Simple Christmas

Here are some ways to embrace a simple holiday season this year.

BY Melissa Sutton-Seng

child looks at the advent calendar. Baby girl in a Christmas hat and pajamas shows on first gift

Christmas is going to be different this year. Concerts, plays and festivals have been canceled, and many of the events that usually characterize the holiday season just won’t work amid a pandemic. While there’s nothing wrong with mourning the traditions we must set aside, we can also take the opportunity to simplify what is usually a hectic season and focus on the things that are most important. Start by writing a list of what makes Christmas special and meaningful for you and your family. Think about how you can adapt your traditions for the unique circumstances of 2020. This year of all years, feel the freedom to eliminate stressful activities and focus on what matters most.  

Set aside a day or week to give to others. With all that is going on in the world, it’s easy to feel a bit hopeless. Refocusing your attention on the cares of others and the ways you can help can renew your hope for the future as well as making a difference in the lives of those in need. Make a tangible difference by giving to organizations like the Good Shepherd Center and the Harrelson Center. These groups and many others are assisting people impacted by COVID-19 as well as other crises.

String your own garland. For an old-fashioned classic, string together traditional garland elements like popcorn, cranberries and dried orange slices. To get a little more artsy, use small, metal cookie cutters to punch shapes out of orange peels and fashion salt dough ornaments.

Give handmade and low-tech gifts. Most of us have spent far too much time on our electronic devices over the past several months. Put away the screens and pick up some knitting needles or hand tools to make unique gifts for the people you love. Creating a gift with your hands can relieve stress and help you feel more connected to the world around you, and those gifts are the sort that are treasured for years to come.

Spice some cider. A little apple juice and a few spices in the slow cooker make an easy treat and will fill your house with that warm, Christmassy smell. For the authentic experience, use cinnamon sticks and whole oranges studded with cloves.

Bring the Christmas story to life with a progressive nativity scene. The manger scene is a popular decoration, but this symbol of the season can get lost among all the other trimmings. Renew your appreciation of Jesus’s birth story by setting your nativity scene out in stages, reading the correlating part of the Christmas story as you go.

Enjoy Christmas concerts from home. Although live concert events have been canceled this year, you can still celebrate the season online with some of the area’s best musicians. In lieu of their annual Music on Market concert series, St. Andrews-Covenant Presbyterian Church will present “Musical Advent Moments” live on Facebook every Wednesday morning, and the recordings will remain on their Facebook page. A recording of last year’s Christmas concert at First Baptist Church will be aired on local television.

Bake special treats from scratch. Whether an old family recipe or a new pastry you’ve been seeing all over Pinterest, it’s rewarding to slow down, put on some music, and create something delicious to share. Coordinate a recipe exchange to connect with loved ones while adding new delicacies to your repertoire.

Make or buy an Advent calendar to count down the days until Christmas. Mark each day by hanging an ornament, eating a piece of chocolate, reading a short verse, or just pausing for a minute to reflect. Taking a few moments to observe the arrival of a new day can help you savor the season and counteract that feeling of time blurring together.

Connect with your loved ones by sending handwritten cards. Make a list of friends and family you would usually see around the holidays. Make sure your list is manageable; you don’t have to send cards to everyone. Take a few minutes each day to write notes, or make a family event of it and spend an evening writing cards together.

Decorate as little or as much as you want. Put out the ornaments you love, whether that’s one small box or half the contents of your garage. Let the kids decorate their space however they want, too. Mismatched tablecloths and an excessive number of construction paper snowflakes? Sure, why not?

Christmas is going to be different, but different doesn’t have to be bad. Pick the best of your longstanding traditions, choose some new and meaningful ones, and embrace the season with a simple celebration this year.

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