14 Ways to Simplify Christmas and Enjoy the Holidays

by Chris Tecmire

Christmas Buddies

Well, we’re in the thick of the holiday season.  You’re probably running yourself ragged buying gifts, making cookies, and planning parties.  Not to mention, you still need to get a cute family picture taken for the Christmas card, but how on earth are you going to find the time when you’re not even halfway through your 30 person Christmas gift list!

Do you remember what it was like when you were a kid?  I do.  My lone responsibility on Christmas was to open gifts and play with toys.  OK, so I guess I also had to occasionally fake interest in a misguided present and say thank you as sincerely as I could muster, but that’s still a pretty good gig.

I LOVED Christmas when I was younger.  We all did.  Christmas was simple.

So, what happened?

Unfortunately, we became adults, and adulthood brings with it additional expectations.  Simplicity is foreign to adults.  We make everything much more complicated than it has to be.  Think about it.  Instead of simply celebrating with our families on December 25th, we have turned Christmas into a month-long whirlwind of work parties, gift exchanges, and credit card stuffing trips to the mall.  It has become a laundry list of TO-DO’s instead of a time of celebration.

So, what can we do about it?  Well, I’m still trying to learn that myself.  But, here are 14 principles that have helped me over the years.

By the way, this is in no way a “bah-humbug” sort of article.  Christmas is my favorite holiday, bar-none.  But, I love it for what it should be, not necessarily what it often is.  To me, the simplified version is SO much better.

14 Ways to Simplify Christmas

1.  Allow yourself to gain 3 pounds during the holidays.

Completely neglecting the good stuff is not fair to your taste buds, but over indulging is not fair to your body.  So, compromise.  3 pounds means you had a good time and gives you a built-in New Years Resolution.  10 pounds means your new Christmas gifts won’t fit.

2.  Don’t spend what you don’t have…even if little Billy really deserves it.

Speaking of cake…Going into debt to purchase presents is like stuffing your face with a piece of cake for the momentary pleasure, even though you’ve been warned over and over again that this particular piece of cake contains 35,000 calories and will immediately make you gain 10 pounds.  It’s not worth it.  Give little Billy your time and affection instead.

3.  It’s OK to say no occasionally.

Just because you look really good in tights, doesn’t mean you’re a superhero.  Quit trying to do everything and take on every project.

4.  Your 2nd cousin will forgive you if you don’t get him a gift this year.

In fact, he’s probably thinking the same thing you are and would love to lighten his Christmas list too.  Just explain that you are trying to simplify this Christmas in order to provide some much needed time.  Now send the same letter to a few others as well.  (Just make sure you don’t forget to change the name :) )

By the way, this has nothing to do with being too cheap.  See the next point.

5.  Remember that giving out of obligation is not necessarily generosity.

You know how your mom forced you to share with your brother when you were a kid.  Were you being generous?  Of course not.  Many of our gifts these days feel like obligations rather than gifts.  Simplifying the number of gifts you give does not make you less generous or a “Scrooge.”  True generosity and compassion are year-’round attitudes and practices – they are not defined by Best Buy gift cards.  There’s no reason to feel guilty about giving fewer gifts.

6.  Ditching a tradition because it’s become too laborious or frustrating does not negate the memories that are attached.

Sometimes traditions start out great and then lose their steam.  Family traditions are meant to bring joy, not frustration and resentment.  Keep the ones that do what they’re supposed to do and let the others go.

7.  Make a snowman and then show him who’s boss.

No explanation necessary.

8.  Focus on your faith and family.

Christmas is meant to celebrate Jesus Christ and His birth.  As a Christian, one of the best ways for me to simplify Christmas is to focus on my faith.  Focusing on faith and family makes everything else seem less important.

9.  It’s OK if your Christmas card is late this year…again.

My favorite cards from our wedding were the ones that came in the mail weeks after the event.  They were a nice surprise.  Of course, they also had a check in them and your Christmas cards probably just have a picture of you in a silly sweater.  But, I’m sure it will still be OK.

10.  It’s just a party.  It’s supposed to be fun – not perfect.

Don’t set your expectations so high.  It’s not going to be the worst party your guests have ever attended and it’s probably not going to be the best one either.  Stop stressing out about it and have some fun.

11.  Don’t like crowds?  Online shopping is often cheaper and faster anyway.

For the last 3 or 4 years, nearly every single Christmas present that I’ve given has been purchased online.  Even many of the Black Friday-type deals are now available online.  It’s hard to beat shopping in your underwear, and the selection is MUCH better since the whole world is at your fingertips.  You can be much more creative.

12.  Actively look for those who may be struggling financially and help out.

Instead of buying your brother a 4th HDTV, help someone pay their heat bill this month.

13.  If you’re able, end every day by turning on the Christmas tree lights, turning off all the other lights, and relaxing with a cup of hot chocolate or tea.

Give yourself at least 10-15 minutes to relax and enjoy the beauty of the holiday season.  Christmas music optional.  Sometimes the silence sounds better.

14.  Begin your new goal to gain 3 pounds with the recipe below.

They’re soft, chewy, and delicious in a very simple way.  Plus, they’ll only cost you about 5 cents per cookie.

Grandmama’s Molasses Cookies


1 cup Sugar

2/3 cup Shortening

1 large Egg (beaten)

1/4 cup Molasses

2 cups Flour

2 tsp Baking Soda

1/2 tsp Cinnamon

1/2 tsp Ground Cloves

1/2 tsp Ground Ginger

1/2 tsp Salt


5 Tbsp Sugar

1.  Preheat the oven to 350°.

2.  Cream the sugar and shortening together.

3.  Add the egg and molasses and mix well.

4.  Mix in the dry ingredients until blended.

5.  Roll the dough into 36 balls (Tbsp) and give each ball a sugar bath.

6.  Place them onto a greased cookie sheet and bake for 6 – 8 minutes.  They should still be soft and chewy.

7.  Wipe the drool from your lips and let the cookies cool.

8.  Enjoy!

If you’d rather top your molasses cookies with a thin glaze, mix 1 cup of powdered sugar, 1 – 3 Tbsp of hot water, and a dash of salt until it forms the glaze.  Then top each cookie with the glaze instead of giving them a sugar bath.  Let the glaze cool until it hardens.

This recipe, along with 150 other delicious recipes can be found in my book, Eating Well For Only $2 A Day.

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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

joyce December 13, 2012 at 10:54 am

good suggestions. ones i’m still working on even after 30 years of marriage. i love being freed from the expectation of getting a gift just because they’re related to you or they gave you one last year or they expect one from you or….

also, love the word picture in your recipe of giving the cookies a sugar bath. that made me smile :-)


Chris Tecmire December 13, 2012 at 7:00 pm

Thanks Joyce. I think sometimes we just get comfortable (read: stuck) in a certain way of doing things and certain traditions and don’t even think about trying to find a way out. Christmas is like that for a lot of people. I’m glad you liked the suggestions!


Lydia parks December 13, 2012 at 12:45 pm

Love the snowman attack!


Chris Tecmire December 13, 2012 at 7:01 pm

You should try it Lydia – it’s great for working out any stress or agression :)


Katie Losee December 17, 2012 at 5:33 pm

Your article caught my attention a few days ago…but I was too busy getting things done to look at it…till now :) I love your brain, Chris :) Thanks for slowing me down. I plan to RELAX and ENJOY every day between now and CHRISTmas! :D


Monica December 28, 2012 at 1:37 am

I will be making the cookies…


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