We are simplifying Christmas this year.

I am yearning for a simple Christmas this year.

Something deep inside me is telling me that “stressed” is not a feeling that should come with Christmas every year.  But it usually does.

Christmas comes and goes so quickly, almost like a tornado, and I am usually a casualty of its fury when it is gone.

Not this year.

I will NOT let it happen.

We are simplifying Christmas this year.

In the past, I have always gotten the boys 10-15 gifts a piece, plus stocking stuffers, for Christmas.  Mind you, when they were younger, they were usually 10-15 gifts from the dollar store.

But as they have gotten older, gifts from the dollar store don’t cut it anymore.  Smile

So each year, it gets a little more stressful of how I can still provide a “big” Christmas on our little budget.

They are used to seeing a Christmas tree with a ton of toys stretched out across the floor underneath it.

(that’s not my tree. Smile)

That is what I was used to seeing as a child.  That’s Christmas, right?

Or is it?

I have felt like I would disappoint my boys if I did Christmas differently.  If I scaled back a little.

But Christmas is not about presents.

I asked my dad what he usually got for Christmas.  He said he would get one toy and a bag of fruit every year.

I asked him if he loved it?  YES!  It was a big deal, and he loved Christmas, and it was just as magical to him.

My brother and sister-in-law started giving their children 3 gifts each Christmas, like the Wise Men gave to Jesus.  It sounded like a great idea, but I couldn’t imagine Christmas with so few gifts under the tree.

Please don’t think I’m crazy, but that is just not how I grew up celebrating Christmas.

But man, did it sound good.  That would be fewer presents I would have to buy and fewer to wrap.  Which to me, equaled less stress.

I told the boys about my idea, and to my surprise, they were fine with it.  They have made a list of about 5 things they would like for Christmas, and Santa will pick the three he thinks they will enjoy or need the most.

I cannot tell you how less stressed I feel about Christmas this year!

I am actually excited about getting their gifts, wrapping them up, and being done.

They will still be getting stocking stuffers, which are totally fun to me.  Those do not stress me out.

Another way I will be simplifying our Christmas is through fewer activities.  There are so many events and parties during the holidays, and we often feel guilty about not attending every one.

Not this year.

We will say “no” to most of them, and just attend the ones that are the most meaningful to us.  And I am going to spend more time at home coloring in our Christmas coloring books and watching Christmas movies with my boys.

Oh, and drinking lots of hot chocolate! Smile

Jonathan and I went and saw the movie The Book Thief last night.  The main character, a young girl who was adopted by foster parents in Germany during Hitler’s rule, was sitting in a cold basement with a small snowman while her “PaPa” was playing the accordion.  When he finished playing, she sweetly said, “This is the best Christmas I’ve ever had.”

There were no presents or trees, just family and love.

When we left the movie, Jonathan said, “Mom, wasn’t it cool how that little girl loved Christmas so much even though she had nothing?”  Then he said,   “I think the Lord was talking to me through this movie.”

I smiled because HE spoke to me too.

This Christmas, I am going to be very deliberate about treasuring the simple moments that I share with the ones that I love.

And enjoy celebrating THE ONE I love the most!

As we enter this Christmas season, may God bless you and yours with lots of love and laughter!


  1. So beautifully said! I have been feeling the exact same way! I have 4 kids (3 boys)and I’ve found they don’t even put that much on their lists but for some reason I feel like I have to have tons of presents. I decided to chill this year too – I remember wanting to do the 3 gift thing, you just inspired me to follow through. HE is the reason – God bless!

  2. I saw an idea on Pinterest about simplifying Christmas…each child gets a want, a need, a wear and a read…love it. 4 gifts..

  3. good for you, Traci! Christmas is absolutely not about presents, and especially today so many people (especially kids) think that’s all it’s about. for my family, last and this year we are not really buying presents for each other. me and my brother are both out of work and my father is self employed and has had his work cut way back. none of us can afford much in everyday life, let alone Christmas presents. So last year (and I will again this year) I made some handmade gifts for my family – brown sugar scrub for my sisters, honey butter for my father’s wife, bbq spice rubs for my bbq-crazed brother, and for my father, who is always hard to buy for anyway, i found some old family photos up in my attic (i live in the house he grew up in) that he probably hasn’t seen in at least 20 years, and framed them with some cute dollar store frames. everyone loved everything, and i felt that it was more about time with my family than presents. it will be this year again this way too – i think i am making some different cookies for the girls, and some flavored coffee syrups for my coffee-obsessed brother. still trying to figure out what to do for my dad, but i know whatever it ends up being he will love it because it will be thoughtful and made with love, instead of bought.

    the point is, it’s not about presents. it’s about love and family. like my dad said – as long as we have each other, we don’t need anything else. happy holidays to you and your beautiful family!

  4. Traci,
    We have done this now all of our children’s lives. They are now 25, 22, 21, and nearly 20. They have not suffered or lacked for joy on Christmas morning! They are the most giving, loving young adults who seek to help others. It is a marvelous way to keep CHRISTmas centered on Jesus and not the world’s view of Christmas.

    Trust me you will love simplifying in this way and your boys will love it.

    We always give something they want, need, and then either a book or iTunes card, something fun/small that they may not have thought to ask for. They know we have a budget. It started out as a huge necessity but now depending on the year spend between 100-200 dollars per child (one year as low as 50) and that is it. It is doable and they would tell you they have NEVER been disappointed.
    It is the best thing we ever decided to do as parents to handle Christmas in this manner.

  5. This is good. I came to the same conclusion years ago when my children were still young.
    The three gifts we gave pertained to the three parts we each have.
    1. One for the body – pretty obvious. it would be clothing or shoes or such. Maybe a new blanket for their bed,
    2. one for the soul – this is something individualized for each child – something that pertains to who they are and their interests. Maybe a basketball, arts & crafts set, etc…
    3. One for the soul – this is a gift that would encourage them to be closer to the Lord…maybe a Christian music cd, a book, an inspirational poster or wall hanging.

    You get the drift. I still think of these three types of gifts each year when the shopping frenzy begins.
    Be well! Have a nice stressless Christmas!

  6. We’ve only ever done 3 gifts for our kids, we usually try to make it the stuff they really wanted, although some years we’ve done the read, need, want idea. They are perfectly happy with what they get. I think your family will enjoy your change this year and the memories you all make!

    We read an excellent book every year called “The Three Gifts of Christmas” by Jennie Bishop. It’s a beautiful story of gratefulness, contentment and giving. It’s one of our favorites!

    Merry Christmas!

  7. That picture of the tree was just like my tree every year! OMG was it stressful! You could barely walk on my family room floor there was so much! And I was always up so late on Christmas eve to wrap everything! And now that I am cleaning out my basement selling all those old presents that were barely played with at online garage sales. I promised myself that I would never do that again. I too have discussed with my kids the rule of 4, something you want, need, wear, and read. They will get that and a gift from Santa and their stocking stuffers. My kids are totally on board with the rule of 4. My daughter’s birthday is a week before Christmas so she already has a bunch of new things before Christmas. I guess I should have taken a hint a few Christmas’s ago when my daughter didn’t want to open anymore presents because she was tired of opening them! LOL

  8. We give our kids one gift plus stocking stuffers. We asked our parents to stick to one gift, too. Even with those limitations, we seem to have an abundance. When we lived in Ukraine, we stopped putting gifts under the tree until Christmas Eve because truly, it was embarrassing when our Ukrainian friends came over. So thankful for how these preferences have impacted our family ans faith.

  9. This is a wonderful step you are taking. When I was a little girl there was a Christmas that many of the families in my little neighborhood were struggling. The parents got together and my mom sewed doll clothes, another father made wooden toys for the boys and so on. How excited were all us kids to have gotten matching presents. Only a few of them but this is the only Christmas I actually remember. Since I am having surgery this week I am doing much less and I am so happy about this. Every year will be like this for me-without the surgery!

  10. i love this! this is the first year we have really simplified Christmas too & it’s so nice. i can’t believe i’m almost finished my shopping, but when you buy fewer things, you finish a lot quicker. i am also thrilled with the fact that Christmas won’t kill our budget this year like it has in the past. all around, i find this way of doing things much more fulfilling.

  11. Beautiful post, Traci :) I won’t take up too much room here, but just want to share one of my most wonderful Christmases ever… Twelve years ago, my parents made a tremendous sacrifice for our family (me & my three sisters). We left our way of life/culture, which meant mom & dad started out from scratch that July. When Christmastime came, we had nothing!!! No presents, decorations, or stockings… But we had each other, a roof over our heads, and for the first time ever…. we knew salvation. That was the sweetest gift ever. Ever since we experienced that Christmas, we try hard not to get caught up and over do it. After all, that’s not the meaning of it anyway… Thx for the reminder Traci and blessings o u and your sweet family!!

  12. We’ve been slowly simplifying a bit more every year but there’s always more that can be whittled out of the “stuff” and the schedule. Unfortunately I have more travel this month than I want, but I will be keeping the gift-giving and decorating simple so I can truly enjoy my time with my family this season. Blessings, Traci!
    xo Heidi

  13. Traci, reading your post brought a smile to my face. I have three kiddies, two of whom no longer “believe” and one who is still young enough to not remember much of previous Christmases. I too had the talk with them about less “stuff”. We all have so much. Christmas morning sometimes feels a little wasteful to me. Christmas should be about being with family and sharing a meal and good times. I think this is a great idea. Hugs.

  14. Traci,

    I think you will find that many share your thoughts this year. I’ve been so frustrated with the media and all the commercialism for years but this year it’s really pressing in on me. I think it was the stores that were open on Thanksgiving day the pushed me over the edge. All I could think of were the employees who could not spend the whole day with their family because the store they worked for wanted to cater to the commercialism. It’s no secret that we live in a materialistic society, but when the 10pm news leads with a story about the frenzied masses at a local Wal-Mart, my heart just breaks. People fighting over a dvd player? Climbing over each other to grab something out of other’s hands? These people are not celebrating Christmas.

    I pray many will see and experience the real meaning of Christmas and spend less time stressing out over presents and spend more time with their family playing games, singing Christmas songs, reading about the birth of our Savior and helping others who are less fortunate.

  15. Lovely, Traci! I am simplifying as well. One of our problems is the GROWNUPS keep buying stuff for themselves. Cough Cough. I may be a little guilty of overbuying for myself during the season.

  16. I am so with you on simplifying Christmas, Traci. I have felt this pull for the last few years. I still haven’t mastered not getting stressed during the holidays, but I have scaled back so much. However I do go crazy wrapping every little thing to go under the tree, it’s kind of a joke that my kids find the junky cereal I never usually buy, socks, underwear and funny things like that wrapped along with their real gifts on Christmas morning :) :) :) Wishing you a joy filled season this year!

  17. WOW! What a timely post! I was just telling some friends that I plan to focus on what Christmas is really about this year. And that includes downsizing the amount of gifts we get for our kids. We are also going to do 3 gifts each per child like the 3 gifts that the wise men brought. I too, am feeling way more relaxed about the season this year. Thanks for a great blog post!! :)

  18. My 3 teenagers have only ever known Christmas with 3 gifts each under the tree. I can’t imagine it any other way and neither can they- after all, Christmas isn’t THEIR birthday!! :)

  19. I hope you do not mind that I fwd your message to several of my friends and some family. it is just too precious to keep to myself.

  20. Good stuff. We’ve been adjusting Christmas over the last few years. We don’t have a lot of activities, but the gifting has been hard for me. We don’t have extended family that give to our children, so sometimes I feel bad, but we’ve done the 4-gift rule the past few years, and the kiddos are great with it.

  21. Wonderful post Traci. I am 70 years old and my favorite Christmas memory is of a year my family had very little…surely no fancy gifts. My Mother (who is now 96 years old!) made a red flannel night gown and a plaid dress for my old doll and made matching ones for me. I don’t remember all the store bought gifts I’ve received over the years, but I will never forget that Christmas. Gifts made with love and thoughtfulness are the ones kids will treasure.

  22. Traci,

    I know that long term you and your family will benefit from the changes you are making. Less stress = a happier family.

    Please don’t think me horrible for saying this, but the written Word of God never states that there were 3 wise men. That is just a myth based up the number of gifts that were given to the Christ child.

    Matthew 2:11 – And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh.

    Because of Him,

  23. Hopefully I can encourage those who are beginning to think about limiting gifts for their children. We limited the gifts for our 3 fairly early by giving 3-4, without extended family giving. We decided to focus more on family activities and creating memories. Our youngest is now 15 and even as teens and young adults our kids still look forward to our “traditions”, including our Christmas game day, and have never complained about getting so “few” gifts. Kids truly do treasure the time spent with their families even if it is work for the parents at young ages.

  24. Thank you for this post. I have been feeling this way for several years and as my children are getting older, the feeling of the “magic” of the season has gone away. I dread decorating, shopping, wrapping and the busy schedule. I think I need to sit back and really look at what Christmas truly means. I have forgotten that it has nothing to do with a tree or gifts!!

  25. Hi Traci, I always thought people gave each other one gift. I have never heard of people giving more. Maybe it’s an American thing? I don’t know. I give my husband one gift and my children each one gift and they in return do the same. I’ve seen the shorts and can’t wait for that movie to open here…..B:)

  26. When I was a little girl (many years ago) I remember coming down the stairs and saw the Christmas tree (angel hair and all) with so many gifts under it. It was years later that I found out that many of the gifts were cheap box top items. Back then you could save box tops and send away for gifts. There were 6 of us and that was the only way my parents could give us a Christmas. We didn’t know the difference and loved every minute of it. This year we will be back to the meaning of the Birthday of Christ. Going to evening services back to the house to eat and open gifts. After that we will all play games as a family. Most gifts will be hand made and given with love.

  27. Thanks so much for this post, it also spoke to my heart. We spend so much on things that are never remembered, the time with family means so much more. Making memories!

  28. Traci, Bless you for posting this article…so relevant and so timely.

    About 5 years ago our church and a couple of other churches in the U.S. developed an approach to Christmas called “Advent Conspiracy”. They encouraged us to “Worship fully, spend less, give more and love all”. Since our family embraced this way to celebrate Christmas, our focus has changed and we absolutely love it. Because we’re not so stressed out we are able to focus on Christ – “the reason for the season”. We have been spending less and with the the amount that we save, we are able to “give more” buying clean water through Living Water International. *Did you know that it only takes $10 to buy clean water for one person FOR LIFE?!?) And by taking our eyes off of ourselves and worshiping fully, spending less, giving more we are able to love more.

    Thanks for allowing me this opportunity to share a life changing way to celebrate Christmas. Merry Christmas to you and your sweet family and praying His richest blessings for 2014!

  29. Such great encouragement to turn our hearts toward the true meaning of Christmas…remembering the greatest gift we will ever receive was given!

  30. Yesterday at church the first sermon in a series was on not becoming trapped by the trappings of Christmas…
    This is exactly what you are striving to achieve this year.

  31. I, too, cried reading this, especially your son’s comments.I buy little things all year round, usually vintage things for my friends or things I make. I love to cook and everyone appreciates homemade goodies. We’ve also taken the stress out by celebrating the 12 days of Xmas
    which END on Jan. 6th. It’s seems so cold when I see the trees and everything tossed out on the 26th. Plus, it’s way more fun to open a present everyday.

  32. What a beautiful post. We have done the 3 gifts as well for several years-one from Santa(if you do Santa), for from us, and then one from each other-the kids draw names and then spend there own money they’ve earned to buy something for their secret Santa. We set the limit at about $25 for those gifts and part of it has to be something they have made. Those gifts are usually the best to open and the kids always pick them first to unwrap. It has helped our family stay focused on the Savior more and they are so happy with their 3 gifts. It makes me happy that even the last few years they haven’t put any big things on their short and very well thought out lists.
    I remember our tree being like yours growing up too, but man am I ever loving this simpler approach (and with 7 kids ours still kind of looks like that)=)
    We do also let them unwrap one gift Christmas eve which is always new pj’s, and then they get stocking stuff too. Good luck with your new approach, I know that you will love it!

  33. We have done the 3 gifts with our kids the past 2 years and a full stocking and they LOVE it and have never felt slighted. They really give thought to the 5 things they put on their Santa list and enjoy everything they receive! Less Stress = Happy Momma at Christmas! Yeah for LESS STRESS!

  34. You are SO on the right track with this.

    Here’s what we are doing this year.

    Each child gets one present from “Santa”, one from us, and they give one to each other. So they get 3 total. Grandma and Grandpa are giving them each ONE, and they have been strictly informed of our “cut back” plan, and they have already told us what they are giving the children, so we know there will be no “back sliding”.

    The manic exchanges of presents between all the cousins and kids of relatives is off. We simply let everyone know – we want Christmas to be simple. Please stop buying our kids presents, and we aren’t buying them for anyone else’s kids anymore.

    It’s not about being cheap. It’s about taking back Christmas.

    As for each other: we are giving each other one thing that we will pick out together, and one gift to each other, and that’s it.

    And finally – activities. The first answer to “Are you free to …” is a polite “No”, if we have any other activity within a 3 day window around that day. Nope – sorry. No can do. I don’t care if it’s a live nativity scene, free tickets to see The Nutcracker… No. If we are already doing something within 3 days of that, the answer is “No”. If this sounds harsh, remember how quickly your Christmas season becomes one scheduled event after another if you don’t put your foot down. At least this way, it can never be any busier than an activity, and then 3 days off to just “be”.

    I am looking forward to this Christmas more than I have in years.
    Christmas morning isn’t going to be a flurry of wrapping paper clean-up. FINALLY.

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