Thursday, December 16, 2010

simplifying holiday traditions

{the wintry village early in advent}
A lot of mamas have been sharing their thoughts about simplifying their advent calendar traditions this year. ( I really enjoyed reading Heather's thoughts.) In my own case, I simplified two years ago by replacing gifts or treats on the advent calendar with items that can be placed in a wintry village scene. (My original post about it is here.) This is the third year and I'm still so pleased about this arrangement. The boys, at four and five, are perfectly happy to place an item into the village each day.
{the wintry village tonight}
I love the combination of items here: toys from their regular toy rotation, some Christmas trinkets found around the house or my mother's house, light up houses thrifted last year, and a sweet stable from my mom (vintage). They all work together to be so aesthetically appealing, to me anyway.

Each year I think, "maybe I'll buy a few new things . . . some wooden animals or something" but it hasn't even been necessary.

I've been thinking every day this month about simplifying Christmas more and more. It feels so right. When I imagine spending a joyful holiday with my peeps, my thoughts always turn to images of family time: playing games together, watching holiday movies, having a fire in the fireplace, driving around looking at lights, enjoying our Christmas tree, maybe drinking some cocoa or Russian tea. All of those are such simple things that don't require a stressed mama. Of course gifts and a few special meals are nice, but I'm simplifying those things too.

This year I am
:: simplifying holiday meals by making fewer items or using tried and true go-to menus that are easy and yummy
:: making and buying fewer gifts overall
:: wrapping and embellishing the presents early early
:: using the advent items that I used last year--no last minute shopping for new extra stuff
:: making a list that is doable and realistic
:: having everything else on the list under a "crafting wish list" category just for fun-- with no stress or expectation of doing any or all of it
:: making far fewer cookies or maybe none at all if I don't feel inspired

The cookies have been a huge source of stress these last couple years. Baking used to be a big interest of mine, but with little kids underfoot, spending all that time baking and cleaning up afterwards and wielding big hot cookie sheets is just not appealing anymore. My friend Sylvia says all they make every year is a batch or two of snowball cookies and everyone loves them and is happy. I'm aiming for something more along those lines this year.

What are you simplifying this year?


Nina said...

I have realized that my kids really enjoy our simple traditions. They remember them year to year even at the young ages of 4 & 7. So we will keep making a small craft, buying toys for less fortunate kids, picking a tree at a farm, decorating, stockings, fabric gift bags, 3 gifts each, music, and the soft glow of Christmas lights. Just enough.

julie said...

You're so right! And I love your little village. I've been thinking how the children eat way too much chocolate during the whole of Advent so really should do the trinket calendar next year.
I am all for simple food too, though I love cooking and baking. We shoud all just do what is enjoyable for us!

Happy Christmas!

The Wool Fairy said...

I do so love your Advent idea! I may have to set up something like this next year...or start phasing it in!! (:

I like your idea of the crafting wish list. I find my stress is often self-inflicted by wanting to execute on so many great ideas, even though I clearly have enough done and made already. I started my gift knitting in the summer so that I would be on top of things for the holidays.

I feel the same way about baking. Pre-kids I used to give out sweet trays as gifts to so many people. This year my only goal is gingerbread cookies for the kids to decorate.


Lia said...

I'm right there with ya. A few years ago I thought homemade gifts would be so wonderful, and they were, but SO much extra work and stress. This year I bought gifts with the 'less is more' mindset and focused on incorporating more family traditions.
We do a cookie exchange at work so I bake several dozen of one kind and come home with an assorted tray. It is fun to try other people's favorites too.

Andrea said...

I love how you set your winter village up as an advent; I've been meaning to follow suit ever year since you first posted about it, but haven't been able to get that organized (maybe I'll just pack our winter village away into an advent calendar!) I love your thoughts on simplifying. I think I'm making a lot fewer things than in the past, but I'm not sure (and I keep adding to my list!). I've been able to reduce the craziness of cookie baking by doing only one batch of cookies each weekend of December, mixing the dough one day (preferably after kids go to bed) and cutting out the next, with kids helping if they want. And then eating them throughout the week, rather than trying to amass a bunch for gifts. Other than the week I decided to make really complicated cookies, this has worked beautifully.

CountryGirl said...

Mary Beth, I have been having the exact same thoughts on my blog. I love to know what you think of my thoughts! Also, I love your little village, it is beautiful. We have a Lego village... not quite the same in terms of beauty!! but it's fun getting each piece out everyday. Sam was lucky enough to have a Lego advent calendar last year, and I carefully packed the bits away and we have got each one out every day of advent this year. Enjoy your last week in the run up to Christmas!

Carol said...

Thanks so much for the advent ideas. I love the village idea and adding to it daily. We set a village up now that my three year old son has spent much time checking out, rearranging trees and peering into windows. I am feeling really bummed with the chocolate and stickers I went with this year for our advent calendar, it just doesn't feel as meaningful to me anymore (though we are a chocolate loving family!). Let's hope I can remember the advent village for next year! I always enjoy reading your blog...thanks for the inspiration.

We are also trying to simplify things this year. Lots of thrift store find gifts, less baking, lots of handmade things (artwork, canned veggies from our garden, suet for the birds and applesauce) for family.

Wishing you and your family a peaceful and restful holiday!

Nancy said...

This post is so dear to my heart! We have had the most laid-back season ever this year, and for reasons I can't explain, with most everything 'optional,' and the magic is there just the same.

Janell said...

I just love your winter village. It feels so warm and homey. I've been keeping it simple this year too, and enjoying more than I expected, partly because I gave myself permission to only do what I really wanted to do this year and make everything else optional. Thoughts here: