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Simplify Christmas - Five Good Ideas

Updated on July 3, 2015

Simplify Christmas (And Other Holidays, Too)

I'm not entirely certain about other countries of the world but in the United States of America Christmas, which is eagerly awaited and loved by everyone, is often one of the most stressful times of the year.

It's busy. It's expensive. It's chaotic. And although we look forward to it each year, we also often dread it. That's sad.

That's how I USED to feel.

But with just a few simple changes, Christmas has become a more beloved holiday in our house. It's easier to focus on the real meaning of this holiday - whether you celebrate it for it's religious roots or it's secular roots.

I took this photo of old Christmas ornaments in a big glass bowl after finding it in a bunch of garage sale leftovers in a friends house. Very cool.

Simplifying holidays leads to "Greener" holidays.


Idea #1 - Simplify Gift Giving

Remember, it's the thought that counts.

When I was a child we received one gift from "Santa Claus" each Christmas. It was usually something that we really wanted (like a doll) and we were so happy when Santa delivered our hearts' desires..

Andy Warhol

We were quite a bit more indulgent with our children. I loved Christmas shopping, wrapping the gifts and hiding them until Christmas Eve. Then they grew up, got married and had children of their own. Suddenly we were buying lots of gifts costing lots of money.

The sad thing is the children were starting to expect it. One year I remember dreading the idea of Christmas shopping. It wasn't the money although I was appalled at the, it was more the fact that we had lost the whole meaning of Christmas.

So we told our children that we would be cutting way back. And we did. We bought one or two small things for each grandchild and something for each couple. I was relieved but nervous. What would they think? Well, guess what? They loved us, anyway! It really IS the thought that counts! Here are a few ways to cut back and still have fun.

:: Give gift cards. To bookstores for a book lover, or to a favorite clothing store or a special restaurant.

:: Give tickets to an upcoming performance or an event that you know the person would love.

:: Give your time. Create a gift certificate to teach a skill that you have to someone who has always admired your work. Or for pet sitting or baby sitting.

:: Give something hand made. Jars of jams or jellies or pickles. Prepare a gift basket of special teas or coffees. Tuck in a teacup or coffee mug or two and perhaps a pair of vintage napkins.

:: If the person loves vintage or collectible items, check out the local antique or resale shops or go online to Ebay for just the right gift at a reasonable price.

Simplify with Vintage Gifts - Bring back a happy memory

You'll find a collectible gift for everyone on Amazon and they'll appreciate your thoughtfulness.


Vintage games are now all the rage...check out your favorites.


Remember that favorite toy you cherished as a child? It's possible that you can actually find one just like it!

Vintage Dishes

There's nothing quite as elegant as enjoying homemade (or not) sherbet in a vintage dish. Like these:

Vintage Accessories

Dressing up for the Holidays? New Year's Eve, perhaps? You'll be all set with one of a kind accessories like this purse.

How to Make a Candy Wreath - These make a fun gift for friends and neighbors.

This is an excellent video with detailed instructions on making a candy wreath. What's so great about it is that it's a perfect family project. There are lots of suggestions for using different types of wrapped candies so each wreath is different from the last.

I've decided that I'm going to make these wreaths as gifts for my friends and neighbors, this year. I'm going to see how many different designs I can make. We have a good friend who is diabetic so I'll make his with wrapped, sugar-free candies! He's going to love it.

A tradition in some Eastern European countries was to light evergreen wreaths on winter evenings with the hope of early spring and sunshine.

A Shiny Red Ornament - From Flickr Photographer brockvicky

Idea #2 - Simplify Gift Wrapping

Save time, money and the planet!

Photo courtesy of INeedCoffee/CoffeeHero

Create Your Own Unique Gift Wraps

Did you know that wrapping paper is hardly ever recyclable?

It's because a very low quality of paper fibers and a large quantity of ink is used in the manufacture of gift wrap.

Instead of buying gift wrap, save ribbon and gift bags that you receive and reuse them. Encourage the recipients to do the same. Better yet, use some of these creative wrapping ideas:

:: Old sheet music would be a beautiful gift wrap for a music cd or video.

:: Stamp brown paper or white shelf paper with handmade stamps or other interesting shapes. The picture shows a plain white paper sack stamped with some round shape that was dipped in coffee. Isn't that cool?

::Fabric pieces or scarves. Perfect to wrap jewelry or anything of a personal nature.

:: Organic cotton or linen napkins would make a perfect giftwrap for some small kitchen gift items.

:: Wallpaper scraps. Ask at the local paint store for their out-of-date wallpaper books. They're usually happy to have you take them off their hands.

:: Old maps and posters. You could use twine or string for ribbon.

:: A reusable canvas tote bag makes a fabulous gift bag. I do this a lot.

:: Use raffia or twine instead of ribbon to tie up your packages.

I once carved a Christmas tree shape out of a large eraser, dipped it into a green stamp pad and used that to decorate brown paper bags. It was fun and made a unique gift wrap. I also used red and green markers to draw red holly berries with green leaves on paper sacks to use for small gifts. Then I tied the packages with raffia.

Creative Gift Wrapping Ideas

This is a really good video with several ideas for making your own gift wrap. It isn't long and I think you'll enjoy it.

Useful Gift Wrapping and Gift Giving Books

Fun for the Kids, too!

There are some wonderful crafty ideas for gifts easy enough for a child to create. A great way to introduce a thrifty Holiday tradition.

Gifts Kids Can Make
Gifts Kids Can Make

Some of the most treasured gifts that I have received have been hand made. If they're hand made by children or grandchildren, they're extra special gifts.


Gifts of Food

Almost every year I make a food gift for friends and family such as homemade vanilla, taco or chili seasoning packets, no-salt seasoning, teas, cocoas, spiced nuts, etc., etc. I'll include the recipe with each gift, too.

Gifts in a Bag: Dips
Gifts in a Bag: Dips

There's also a book called Gifts in a Bag: Seasonings and Rubs that would be perfect for an outdoor grilling enthusiast.


Idea #3 - Simplify Holiday Decorating

Photo courtesy of Chris_J

There are so many good ways to simplify holiday decorating. If you already have a favorite selection of decorations that you have accumulated over time and if you love them, just keep using them. They're only up for a short period of time and each year they seem new, again.

If you want to change your theme, consider donating the items to a nursing home, shelter or offer them on Freecycle.

:: Buy an artificial tree instead of a real, cut tree. It will last forever.

:: Fill a big clear glass bowl with beautiful fresh red and green apples to use as a centerpiece. Pretty and edible. You could add a sprig or two of holly and perhaps some pinecones.

:: String popcorn and cranberries on dental floss using a large-eyed needle. A really beautiful old-fashioned garland for your Christmas tree or mantle. Make it a family affair. The kids will love it (guaranteed) and it will make for a wonderful new tradition and many years of good memories.

:: Use mini-lights, preferably LED lights for your Christmas tree. They're a little mores expensive but they last 50,000 hours! It's true! They're also cooler so fire risk is minimized and they use about 10 percent of the energy of regular mini-lights.

:: Make your own wreaths using wrapped candy, balls of yarn, pine cones, ribbon, fabric strips...anything that looks festive.

If you use a cut tree, remember to recycle it right after the holiday.

Many communities will pick your tree up free of charge during the first few days after Christmas. It will be used as mulch or or for composting.

Idea #4 - Simplify Holiday Cards

We once received a holiday greeting email from some really lovely people. It had photos of each of the family members and it was fun to get. But it sort of lost in the translation, if you know what I mean. Just wasn't the same as a card in the mail.

I know, I know...saving trees and cutting down on postage are so very important. But you can still send a personal greeting and still make a positive impact on the earth and/or support a worthy cause. A once a year indulgence in this tradition is really the right thing to do. In my opinion.

:: I, personally, like to purchase holiday cards that support UNICEF. Pier 1 and Ikea sell them and they're beautiful cards that support a worthy cause.

:: Buy cards that are printed on eco-friendly paper such as tree-free paper or cards made from recycled materials even if they're not 100% post-consumer.

:: Look for holiday postcards from recycled paper. Postage will be less and you don't need an envelope. Win-win situation.

:: St. Jude's Ranch for Children would love to receive the fronts of holiday greeting cards. They make new cards from them and sell them. The address to send to is: St. Jude's Ranch for Children, 100 St. Jude's Street, P.O. Box 60100, Boulder City, Nevada 89006.

Buffet-style parties often expensive and require so much time in the kitchen. Instead, serve cocktails and hors d'oeuvres (if it's before the dinner hour) or desserts (if it's later in the evening).

Idea #5 - Simplify Entertaining

Photo courtesy of Brett L.

Holiday parties are so much fun. I love to have a holiday open house and invite lots of people. Neighbors and friends we don't see very often because we all lead very busy lives.

Simplifying our entertaining is really easy and, as luck would have it, much more stress free than going all out on a big bash.

:: Plan ahead and send your invitations via evite.

:: Serve simple dishes that don't take hours to prepare. A festive tray of cheese and crackers, for example. Try offering three or four unique cheeses with one or two salamis and crackers. Or do antipasti. Set out bowls of mixed nuts. A tray of cookies.

:: Don't offer a full bar. Way too expensive. Serve a wine punch, a non-alcoholic punch, sparkling water, Tom & Jerry's, mulled cider or eggnog.

:: Organize a progressive dinner or party for your neighborhood. Everyone serves one course...hors d'oeuvres at one house, a salad at another, an entrée could be prepared by two neighbors and dessert and coffee at another. It's fun and nobody has to foot the bill or spend a week preparing.

Serving pieces for a holiday party

These party pieces will last forever and make your entertaining easy and enjoyable.

No More Paper Plates!

If my party isn't large I much prefer using pretty party plates rather than paper plates. Pop them in the dishwasher when the party if over and they're all ready for the next get-together.

Thank you for visiting. I hope you learned something new. If you have a special tip for simplifying any holiday, I'd love to hear about it.

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    • JenOfChicago LM profile image

      JenOfChicago LM 8 years ago

      More great ideas from you Cheryl - and these will all help reduce waste too! I love "Green" Christmases!

    • CherylK profile image

      Cheryl Kohan 8 years ago from Minnesota

      @Faye Rutledge: Wrapping gifts in newspaper is just brilliant! I may just steal that idea, this year!

    • CherylK profile image

      Cheryl Kohan 8 years ago from Minnesota

      @julieannbrady: Julie, this is a terrific idea and I've done it myself. Cookies and candies are really good gifts and everyone likes them! This year I'm preparing a recipe of Emeril's Cajun Seasoning and packaging it in small jars (for the guys), making a luscious recipe of caramel corn (I will share the recipe) and putting it in bags with big bows for the grandkids and I'm making sets of cloth napkins for my daughters and daughter-in-law.

    • profile image

      julieannbrady 8 years ago

      One Christmas I made all my gifts for friends and families -- I sewed and I sewed. Another Christmas, I made special cookies for gifts. Great idea!

    • Holley Web profile image

      Holley Web 8 years ago

      I don't know how I missed this, but I LOVE it! Great job!

    • profile image

      myraggededge 8 years ago

      Good ideas - I'm all for downsizing Christmas - it's way too silly sometimes!

    • Faye Rutledge profile image

      Faye Rutledge 8 years ago from Concord VA

      Thanks for these great ideas! My son used to work for the local newspaper and got the paper free. He was young and always broke, so he started using newspaper to wrap his gifts in, even at Christmas. And, now he still does! It's his signature wrap! I'll be adding this link to the Christmas section of my Party Pantry site!

    • RuthCoffee profile image

      RuthCoffee 8 years ago

      Great lens, wonderful ideas. I simplify too and I think kids/families who focus on giving of themselves come away with far more than those who receive everything their heart desires.

    • profile image

      poutine 8 years ago

      I like that video about wrapping gifts.

    • profile image

      bdkz 8 years ago

      Great ideas here!

    • clouda9 lm profile image

      clouda9 lm 8 years ago

      So practical and lots of great reminders to KISS...keep it simple silly! Thanks.

    • SusanDeppner profile image

      Susan Deppner 8 years ago from Arkansas USA

      Great suggestions! I learned a lot that I didn't know, too. We already have a pretty simple Christmas. It's having the family together that counts for me.