Maintaining a Minimalist Christmas

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minimalist Christmas

For many people, Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year. Unfortunately, if you’re a parent (and even if you’re not) it can come with a great deal of stress, anxiety, and running around. And if you’re struggling financially, all of these negative feelings are only compounded. I am fortunate enough to have the means to provide a nice Christmas for my children, and I think often about less fortunate families, and how much harder this time of year must be for them.  

I think the holidays should be a time for singing carols, watching Christmas movies, and sipping hot cocoa. In order to prioritize these things and remain mindful of low income families, I have held tight to a minimalist Christmas tradition since having kids. Twelve days of shopping at the mall and ordering tons of toys online is not how I want to spend my December. So, I’ve made a few rules for Christmas in our house that have kept things low key and focused on love and family.  

I practice a two-pronged approach for keeping Christmas simple and relaxed. First, I don’t buy gifts outside of my immediate family and my extended family’s secret Santa exchange. I stick to mailing holiday photo cards. This allows me to keep my focus largely on making Christmas special for my kids. And by special, I do not mean accompanied by a thousand dollars worth of presents. 

In fact, we limit our kids’ gifts to four items, plus their stockings. Last year I was lamenting the mountains of future garbage that wind up under our Christmas trees when a friend shared this poem with me: 

Something you want. Something you need. Something to wear. Something to read. 

That’s all, folks. That and some candy and trinkets in the stockings is more than enough to bring us immeasurable joy and fun on Christmas morning. 

The “want” gift is the only one my children get from Santa (he also fills the stockings). The other three gifts are from Mama and Daddy. I am ever aware that many families can’t fulfill a mile long list sent to the North Pole, and I don’t think anyone should have to feel that pressure. Not just because it’s unfair, but because it’s actually unnecessary. 

Children are precious, grateful, beautiful little beings who truly do not need much. When my children discuss their wish lists, we make it clear that they won’t necessarily get everything they want. They have not pushed back on this concept and are blissfully grateful for what they do receive, and most of all, for the spirit of the holidays and the additional time they get to spend with us and the rest of their family. 

Christmas is a time to cultivate the gratitude, contentment, and joy that our children already have inside of them. So why not focus on memories instead of stuff? Memories and traditions hold up over time and last so much longer than things. 

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Amy is a Hudson Valley native and educator working in New York City schools. She has two little kids and one little dog. Before moving to her current home in Ossining, Amy attended college on Long Island and then spent most of her 20s in Brooklyn and Queens. New York is truly home for her, and she’s thrilled to be living closer to her hometown of Garrison and her extended family. As a mom, Amy believes in empowered parenting, and she’s passionate about raising her kids to be partners in the fight for social justice. When she’s not working or trying to figure out nap time, Amy loves hiking, yoga, swimming, and relaxing with her family.