Simply So

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Book of Christmas Virtues

Simply So

Too often, December arrives shrink-wrapped in good intentions. Big plans, high hopes—and wishful thinking.

We envision a Norman Rockwell holiday that crackles with the toe-melting warmth of an old-fashioned, wood-burning fire. Or a Martha Stewart holiday that sparkles with fine crystal, heirloom china and polished silver reflecting the romantic glow of gilded candlelight. Or a Lawrence Welk holiday that rings with the eager excitement of mittened children, the familiar laughter of old friends and the lilting songs of muffler-wrapped carolers.

We envision a holiday that simmers the flavors of mulled cider, clove-studded oranges, hand-dipped chocolates and homey yeast breads. That glitters with the charm of wreathed doors, bulb-frosted eaves and tinseled trees. A Christmas piled high with parcels, packages and presents—handpicked, handmade, hand wrapped.

Signed.

Sealed.

Delivered.

We expect to achieve it all—all at one time, all in one month, all in one breath—often at the expense of the people and things we hold even more dear. And we rarely allow ourselves time to smell the poinsettias.

But there is an alternative. A simpler Christmas, a more novel Noel. We can scale back in order to really “savor the season.” Instead of trying to do so much, what if we focus on the traditions we value and eliminate the rest?

Consider making a personal list of your typical holiday activities. Include everything from addressing greeting cards to sewing matching red pajamas to unpacking crates of decorations. Think about each item.

What makes your children groan?

What makes you groan?

Are there any particular activities your family has outgrown? What could be done during another season instead? (Perhaps opting to decorate sugar cookies for Valentine’s Day or waiting to mail annual newsletters as a New Year’s Day event.)

How can some activities be simplified? (Maybe donating to charities in lieu of gift giving, shopping via the Internet to avoid the mall throngs or entertaining in the post-Christmas lull rather than at the height of the season.)

Now, make a second list of holiday activities you wish you could do. It might mention things like romping in a new snow or curling up to reread the old, familiar Christmas story—straight from the Bible. Participating in the community’s resounding rendition of Handel’s “Hallelujah Chorus” or leisurely lunching with a dear friend. Playing the role of robed shepherd in a live nativity or sipping nutmeg-freckled eggnog in front of the fire. Watching How the Grinch Stole Christmas with the whole family or taking a solitary walk under a star-studded sky. Attending a local charity event with your spouse or stringing popcorn and cranberries with the grandkids.

Prioritize the items you’ve chosen to keep with those you’ve decided to add. Be certain there is a healthy balance between self, family and others. Above all, see to it that your list is short. Compact. Simple.

Now, slow down and enjoy each event. Savor it to the fullest. Linger over it. Then—learn to linger longer.

And tuck this among the gifts you give yourself and your loved ones this year: simplicity.

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