Downscaling Christmas

If you're addicted to a holiday high that ends with you in the dumps, try these ideas.

Start close to home

Get on your knees with your family, and covenant with God to simplify your life. Determine to glorify and worship your external Lord rather than the holiday myth of overworking yourself into exhaustion for a "perfect" Christmas season.

Ask family members which traditions they most want to continue, and ask them to give something in exchange. If your daughter craves homemade cookies, ask her to do the vacuuming or errands to free your time and energy to help her bake. If your family needs a decorated evergreen to make them feel jolly, ask them to take over; explain that your job will be taking snapshots or video of the activity. If they're too young to pitch in, you're fortunate, because you can start them off with simpler traditions.

Question the seemingly immutable. One year, my husband and I and our kids decided not to erect a tree. Instead, we created a small handmade nativity. It was the focus of our celebration that year, and we spent many evenings sipping cider and creating a life-like and heart-expanding scene. Several years later, we donated the project to our church, where it's displayed in the foyer at Christmastime.

Recognize other events throughout the year instead of focusing on "the big one" and all the things it's come to be. Instead of sending Christmas cards, recognize the significance of Easter or Thanksgiving. Mail your family newsletter on your wedding anniversary. Send faxes, emails, or electronic cards anytime just to remind someone that they're loved by you and God.

Instead of making the family portrait a holiday affair, take advantage of summertime reunions, a day at the water slides, a child's school program, or Sunday dinner. Take snapshots and enlarge one.

Reach out

If you're part of a group that usually exchanges gifts, talk to them about alternatives. Agree to exchange only photos, or a service such as babysitting. Suggest adopting a needy group, missionary, family, or charity instead of giving one another yet another thing that doesn't fit, won't last, or (worst of all) needs dusting.

Arrange to have your holiday parties at public places so you (and others in the group) don't have to prepare and clean up. Remember: the goal is simplicity. Fancier eateries mean more complicated, expensive plans and ensembles.

Combine purposes by making your party a gift-wrapping, cookie-baking, or decorating party. Go bowling, miniature golfing, or skating, and enjoy the getting-together instead of the preparation. Go caroling or put in a shift at a soup kitchen; then adjourn to a local coffeehouse for a warm up. Make a special effort to remember and include those who are experiencing their first holiday after losing a loved one.

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May 25

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