Saturday, December 20, 2014

How to Simplify Christmas

Christmas does not have to be stressful, so de-stress with these tips.
Remember the Meaning
In all the hustle and bustle of going shopping, giving gifts, and attending parties, remember the reason for the season. If you have children, read to them the story of the birth of Christ and discuss the meaning of His birth. Purchase or borrow DVDs that dramatize the birth of Christ. Many churches offer Christmas Eve or Christmas Day services in which a minister teaches about the birth of Christ: why He was born and how He was born. Services usually include a rich selection of Christmas themed songs and hymns. Some churches even put on full-length Christmas-themed musicals.

Go Christmas Caroling
Round up a few friends and family members, and practice some Christmas songs. Then go out in your neighborhood and sing. You will be surprised how all the individual off-key melodies can harmonize into beautiful songs.

Give to Others
Giving to others will spread joy. And joy is contagious. Giving does not have to cost you money; you can give one of the best gifts of your heart--time.
  • Serve in a soup kitchen.
  • Collect and distribute blankets to the homeless.
  • Collect and give coats, gloves, scarves, and boots to those in need.
  • Volunteer at a nonprofit organization that helps people in need.
  • Adopt a family in need, and buy them food, clothing, and toys for Christmas. (If you think this might be awkward, secretly give them the gifts.)
  • Visit residents in a nursing home and read to them, hold their hands, or assist them in a walk around the facilities.

Divide and Conquer
If you know your children’s gifts will need assembly, divide and conquer. Hire a babysitter to take the children out to see a Christmas movie while you (and a family member or friend) put the toys together. When my children were young, at least one of their gifts had what looked like hundreds of parts and bags of screws and unusual looking tools. So, I took the children out to see the latest Christmas movie while my husband put the toys together. When I returned home with the children, they were usually sleepy, so getting them to go to bed was easy.

Enjoy the Christmas Decorations
My mother and father started our family’s Christmas tradition of driving through downtown Detroit to see the Christmas lights and decorations. Back then, J.L Hudson’s, Detroit’s largest department store, had an enchanting Christmas display with whimsical, mechanical scenes right out of a story book. This was always an exciting event. The finale was standing in line to see Santa. I continued this tradition with my children for as long as I could—until Hudson’s was sold. 

 Erik Smith, Uploaded June 27, 2010

Most downtowns are decorated lavishly for the holidays. Take a relaxing drive and enjoy them.

Serve Finger Foods on Christmas Eve
Over the years, I learned that Christmas Eve is exciting, so exciting that the big meals I used to cook were hardly eaten. A few years ago, I decided that I would only cook and/or buy hors d’oeuvres on Christmas Eve. It works out well. I set out dip, veggies, cheese, crackers, soup, and sandwiches, and everybody eats when they get ready. We have the leftovers for Christmas lunch.

Make Christmas Cookies
For as long as I can remember I have been baking cookies on Christmas Eve or the day before Christmas Eve. I give them away as gifts, and I eat them. I eat lots of them during the holiday season. Baking cookies can be fun. It gives you an opportunity to be creative and to give to others. Most people appreciate the love that goes into the cookies.
  • Purchase cookie tins or Christmas cellophane bags with coordinating tie twists, decorative cupcake liners, and metallic doilies. Wash out the new cookie tins. Dry them well, and line them with the doilies.
  • Select several tried and tested cookie recipes. I recommend a combination: cookie dough you roll out and cut with cookie cutters, cookie dough you press into a baking dish and cut into squares when done, and cookie dough you drop by spoonful onto a cookie dish. Baking a combination helps you avoid boredom, and the different textures and shapes will thrill the recipients.
  • Write out a shopping list, and purchase the ingredients—enough to double or triple the amount if you are giving away lots of cookies. Don’t forget the sprinkles, nuts, candies, food coloring, and frosting.
  • Plan to spend all day in the kitchen, so this is a good time to order pizza for dinner. I found that the bigger I make the cookies, the less time it takes me to roll out and cut the dough. But you will need super size cookie cutters. Cookies that you have to drop by spoonful onto a cookie sheet will take more time to bake in the oven if you make them bigger. Consider the size of the cookie tins, cellophane bags, and cupcake liners to determine the size cookies you should make.
  • Always let the cookies cool on cooling racks before packaging them. If you don’t, they will sweat and become soggy.
  • Separate the cookies by placing them in the cupcake liners. If the cookie tins are large enough, layer the cookies in the tins.
  • For an added bonus--if you’re not keeping your recipes a secret--make copies of the recipes and attach them to the cookie tin or bag.

Decorate your Home the Easy Way
Your decorations can be as simple or as elaborate as you like.
  • Pick a theme (or color)—birds, butterflies, snowflakes, teddy bears, or picture frames (ornaments with pictures of your loved ones). Many stores organize their ornaments by theme and/or color, so it's easy to find what you're looking for. Dress up the tree by hanging the ornaments here and there on the tree. Don't worry about perfection. Decorating a tree is not an exact science; it's just fun. Buy some coordinating poinsettia stems and stick them in the empty spaces. 
    My Asian-themed tree with poinsettias as fillers
  • If you don’t want to bother with a large tree, buy a decorative tabletop ceramic, wooden, or metal tree.
  • If you don't want to bother with a tree at all, hang a holiday wreath on the door or hang a wreath on each window by using a suction cup hook to hold them in place. These really work. The directions on the suction cup hooks I have call for a small amount of petroleum jelly around the edges.
  • Place an artificial poinsettia plant in the center of the dining or coffee table. Or buy a few plants, and line the edge of your staircase.
  • If you have a flair for the dramatic, buy at least three lavishly dressed angels and place them on a tray. Then position the angel tray in the center of a table. 

What Christmas tradition do you have? This is the story in you. Share it.

Connect with me on Pinterest to view creative ideas about writing:

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Smith, E. Uploaded June 27, 2010. Hudsons. Retrieved from

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