180: 4 Brilliant Ideas for Making Christmas Meaningful + Simple

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I’m super excited for this special holiday episode! I invited my team member Carlee on the show to talk about her family’s holiday traditions.

What I love about Carlee’s unique take on holidays is how refreshingly simple it is. By keeping Christmas others-focused rather than stuff and events-focused, Carlee and her family get to serve others, make a lot of great memories together, and kiss overwhelm goodbye in the process.

Press play to hear from Carlee!

If you’re like me and you don’t love the “gimme focus” the holidays can bring, you can decide to change that focus in your home! The way to start is by making a list of what matters most to you that holiday season.

Believe it or not, we don’t buy our kids a lot of presents. But before you think our real last name is Scrooge, hang with me! I’ll explain what we do instead.

When our family made this list of what mattered most to us during the holidays, making great memories within our little family made the top of the list, along with finding ways to bless others and get the focus off of ourselves. Here are our the four traditions we follow each year to keep Christmas meaningful and simple.

  1. Prompt Acts of Kindness
  2. Go Easy On The Presents
  3. Surprise Another Family In Need
  4. Bless Your Community

Let’s look at those traditions in detail.

Prompt Acts of Kindness

Every year during the first week of December, the five of us as a family each put our name in a hat, and everyone draws a name. That week, each person focuses on showing extra kindness to the family member they drew -- from serving them to giving little gifts or taking care of a chore for them.

And, we really want to make sure our kids know their gestures are just as important as what my husband and I can give as adults. It’s not about size or money when it comes to serving each other, but heart and intention. Our kids did all sorts of things to show kindness, like coloring a picture, telling a joke, putting that family member’s shoes away, carrying groceries, or leaving little treats on a pillow.

Over the years it has been so fun to watch our kids get creative with how they can serve one another.

The next week, we each draw different names and the tradition keeps going all December-long.

Go Easy On The Present

Alright, don’t throw the eggs from your holiday cookies at me! We do get our children a small gift, but it’s not the main focus of Christmas for us. (Plus, they get plenty of gifts from extended family!)

Here’s what we do instead:

At the end of November or beginning of December, we’ll dedicate a weekend or two to taking each child individually on a ‘Christmas Date’. They get to pick their meal of choice at a restaurant of choice. We take our time at these dates!

My husband and I ask our kids reflective questions about the past year: What were their greatest joys and challenges? We especially like showing our kids that because they’ve overcome one challenge, they can overcome another. We also help our children set goals for the coming year, and it’s been great to see how those goals have changed over the years.

After our Christmas Date meal, we head out to a few stores and give our kids a budget with the goal of purchasing gifts for their siblings. Our kids chip in with money they’ve earned themselves, too. This has been a wonderful way to foster our family bond, and it keeps our focus on others.

Surprise Another Family In Need

One tradition we all have so much fun with is surprising an unsuspecting family in need around the holidays. We’ll often fill our gifts with groceries and gifts for the kids in that family, and we deliver them every night for 12 nights leading up to Christmas Eve! The espionage-factor is half the fun and we try to keep our identity a secret the whole time.

This year we’re going to try out a 12 Days of Christmas theme where we match each gift to the items in the song. My kids came up with doughnuts as the “5 golden rings” in an instant! (If you have any themed gift ideas, I’d love to hear them!)

We make so many great memories each year by blessing another family in this way, and it’s a lot less stressful than hosting fancy parties or other Christmas events we could attend.

Bless Your Community

Of course the holidays are fun and festive, but for many people the holidays are sad, lonely, or just plain stressful. We encourage our family to take that one extra step to serve our community.

If you can make anyone’s day a little bit easier or happier, I promise that gesture will go a long way!

Some ideas to get you started:

  • Offer to help load groceries
  • Leave a bigger-than-usual tip
  • Pay-it-forward in the drive thru
  • Help a neighbor put up decorations
  • Shovel snow for a neighbor or business
  • Invite a family having a hard time over for a meal

What ideas can you come up with?

Here’s the bottom line: Prioritize what’s meaningful to your family, give yourself permission to say no, and look outside yourself this holiday season.

I’d love to hear if you’ll be bringing any of these ideas into your home this December. Leave a comment and let me know!

Wishing you and yours a very Merry Christmas!

~ Carlee

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