way after a few years you can have it simple and just the stuff that everyone LOVES.

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We are focusing our time and energy on family and others instead of focusing on buying gifts and acquiring more "things".

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I find deals throughout the year so I don't do last minute shopping

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Love this!

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We shopped online so we can spend more family time together especially since hubby just came back from a 6 month tour.

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Simplify by only doing the two or three traditions that are truly important and meaningful, not every cute pinterest idea I see! :)

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Keeping the gifts simple and focusing more on the Reason why we celebrate Christmas.

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Keep it about Jesus and no presents from Santa.

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We shop online some and spend time with one side of the family mainly. Also this year we are only purchasing gifts for the kids of extended family and doing homemade gifts otherwise.

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Start buying throughout the year! If I see something on sale, have a coupon, or a great deal I buy it for others - no need to wait until December to buy gifts for others!

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We open gifts from extended family Christmas Eve or the day after Christmas. I also Christmas shop all year long, too much stress trying to do it all at once!

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we shop online and turn down going to a lot of Christmas parties... we focus family and actually go to only 2 "family parties one for each side of the family. :)

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Shop online as much as possible. And we also pick names in my extended family so we're not going crazy trying to buy for all the adults.

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We try to minimize the materialism/presents. Each of our kids gets 3 presents from us, just as Jesus got 3 gifts from the Magi.

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My family simplifies the holidays by babysitting exchanging for the adults instead of gift exchanging. Actual wrapped gifts are for each others kids only. It is understood that we help each other attend some of the many holiday adult events (work parties, friends parties, church parties) that keep our marriages nice and new. Socializing together is so important in a marriage and it becomes all the more special when family comes together to help support it during the holidays.

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A few years ago my son wanted to make a cake for Jesus on his birthday. We did and we do it every year now. He says it is a way that we can remember the reason for Christmas is Him and not for ourselves. He is so right, and I am so thankful that because of him that this tradition has been started in our family.

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We have set a budget on the amount we spend on our children. And another thing that helps is that we stick to this list of four things: 1. 2 items they want 2. 3 items they need (toothbrush, socks, underwear, etc.) 3. 2 items to wear (pants, shirts, whole outfits, etc.) 4. 2 or 3 books to read This makes it easy to stick to a budget when we know exactly what we are getting each child.

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We keep Christmas about Jesus and family. We give gifts because Jesus was the greatest gift given to us. This year we are simplifying Christmas a little more by giving each child only 3 gifts.

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Our main focus during this season is of course Jesus' birth. So we don't focus on the gift giving so much as trying to help others. Our kids are learning to make gifts for everyone during their "busy times". Not having to go to the store to spend all the money on gifts really cuts down on the stress & everyone loves homemade gifts.

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Our teenage children ask for cash every year, so we get them a nice card to express how much we love them and proud of them we are, and plop the cash inside. Our 4 year old is very vocal about what she wants, and we try to get her gifts early. We recently moved away from most of our family, and only have 1 place to spend Christmas this year. I am hopeful that this will make for a less stressful situation than in years past.

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Great giveaways! Thanks MOPS International! I simplify my holidays by doing the busy work (shopping, wrapping, planning) as early as possible, so my family can enjoy an easy pace in December.

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We travel to another state for Christmas so our immediate family always opens gifts from each other before we go...no need to haul them back and forth, especially helpful when flying! Also, the Christmas morning stocking gifts are only items that actually fit in the stocking...space is precious when we travel!

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Ours seem to be pretty simple. We haven't lived near family throughout our marriage, so we haven't been around to be pulled here there and everywhere. Although, at times I wish we were.

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shop all year and keep lists of what i buy. it's fun

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Get shopping done before the Thanksgiving!

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I only give each of my kids 3 gifts, and one of those is a book, and then Santa brings one gift as well. This cuts down on a lot of shopping, and especially on impulse purchases.

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We try to find fun and cheap activities to do with the kids. And take advantage of things that we already have like the Zoo Membership for Zoo Lights!

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We are only doing activities that we want to do, like the children's Christmas pageant and simplifying gift buying.

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Doing only what is important to me & my family - not what everyone else is doing.

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Write down things that people just mention in passing that they wish they had. We all just say, "oh, that would be nice to have a..." So, keep a list of things your spouse, parents friends talk about...then you will have your Christmas list made up with out asking for one!

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Have realistic expectations. Simplify gift-giving.

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Sibling gift exchanges with our families (less to buy for, esp in big families), and try to get as much shopping as we can done before Thanksgiving. oh and not stressing about decorations (keep them very minimal), sending Christmas cards, etc.

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have my kiddos make ornaments to put atop my packages! instant charm!

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We have most of our shopping done before Thanksgiving (we shop sales during the year.) We play a lot of board games & enjoy the time, together.

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Start young teaching the reason for the season

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We do our best to limit outside obligations.

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Wake up in our home on Christmas morning. Which also breaks up the driving a bit too.

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We draw names for adult gifts and have a $20 spending limit.

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We keep a schedule on which we try hard to prioritize our activities. We try to remain flexible enough that we can add or remove commitments as needed.

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We only give 3 main gifts to each child and limit the number of activities we do during the month.

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buy pre made appetizers and don't feel guilty about it!

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We are keeping a simpler schedule this year. Less doing & going and more family time at home.

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We are going smaller this year. We are only giving 3 gifts to each of the kids: a need, a want, and a surprise.

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This holiday I am trying to simplify by reminding myself that there is no perfect holiday and it's OK to say No!

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We have decided to simplify christmas by drawing names. It helps to lower our costs and keep the focus not on the "things" :)

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I simplify by making sure to keep our calendar light and making time for lots of family time. Setting aside a weekend of baking and making trays of cookies for our neighbors. The kids love delivering them!

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This is our third year with a very modest Christmas budget. We have been doing a Story of Christmas Advent calendar every year and this year we were given a new one that each day is a little ornament so we are going to get a small tree (also because we have a newly-mobile little one) and just put the advent ornaments on them. Since we got married my husband and I have kept Christmas morning for ourselves and since we moved about an hour away from our families this year we decided to visit them the weekend before and celebrate with them then instead of trying to drive there on Christmas day. We are going to have Christmas day with just the four of us.

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I like to prepare our favorite meals in advance and freeze them so they are ready to pop in the oven. That way I have plenty of time to do fun holiday things with my family instead of cooking!

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With ALL the big sales going on, it's so easy to go overboard on gifts for the kids! I'm trying to limit our gifts to 3 or 4 per child. When I start to think about cleaning up these "gifts" on the playroom floor, it makes limiting the gifts much easier! ;)

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Love these ideas and I've loved the last few Christmases of fewer gifts but more time together.

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I make a list of a reasonable amount of activities and things we want to do as a family and schedule the dates as far ahead as I can. This way things are planned and we don't waste time doing things that are too expensive and not memorable for our little one. We want this time to be special and magical and truly celebrated for its meaning.

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We are simplifying by putting up fewer decorations this year. And we went very simple with gifts for our son -- just 3 things plus a stocking!

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This year we are simplifying by cutting back on the number of gifts we are buying and we are not packing every weekend full of activities.

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We refrain from placing gifts under the tree until Christmas morning. In their place during December we keep a basket of books about Jesus's birth and Christmas parables for us to peruse during reading time. The conversations that spring up from those reads are more priceless than any gift that goes under our tree.

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Starting early is key for me! I start baking with my little one early so we can get all these cute cookies in the freezer and not rushing! Then when a good movie is on we can watch with a good Christmas cookie! :)

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I started shopping really early, especially for my son. If I saw a good deal or found something at Goodwill it would go up in the cupboard for Christmas. I wanted to get the commercial out of the Christmas season as much as possible so that we could focus on the fun holiday things. I've also been doing a lot more DIY Christmas gifts, especially for those in the family who already really have everything.

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We love this time of year and don't want to miss opportunities to enjoy it! We only have some many precious years to do things like this with our babies, so we pack it in. We like to focus on experiences rather than "things". The way I reduce stress with this is to be organized when the month starts with lots of fun activities planned. That way we can spend time together as a family giving, spreading joy, enjoying festivities, and remember the reason for the season. Merry Christmas!

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We simplified gifts for the boys last year but for a few years now we simplified gifts for extended family into a charitable donation of some sort. We've done Heifer Project, no child hungry, and the Boy Scouts (our local troop makes awesome Apple Butter as a fundraiser so I buy quite a few jars and have an instant gift).

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We only buy gifts for our kids, and we limit the amount we spend. We try to focus on the reason for the holiday, not the commercialism.

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I'm on top of organizing my gift giving list and family calendar by making lists, checking them often and staying on top of my tasks. Planning ahead is helping me stay on budget and reduces my holiday anxiety!

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We try to to squeeze everything in that we want. It's hard sometimes, but we have to remind ourselves that kids are only little for such a short time, and all the more creative traditions can wait a year or two.

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We are reading through the gospels! Lot's of time in the Word, and less time in front of screens.

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Drawing names for less gifts to give in extended family. Picking only a few holiday community events to participate in.

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It isn't easy, especially as we homeschooling...Right now we use unit studies which helps stay consistent on the true meaning of Christmas! We try to spread out the gifts, so it isn't as overwhelming for anyone!

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We are homeschooling... Breakdown in my language today! ;-)

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I usually wrap my gifts shortly after i get them. I get most of my shopping done the weekend after thanksgiving and pretty much stick to my list

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we limit the number of gifts we give, I do most of my shopping online, and we try to stick to our schedule as much as possible to keep the little ones happy and well rested

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I have learned that taking it one day at a time especially over the holidays is the only way I can stay sane. Trying to do everything at once is just silly and can not be done. My son is 6 years old now but when he was 2 he wanted to explore and get into everything including gifts that were not wrapped yet! So I learned that getting gifts wrapped earlier helps and finding a place where my son will not find them early helps too! Putting decorations up little by little helps too because then we are not overwhelmed. The Season is stressful but I know that it is really meant to be enjoyed! I take it all one day at a time and when I am not so stressed then it all goes much better!

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This year seems extra hard to keep things simple. I have a toddler who is getting into everything and my husband has to be out of town the 2 weeks before Christmas. Honestly, I'm just going to try to survive.

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This year we are drawing names so there are less gifts to buy. We also try to limit the number of things we buy our kids as they already have too many toys!

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This year is more complicated for us but I'm OK with that. This is the first time we've done any gift shopping for our daughter, who is almost 4. I feel like she gets plenty from others but her father wants her to have a Santa gift this year. She'll also get a stocking, which is new. We have more social engagements as well -- 2 cookie exchanges, 3 holiday parties, 1 out-of-town wedding -- which add up to more time and money spent than usual. What I'm most looking forward to, however, is baking cookies with our daughter for the first time. She's finally old enough to enjoy the experience and the way I see it, this is how memories are made.

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You know what? I think that even though you are having a more complicated Christmas in your world, that your heart seems to be full of calm and peace. That's the key! :) Enjoy your Christmastime! :O)

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I try and limit the presents to one "big" present and a few small ones. I want my family to remember that the true gift is Jesus and not all the stuff we have under our tree.

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This year we are simplifying by only doing one side of the family on Christmas day. We only did one side for Thanksgiving too and it will be so much easier and more relaxing to not drive all over So-Cal to get to see each family member. We are doing Christmas stuff with them on another day but just not all on one day. :)

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Four gifts a piece for everybody this year

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We cut back on gifts, baking and decorating to keep it less stressful.

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This year, I am cutting way back on the gifts my kids receive. They always get way too much, and it makes them ungrateful. Last year they didn't even look at each gift they opened, they would just toss it to the side and look for the next gift. Broke my heart. So this year, they are getting 4 gifts each: something they want, something they need, something to wear, something to read.

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We adopt a teen mom through our teen mops ministry and buy clothes and toys for her kids instead of the adults in our family.

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I have cut back on cookie swaps, I am donating more time to helping others this season, we are taking more time to just be a family and enjoy the sights and sounds of the season

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We are keeping the activities to a minimum and only doing the things we really want to do. This has also helped us prioritize alone time with each of our kids, instead of making everyone go do everything. I am also handmaking Jesse Tree ornaments - one a day while the little nap. It helps me settle, be quiet, focus on Jesus while still accomplishing something that will be a lasting part of our family traditions. I am loving it and will be sad when all those sweet little ornaments are finished.

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We are cutting back on the amount of decorations we put out this year and staying home for Christmas with just our little family of 5. We will be traveling the following week to see our extended families.

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Last year as I decorated I ditched extra and not special to us decorations as I decorated. We get our tree early in December and bake cookies so we can enjoy the rest of the month. We schedule family visits and exchanges around the holiday, not on Christmas day. It helps. We will be employing next year the four gifts, one you need, one to read, one you want and one to wear. Simplify. This year Nana got a children's Nativity for the kis to play and learn and so they leave mine alone! Ha!

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We try to be as simple as possible and enjoy the little things

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Our boys are still young (3 and almost 1) but we try to focus on Jesus' birth and family!

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We exchange gifts by drawing names. I use a spreadsheet type of template with all the names of people to buy for with several ideas of gifts for each. When I find one, I cross it off so I don't have to worry about it anymore.

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I actually started baking this year as a way to slow down and enjoy the season more while creating memories with my kids. Instead of rushing everywhere we are slowing down and enjoying time with each other.

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Try to keep it simple and just enjoy the time with family!

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Sometimes, I don't feel busy enough during the holidays and by that I mean my friends trek out to this parade and that tree lighting with their kids and we stay home. Am I depriving my child of new adventures & traditions because I keep our holiday so simple?

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You are doing what is right for your family. And that's wonderful and beautiful! :)

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We've always kept Christmas simple in our house. Three gifts per kid, minimal decorations, no stress. We alternate years with where we go for dinner - my family or his. The hardest part is deciding on what to get for the kids because everything out there is so junky these days. Thinking I might start making one of the gifts useful things like season passes to a local park, zoo, or museum or something.

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I really try to slow down at this time of year and enjoy the festivities through my boy's eyes. it's such a magical time of year. And if I don't slow down and watch, I will miss those special times. We also make sure we pray every night for God's blessings. This year we will be dropping some simple gifts on the neighbors doorsteps!

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I try to make sure my kids know the "Reason for the Season".. each night we do a few minute devotional which helps to bring the much needed calm .. :)

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I try to finish gift shopping by Thanksgiving, and we don't go overboard on decorating. Keep it simple, don't clutter the holiday with "stuff" so we can enjoy the real reason...

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I let my kids do the decorating. I let go of "perfection" and opted for fun instead.

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We limit our gifts (also easy since we are paying off debt and living on a budget) and we also keep out going out and about to a happy medium so that we get enough rest but still get to enjoy the festivities we all love

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I just try and get everything done before Christmas Eve so I can enjoy the Holiday.

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I dont make a big deal out of anything. makes things much easier!

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We tell the Christmas story each year to my children, tell them why we celebrate Christmas. We only do a few gifts for them, some they might want and others are needed items.

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Now that my son is 2 1/2 I'm looking for ways to keep Christ in Christmas and keep the season from getting to hectic. I also find it difficult to not spend a lot of money on his gifts because I would love to give him the world, but I know that is not what is in his best interest. My husband and I have never been big spenders when it comes to Christmas. For the first 2 Christmas' we did not get my son any gifts because he got so much from his Grandparents and Aunts. This year is completely different because he is now so aware and excitable about the small things. I am trying to come up with a special event or activity that will help us celebrate instead of focusing on gifts.

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