Simplifying the holidays 

As I’ve been doing the work of minimizing and we are inching closer to the holiday season, I’ve been thinking about what we could do differently to simplify the holiday season.

Truth be told: I tend to go overboard on Christmas with little gifts here and there. I start shopping months in advance but instead of crossing things off my gift list, it tends to just add to the volume of gifts I give. I’m a huge fan of Christmas, but I wonder if there’s a way to keep my joy (or possibly increase it!?) and still decrease my consumeristic tendencies?

Striving to become a minimalist has already changed the way I shop. I still sometimes go to stores and browse, but my mindset has changed – I don’t get as much pleasure from it as I did before. Because I don’t see the point in buying new things to clutter up my newly decluttered spaces, it is so freeing. I haven’t instituted a shopping ban, really, but I am far more conscious of what I really need. And therefore, I don’t need to buy as much.


Halloween isn’t really a holiday I celebrate because the Germans aren’t really big on it. So that’s already pretty simplified. I don’t have to make or buy any special costumes for the kids and we won’t be going trick-or-treating.

Living in Germany has changed the holiday for me, too. I don’t like that they seem to take the whole trick-or-treat thing seriously, and that if you don’t give them a treat, they will play tricks. Many a November 1st have I seen shaving cream or ketchup on door handles. I hate seeing that eggs were thrown at cars and houses. That’s not the Halloween I grew up with, and it has kind of ruined the fun of it for me.


Thanksgiving is next – we skipped it last year because it was too much with stress and a new baby and we just decided to forgo the holiday. I still made a pumpkin pie, but that is it.

This year, though, I would like to do Thanksgiving. But to simplify things, I am going to delegate foods and make it more of a potluck.

This is really hard for me to relinquish control over my traditional holiday foods. I did everything for years all on my own because I wanted to make sure it was the exact same foods as I had growing up.

But it will make life much simpler and easier if I am not in charge of absolutely everything this year, so I’m going to give it a try. There will still be around 12 adults and a handful of kids, but that’s part of what’s special about gathering with our closest friends for the holiday, since our families are nowhere nearby. So I’m okay with not whittling down our guest list. Besides — the more people coming, the more help I have with preparing the food.


This could probably be a whole post all on its own! I’m still brainstorming ideas, but this may prove the hardest season to simplify.

On my side of the family, we gave presents to the kids as usual, but did Secret Santa with the adults. I’ve set up another gift exchange this year, since it worked so well last time. I wonder if I could pitch the idea to my husband’s side of the family, since we’ll be staying in Germany this year and visiting them after the holidays.

Decorations: We have 6 big boxes full of Christmas decorations up in the attic. I want to see if we can narrow it down to 3. My husband and I are going to pick a date in late November to go through the decorations together and see what we want to keep and what we want to get rid of.

Advent calendars: I want to keep this simple, too. Lord knows my kids don’t need chocolate every day, nor do they need presents every day. We are going to put some treats and sweets in it, but fill the rest up with fun Christmassy experiences we can do together as a family. Like reading Christmas stories with hot cocoa on the couch. Or having a Christmas dance party. Or watching Charlie Brown’s Christmas or The Grinch or Mr. Bean’s Christmas. Or making a Christmas ornament for the tree.

Presents: I’m going to finish up my project that I meant to make my 1-year-old for his birthday and never got around to finishing: an A-frame tent – and gift it to both boys. My parents will probably send a box of gifts, so we’ll open that on Christmas Day. On Christmas Eve, the main event here in Germany, we will give them our gift. I am not sure yet if we will do one gift from us for each boy, or three – like the three wise men.

Also, I am not allowed to buy any more wrapping paper, since I have so much already. This is going to be really hard to resist! Most of the wrapping paper I have doesn’t look Christmassy at all, so I am only going to use the brown kraft paper I already have and make it more festive by adding some ribbon I also already have.