Friday, November 6, 2009

Words, Words, Words from Brene Brown

"We live in a world where life can easily become pageantry, and the best performers make it look balletic and effortless. Of course, there's no such thing as an effortless holiday show. If you sneak a peek behind most people's red velvet curtains at holiday time, you'll often see houses brimming with anxiety, maxed-out credit cards, crying children, and marriages that make the cold war look warm and fuzzy.

"I'm convinced that the only way out of this is by cancelling the show. Not cancelling the holiday, but giving up the show." Brene Brown,
Ordinary Courage

Every Christmas for the last three years, I've experimented with giving up the show. Last year, shocking as it sounds, I didn't even bake cookies. Believe it or not, we had a great Christmas anyway. As we gear up for the holiday season this year, I'm making sure that we have time to do fun things, as a family, and focus on only those holiday traditions that help enhance the season and opting out of whatever makes it more stressful. For every holiday "thing" I do, I'm stopping and asking myself, "Is this necessary? Do we HAVE to do this? Who says so?"

Some things I'm simplifying:

1. Simplifying gift wrapping with plain white paper and fun ribbon and simply stamped avery address labels instead of gift tags (only Santa will use printed paper!).
2. Making/buying gifts to ship that fit in small priority mail boxes, which are already at home and ready to fill.
3. Putting money in a pocket of my purse for adding to every Salvation Army bucket I pass.
4. Limiting my outdoor decorating to a wreath on the front door.
5. Limiting my indoor decorating to a few special things (like the ceramic nativity set my mother made) and a tree.

Some things won't change:

1. Cards made by me and a Christmas letter written by George. (I spent way too much time this year making Christmas cards not to mail them, LOL!).
2. Going with the family to chop down a Christmas tree at a local Tree farm.
3. Making sugar plums with the kids to give as gifts to friends and neighbors.
4. Putting out all the Christmas books and reading them with the boys.
5. Welcoming Chris, our Elf on the Shelf, each morning as he returns from reporting to Santa at the North Pole.
6. Contributing to the Giving Tree and Shoebox ministry at our church.

Do you feel the urge to opt out of the show? What can you let go of or change to make Christmas (or whatever winter holiday you celebrate) more meaningful and peaceful, more centered and less commercial? I'd love to hear your ideas!


  1. How about leaving town? I too have been desperate to drop some things I feel I must do rather than disappoint people. This year we're thinking about going to Palm Springs and enjoying Christmas in a whole new way!

  2. We do it to ourselves!!!!!! But what would Christmas be without all those traditions YOU started because YOU wanted Christmas to meet YOUR expectations for a glorious time of year?

    I've focused on trimming kitchen folly away. Who needs the calories of fudge, toffee, and candied nuts anyway? And about the turkey gravy? Is there anyone who would know if you froze gravy bought from Kentucky Fried Chicken this week and served it with your holiday turkeys? Ditto the KFC baking-powder biscuits!

    The best tip I got for changing gift-giving I got from Late Blossom; 10 panel-cards in a clear box make SUCH a welcomed gift, even for kids who need to learn early the fine( and almost lost), art of sending thank-you notes.

    And we'll be helping serving Christmas dinner at The Upper Room. Not really much of a sacrifice since it's never served on the actual day of Christmas, unfortunately.

    Thank you Susan!

  3. Love your ideas. I gave up the things that add too much stress and not enough joy a couple of years ago. We basically only do things that either add joy to our own lives or to the lives of others. I don't stress over gifts--it is a gift I give with my heart, you can either like it or not, but I gave it to you with a lot of thought and care. Growing up my family would try and set a number value on every gift given and would complain is so and so spent five dollars more on another kid than theirs. My niece loves coloring pencils and paper. Doesn't cost a lot, but those reams of copy paper she gets from us every year makes her one happy little girl.

    Gift giving had gotten out of hand with our friends a few years ago. Now our gift to each other is a night hanging out at one of our houses just sitting and talking, maybe a movie. Dinner and snacks are potluck and it's okay if all your bring is tortilla chips or if you spent three days making cookies.

    My philosophy in life is about time. No matter who you are, or what you do, you only have 24 hours in your day. Giving someone the gift of your time is the most valuable thing you can give.

  4. I have been steadily scaling back on Christmas for the last ten years. I used to decorate every room in the house, host a holiday open house, do a cookie exchange, do multiple charitable projects, and attend the local parade, the nutcracker, the festival of trees, the gingerbread house displays etc, etc, etc. Now decorations consist of a wreath on the door, a nativity, and the tree. We only attend our local parade and skip all the choral performances, the ballet, and the tree/gingerbread events. I don't bake any cookies but I make a cake for Christmas Eve. I no longer host holiday parties but we still drive around looking at Christmas lights and walk through our very quaint, historic downtown at night. I make some (not all) of my cards and have given cards as gifts too, though this year I'm taking a break from giving them as gifts.


Thanks so much for taking time to comment!