When I was growing up, the anticipation of the Christmas season almost took my breath away. Vivid memories include an array of colorful lights displayed in our neighborhood. The gorgeously-lit Christmas trees proudly displayed in every window. It was a simpler time many years ago.
Fast forward to today. Materialism has crept in and consumed the healthy spirit of the holidays. Parents rush into stores after midnight to grab the latest gadget. Credit cards swell with overloaded balances. We need to get back to the basics and remind ourselves and our children the true meaning of the season.
Let's spread the joy back into Christmas using MINIMALISM in our Christmas traditions!
Let me explain.
If you are a homeschool mom, it's a full-time job. Our responsibility as a teacher is creating a peaceful, stress-free environment at home. This isn't attainable when we are rushing around worrying about the holidays!
As the Christmas season rolls around, ask yourself, what is the reason is for the season? It's Jesus, of course! Finding ways to celebrate him and generating memories is ideal and possible!
How? We need to let go of the materialistic temptations of Christmas. We buy too many unused presents and wastes money. Our schedule includes too many activities and wastes time.
Let me challenge you this year to shift your focus away from materialism and busyness. Instead, develop a simpler plan of long-lasting traditions and minimalize unnecessary toys. These traditions encouraging quality time and conversations with those we love. In other words, set aside time with family to celebrate Jesus!
I'd like to share with you some easy, yet fun and fulfilling Christmas traditions we've used over the years. All activities stick with three goals in mind: simple, selfless, and serving. Also remember, you can incorporate any of these ideas into your homeschool day!
Consider making homemade gifts for the family. Creating salt dough ornaments is my favorite! These ornaments need very few supplies, makes great personalized gifts and encourages creativity. Since the kids were young, we've made ornaments every year for each other and those close to us.
The salt dough recipe requires only 3 staple ingredients: flour, salt, and water. After the kids shape their ornaments and cook them, we poke a hole large enough for a ribbon or twist tie at the top. Then, we use a sharpie to write the date with the recipient's name. The kids can paint the ornament, preserve it with gloss, and wrap gently with tissue paper.
Every year, my mind floods with memories as we trim our tree with the salt dough ornaments the kids made us. It's one of the best Christmas gifts you can give and receive.
Adding games to your festivities always brings laughter, bonding, and wonderful memories. Use your imagination instead of your credit card buying games that sit on a shelf.
We typically enjoy action-type games like football or ice skating over board games, but sometimes you can't be outside (especially if it's snowing!). My kids love quizzing each other over a recently read book during meal time. My son is an avid reader and is on a mission to stump his older sister!
Another favorite is the conversation jar. We write questions on small pieces of paper, throw it in a jar, and everyone gets to pull one out right after dinner (or our appetizer meal!). This makes a great conversation starter and encourages quality family time. I've even learned more about my husband through this simple idea.
Who doesn't love food traditions? During the holidays, our family sets aside a day to eat appetizers instead of the typical meal. Why? They include only a few ingredients, cost less using staple items, and minimal prep work. Remember, we're finding joy during our minimalist journey!
Our simple menu includes grape jelly meatballs, chips and queso, and sausage balls. We even add a salad to the mix to get our vegetables in.
For a sweet treat, instead of cookies, try adding hot chocolate to the menu. When we trim the tree, my kids always ask for hot chocolate with (extra) marshmallows. My first memory of this tradition was when my daughter was a toddler when she tried hot chocolate for the first time. She didn't like it, so she sucked on the marshmallows!
We also love an easy punch (drink, that is!). Here's a great recipe your kids can make with little supervision (unless they might sneak in a cherry or two!). In a large bowl, throw together a half gallon of orange juice, 2 liters of ginger ale, and a jar of maraschino cherries with some slices of oranges on top. Simple and delicious!
4. Grab a Book
Ah, books, I will admit defeat when it comes to reducing our growing collection of books. We have a rule though, as long as a book fits on the bookshelf, they can stay. Yet, today you can replace many hard and soft back books with digital versions.
On December 1st, I read a story to my young children every night from a well-worn, hardback book. It's called Treasury of Christmas Tales. It's not religious, but a fun read. Also, we read about the birth of Jesus directly from the book of Luke in the bible. You can never have too many bibles, right?!!
During the homeschool day starting December 1st, I will read aloud a digital book called Joy To the World! An Advent Devotional by Ray Pritchard. Each daily devotional includes a Christmas hymn, its background, lyrics, and a link for audio listening. It's fantastic for you Charlotte Mason fans! I recommend it especially for its content but it's a great way to praise the Lord with music!
Christmas always presents a great opportunity for giving. We visit a nursing home every December and the kids take turns playing a variety of instruments. We wrap up the night with spreading the good news by passing out a package of goodies with bible tracks.
Another great way to give is volunteering for organizations like Samaritans Purse. I also highly recommend sponsoring a child through non-profits like Compassion International. For the cost of eating out once a month, you can sponsor a child!
We sponsored a 5-year-old boy named Anthony from Ecuador until he graduated from the program at 19 years old. It was an amazing experience and cannot express how much I enjoyed being a part of the program! Anthony is a talented and bright college student still living in Ecuador. He speaks English well and loves playing the violin (and other instruments). We continue to keep in touch with him and his entire family thanks to Facebook and Skype!
Let's bring back the joy of the holiday season by re-focusing our reason for the season. If we go back to basics with our Christmas traditions, we'll have more time to worship, love, and teach. We need to remember it's not about the gift getting, it's about the gift giving. Jesus gave the ultimate gift of life, so let's give back by serving him and others instead of ourselves. You may find more joy with Minimalism in your Christmas Traditions, because less is more.
Natalie Fullmer is married with two children. After leaving her IT career in the healthcare industry, she decided to stay home full-time and homeschool both children. In the early days, she used boxed curriculum but has now adopted a Charlotte Mason & Eclectic-type style the last few years. She works part-time as a Virtual Assistant and teaches English to Chinese children. Natalie is also a proud member of Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR). Besides homeschooling, her passions include raising animals on her mini-farm, reading non-fiction, gardening, learning the latest tech, and sharing her minimalist approach with other homeschool moms on her blog at http://contentwithsimple.com. Favorite bible verse for encouragement is Philippians 4:13.