Preparing for a simple Christmas

26 November 2012
For those of us who celebrate Christmas it's only a few weeks away. In fact, Christmas eve is only four Mondays away. Over at the forum, the moderators and I have been thinking about this and have come up with lots of handy hints to prepare for a simple Christmas. Of course, many of us have been working on our Christmas gifts for a while but there are so many things to think of at Christmas time, it's always wise to organise yourself in advance so things go as smoothly as possible. In Australia, it's the time for the major school holiday of the year. Final year students have already done their exams and left school, the others will start going on their seven to eight week holiday in the next couple of weeks. So Australian families not only have Christmas, they also have to organise the younger children while they're at home. It's a very busy time.

Carl Larsson artwork from here.

So what can we do here and at the forum to help you through the festive season? The mods will bring their thoughts and suggestions to you in each of the sections. Those sections are:
  • Front Door 
  • Saving and Spending 
  • Simple Life 
  • Make it yourself
  • Home and Homemaking
  • Nourishment
  • Sustainable Backyard
  • Back Verandah
There will be new Christmas-related suggestions and ideas in all those categories which just about cover every home and backyard. We're not suggesting you rush out and buy, we're suggesting a more mindful Christmas. If you want support for not buying into the Christmas hype, that's there too. There will be ideas for how to best pay off Christmas credit card debt and a couple of handy ways to prevent using credit cards next year. We'll be discussing Christmas decorations, menus, special festive foods, preparing for holiday visitors, hand made gifts, traditions, how to prepare the garden for the holidays, and of course, eating leftovers, cleaning up and much more. We've already been soaking fruit and baking traditional Christmas cakes but it's not too late. If you want to join in, here is the thread.

Christmas time can be a minefield of wanting to keep saving for your future and feeling guilty about not buying uncle Bob a fancy tie. These holiday periods happen every year so it's a good idea to learn  ways to cope with the guilt and pressure. The forum encourages conversations where you can talk with like-minded people about the problems we all face during periods of machine-gun advertising, how to keep a level head and stay true to your values. It can be done.

We'll have a series of forum-related Christmas posts for the next four Mondays, it will end on Christmas eve. Brought to you by the combined efforts of Rhonda, Sue, Rose, Lisa, Lynn, Becci, Sherri, Allison, Amy, Meghan, Narelle, Tania, Sandra, Corrine, Tessa and Robyn. We'll see you over at the Down to Earth Forum. The Christmas-related posts will be going up in the next few hours as the mods come online.

Will your Christmas be simpler this year?


  1. what a wonderful way to put it!
    Guilt and pleasure , so very very true!!!!
    We need all the help one can get!! I hope you are having a good day, its snowing and blowing here!
    Four Mondays until Christmas, oooo, never thought of that!! lol,

  2. Absolutely a simple Christmas this year, our first one as a divorced family. 2 older children are at university, 2 younger spend most of their time with me, visiting Dad most weekends. Finances being what they are, and with the goal of saving as much as possible every month to apply towards the very large downpayment I want to put towards my next home (we are currently renting a home), in order to keep the future mortgage do-able. We will get a live tree (discussion on getting a fake one took place, a real one remains on the list), I have refurbished my artificial wreaths for the windows, and my baskets of silk greenery for indoors. I have materials (most I believe)to make a multi colored glass ball ornament wreath for over the fireplace, and will cut some greenery from a tree out back and tie it together as a "spray" then decorate it with ribbons on hand for the front door. Same scent as a purchased fresh wreath, just for alot less. I did spring for some battery operated candles for the front windows, all other decorations such as for the tree, are on hand. I do need to buy a tree stand. Ham, shrimp already purchased on sale. Simple sides and most likely homemade cookies for dessert. Gifts will be modest, practical, some homemade. It'll have to do. : )

  3. Thanks to a simpler way of thinking, my Christmas giving is themed this year. We are giving mugs to all the adults, with a personalised homemade gift inside. For my nephew we will stick with that theme and buy him a sippy cup and put some clothes inside (he is not quite 6 months). I have three other nieces/nephews and they will also be getting something homemade inside a cup which is age appropriate and does not add to their already abundant toy stash. My own kids will be getting a mixture of fun water activities, a photo album of themselves, and things they need for school. Not extravagant or expensive... We will end up spending about $40 each.

  4. What an absolutely wonderful idea, Rhonda! I look forward to looking over all the ideas, and possibly joining in, if I have anything to offer on a subject.

  5. Oh when you said four more Mondays you made my heart skip. I have not done one darn thing for Christmas. We will be getting Christmas back where it used to be. Good food, lots of family time and not very many presents. We will give our girls money so they can buy what they need for their own homes, be that groceries or gas for their car, or transit in the city. I will be printing out homemade cards and giving food baskets from my cupboard to those who need it. Yes I will not be doing very much shopping and I will enjoy less pressure and more pleasure during these holidays. Family time, laughing, and making memories that is all I am thinking about. My Mom is not well and I am sure no one worries about what to buy her as to how to make her smile. B

  6. Each year, my Christmas becomes simpler. More and more of my gifts are handmade and I have relinquished the 'in charge' role to my children, who do a wonderful job. Next week, my grandbabies are coming over to decorate the house and put the tree up. I absolutely love Christmas!

  7. Definitely more and more simplified every year.

    This year we are travelling which has not happened in decades. My eldest has a few days off and I will drive back to Brisbane to bring him down to us and back for work after a few days off. The next is in France expanding her language skills as she is doing a French/Education double degree and my youngest is now 16. Dad's dementia is spiralling down at present so this holiday period will be more about him than anything else. He has never loved fancy or elaborate gifts so I guess so signs for his room, bed etc will be his "gift".

  8. My wife and I have decided to forgo the gift giving for one another and concentrate on the reason for the season. The celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ has been pushed aside in many ways. We want to bring that back into our lives.

  9. With grown up children scattered around the world and even those close to us having to divide their time among in laws it is sometimes quite difficult to get together. We have our closest kids and grandkids coming for the afternoon and evening on Christmas day. That leaves us oldies time to go to church and then have a leisurely day. We put all the names in a hat and then only buy for one person, other than the grandkids, although we do try to buy something education for them. My daughter in law offered to buy some prawns, and then we will have a ham and probably some cold chicken, and then salads. so it will be lovely and simple and family oriented.

  10. I had my mum and oldest daughter put up our 2 trees (one is a table top tree) and I put out the other deccies (xmas plates, candles, etc). I've actually sent a lot of the excessive deccies to the Goodwill. I've saved $$$ for the presents that I bought and I've handcrafted the others. I'm also giving out cash/gift cards. All we need to do is plan some holiday baking! Oh...did I mention? I had my giftees wrapped last August *grin*

  11. i simply don't do christmas

    selina from kilkivan qld

  12. My Christmas will definitely be simpler this year. Over the past few years each Christmas is getting simpler and simpler and as a result more and more meaningful. I'm excited about this Christmas. I'm refusing to get caught up in the chaos and commercialisation that typically accompanies Christmas. Instead I’m aiming to slow down and embrace "less is more". There’ll be less rushing around and more time with family.

    I've been writing about our preparations for a simple Christmas over at my blog. Including our advent calender - which is simply some leaves, numbered and pegged onto string. Each number corresponds to a simple nature play or craft activity. Its our calm and creative countdown to Christmas.

    Wishing you and your family a simple and Calm Christmas Rhonda. x t,

  13. Thank you Tricia. I wish the same for you. xx

  14. I long for a simple Christmas with handmade and heartfelt gifts. I exchange handmade gifts with my immediate family but the extended family aren't so keen on that idea. The number one thing on their wish lists is money or gift cards so they can buy exactly what they want. It is what they want so that is what I give them but it really feels like there is no feeling in the gift which does make me a little sad.
    I love handmade no matter the skill level of the maker because I know the time and effort that has to be spent means a lot.

  15. We are definitely having a simple Christmas. In the past we have drawn names for our extended families. Basically we were exchanging gift cards, which is not very meaningful. So we have decided to exchange homemade gifts or baked goods. It will be so nice to focus on spending time with family and eating good food without going into debt. The only gifts I am buying are for my husband and teenage son and daughter.

  16. This is my first Christmas as a Mum & i'm expecting that my daughter will be inundated with presents. I'm not sure how to stop people buying her what i call "pink plastic princess crap". Our house is quite small & we don't have room for more "stuff". If they are going to buy presents i'd rather they buy good quality useful gifts that will last.

    1. Freckles, I agree with you about the pink plastic - it's horrible stuff. Could you politely ask for gift vouchers instead of gifts? That way you could buy what you want her to have and stagger it out over the year.

    2. It may not be popular with everyone but I was very thankful when everyone put in to buy one good present. Sometimes it was just one present for all three youngsters. Try it early on and see if people are willing. It is worthwhile.

  17. I have pared down my Christmas decorating to a few, cherished items. Much less stress and they mean that much more. I used to bake lots of cookies but no longer do, since I end up eating most of them, ha. We now have a table top tree instead of a huge one. Much easier, and the two-year old grandson and dogs can't mess with it. In our family we only give gifts to the children, and keep them simple and inexpensive. We play lots of Christmas music, sit by the fire, tell stories, and generally enjoy the holiday much more since we have simplified. As an added bonus, this saves money as well. So glad you are addressing this issue, over the years the holidays have become much too commercial, we need to get back to the real meaning.

  18. O yes, it will be a more simple Christmas this time. Just like I love to simplify all the other things in our life. We do not spend a lot of money to set the table. I like to buy us a little chicken roulade and love to serve it with some fresh patatoes and green beans. As dessert a homemade vanilla custard or some chocolate and vanilla icecream. And that's it.
    The most important thing for me is to share these wonderfull days with the people I love the most.

  19. We too have signed out of the hype. For my extended family Xmas we have signed out of gifts (it's a Kris Kringle and it's understood that not everyone does gifts). My immediate family Xmas will be a day at the zoo. My SIL and I get taking in June or July about what gifts to give our niece/nephews so that we don't double up or waste things. We've chosen gifts that make sense - a replacement trampoline safety mat and some new swimming rash tops for my kids and for hers it's clothes and backpacks etc. Her kids are spoiled crazy from her side of the family and I would rather not compete. Our kids have all they need, we are about to move into a smaller house so we definitely don't have room for more stuff and I'd rather encourage my kids to play outside. We adults have agreed to not do gifts amongst us although I know my mum will just HAVE to get something. Our kids will all give their grandparents a small gift but nothing extravagant.
    Our Xmas day will have friends over and maybe my parents too and we will be sitting down to what is hopefully a home grown and locally sourced Xmas meal. Last year we spent the day alone with our kids and as much as it was a little anticlimactic, it was also lovely and peaceful with no expectations or demands. I'm hoping that this year will be as stress-free.

  20. We are Definately simplifying our Christmas this year. Was just talking about this yesterday. From homemade decorations to handmade gifts. The kids prefer to see their own creations hanging on the tree, over meaningless store bought ones. It's makes Christmas feel so much more meaningful.

  21. i'm as mad about christmas as i am about 'simple living' so i've signed up to and am looking forward to the christmas thread very much. we've planted our 3 year old a pea tee-pee and are hoping it will be ready come christmas day (dens and peas are amongst her favourite things), i'm giving the husband a fishing licence but otherwise all my gifts are handmade this year for the first time. although i really like the things i've made and would love to receive them i am a bit nervous about their reception; but needs must this year as we are living simply by necessity rather than choice.

  22. Margaret in TasmaniaNovember 27, 2012 4:59 pm

    For the first time in 9 years we will spend Christmas with the family and I am so looking forward to that . This year we will buy just 2 gifts (Kris Kringle) for adults and the children will get money so we can go shopping with them. I can't buy for the children as they range in ages from 15 to 7 and would rather they got something they would like than something that get's stuck in a drawer.There will be over 20 people around the table so it will be very exciting. Everything will be homemade including the bon-bons.. This does not phase my daughter one little bit . I'm making the clootie dumpling (Christmas Pudding)and hopefully contribute something else....perhaps my Scottish Shortbread which always seems to go down well.For all my friends here in Tasmania I have made a Kitchen angel. Useful, not expensive and a wee bit quirky.I wish you all a very happy and safe Christmas and most of all have FUN !

  23. Christmas isn't a big deal for us to begin with. Once we had a child though, I started getting sucked into the madness of gift giving and receiving a ton of gifts for my child. It was overwhelming. I would have appreciated a handmade or simple gifts for my child. The plastic battery operated stuff hardly lasted, compared to books and clothes. But I had a feeling that people would be too embarrassed to give simpler gifts.
    Its the same feeling I get. I only give handmade gifts to those close to me. I wish I could get over the stigma of giving handmade goods for fear of being looked upon as Cheap. My crafty friends and I know that handmade doesnt always mean cheaper. Unfortunately, I have had some bad experience of my handmade gifts or cards being looked uopon as cheap. As a child, I was confronted by an aunt for not giving a nicer sotre bought gift! It hasnt hampered me from making things for people but to keep things simple, I buy gift cards. It just gets rid of the headache of thinking and agonizing over the "appropriateness" of my gift.

  24. Not so much a Simple Christmas idea but one that several family members could pitch in for a small child is the Wheely bug ride on toys available from K and K toys online. We bought one for my son's first birthday and it is still going strong after 8 years and another child. Well worth the money.

    I have no connection with the company other than having been a VERY happy customer. When i see all the variations of rubbishy plastic things for sale for people to buy their children in the stores I feel quite dismayed.



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