The countdown to Christmas has become a festival of chaos and consumption. If you prefer to roll into the festive season feeling calm and connected – rather than overwhelmed and broke – now is a good time to prepare your plan of attack.
Here are my three favourite tips for avoiding the chaos and consumerism of Christmas.
1. Embrace less is more when it comes to gift giving
This Christmas we’ll continue our tradition of giving our daughter only two gifts – one from us and one from Santa.
Knowing our gift rules, she slowly and thoughtfully prepares her wishlist (and I suspect she is going to continue to believe in Santa for a very long time).
She declutters her initial long list down to only a few carefully chosen items.
Like simplifying in general, take away the clutter and you end up with only what’s truly important.
At eight years old, she understands that getting fewer gifts isn't the norm. I questioned her about how she feels about our gift tradition. She gave me a cheeky smirk, suggesting that she would like more ... but then told me that "I like getting less because I play with what I get more. I don’t have to decide what to play with".
By giving her less, we take away the overwhelm and help her appreciate and value what she has.
Rather than depriving her, we are teaching her the value of wanting less. If you want less, getting everything you want is a realistic goal.
2. Create new family traditions
We've found the key to reducing the focus on gift-giving is to create other, more meaningful traditions.
Taking something away is less noticeable when you replace it with something better.
New traditions (or re-connecting with old traditions) fill the gap left when we take away the emphasis on gift-giving.
My favourite festive season tradition is our countdown to Christmas.
We make an advent calendar from natural materials.
Last year we used clay.
This year we used Jacaranda seed pods.
In previous years each ornament, stone or leaf is numbered and corresponds to a chosen creative activity.
We chose quick nature play or craft activities that we could do as a family and avoided activities that required us to buy anything. We used natural and recycled materials and made use of what we already had.
We roll into Christmas feeling more connected and creative.
When creating your new family Christmas tradition, think about what you enjoy doing as a family and do more of that.
3. Slow down before Christmas
This year we are simplifying our creative countdown to Christmas.
Instead of spending time creating together, we will simply spend time together.
I feel like our family could benefit more from a good dose of calm rather than creativity this year.
Each day we will linger at the table after dinner for at least half an hour. Some days we may simply chat. On other days we may choose to play a board game or craft together. Or we might even choose to help our daughter catch up on homework.
There are no rules other than we sit together.
I'm also carefully evaluating each and every thing we do and scheduling catch-ups for the new year, rather than trying to squeeze them in before Christmas.
Wishing you a calm and connected countdown to Christmas.
Originally published in the Newcastle Herald Monday 23rd November 2015.