Come As You Are: Christmas Without the Frenzy

Charlie Brown Christmas
Photo by kevindooley


I’m not getting organized for Christmas this year.  I think I’m just going to show up for it. 

I plan to buy a few presents, but that should be easy enough. I want do a few more things for fun, but those things won’t take any planning or preparations.

I’ve been thinking about the humble way Christ was born. No one had made perfect arrangements for him. He came in the quiet of the night, and the shepherds dropped what they were doing to come and see him. 

I don’t want to be so busy preparing for the holiday that on December 23 I remember, oh it’s time to think about the real meaning of it now. That’s how I’ve felt in years’ past — distracted by all of the preparations.

I’m skipping that this year. I’m choosing a few things that I will have fun doing, not all of the things I could be doing. (In the back of my mind, I’m wondering if the absence of planning and organization might make this the best Christmas ever?)

So that’s what’s on my mind this year, and I’ll be writing about keeping things simple during the next couple of weeks.

Really, I am looking forward to Christmas more this year than I ever have before.

Is anyone else taking a “less is more” approach to the holidays this year?
About Rachel

I write about practical tips that will help you simplify at home. Connect with me on Pinterest and Twitter.


  1. Oh yes, we are simplifying a whole lot.

    We’ve just been so drained with the whole infertility thing this year that I’m done. Just done.

    Jesus is the centre as He always has been, but I’m not doing presents, big family meal hosted at my home, nothing.

    it will just me me and my hubby and hopefully a little one growing inside of me :)

    • Sandra Mcculloch says:

      We are really going to simplify this year. We are going away by ourselves to a neat village called Helen in Georgia near the mountains. We are having Thanksgiving with family and they will be on their own for Christmas.

    • OH MY WORD, here I am two years later and I have a fantastic testimony.

      There were TWO little ones growing inside of me and those are now two very active 16-month-old boy/ girl twins.

      I am amazed.

      About Christmas, we went to see an uncle on the day but still just showed up with a salad and had a lovely, unstressful lunch.
      Leigh from 123 blog´s last post…Christmas cards

  2. that is exactly the message that was preached at church yesterday – it was on humility. I’m so with you on this one Rachel – no getting stressed out for me.

  3. Simple is good. November was too crazy!

    Avlor´s last blog post..Organizing Roundup: Laundry Room (and Leapsters don’t belong in the loo)

  4. Southern Gal says:

    Yes. Our family will be using an advent calendar and daily devotion this year. I believe that will help with our focus on the only reason we have this season. I’m not going to stress that I didn’t finish my homemade calendar…I’ll save it for next year and enjoy this year as it comes.

  5. absolutely! Each year I seem to simplify more.

    I’m hosting Sharing the Season on my blog right now. Where we can all share what we are doing (or not doing – like buying lots and running around crazy) that will make the season more meaningful.
    There’s a mr. linky where bloggers can leave a link to a post exactly like this one or Rachel’s. There’s even a giveaway of a handmade bar of soap.

    Thanks for the great reminder Rachel, I’m totally on the same page.

  6. You have a great point. We don’t do anything big for Christmas, but I do enjoy giving gifts, so I took care of that over the summer and fall. Now I can just take December as it comes and enjoy reflecting on Christ’s birth and His purpose in the world.

    Rachel´s last blog post..Week 9: Giving

  7. My best Christmases growing up were the really simple ones – I remember one year my parents gave the money they had saved for gifts to a friend whose son needed surgery and just bought each kid something small. It was a really great Christmas. I plan to keep our Christmas simple – we have a tree, Christmas music playing, and we’ll have stockings plus one present per child.

    maryanne´s last blog post..For the Birds

  8. Great idea! This Christmas is going to be about our family spending time together. We are going to do some crafts, bake, read, play – enjoy each other. There will be a few presents – but that is NOT what it’s going to be about this year.

    Dana @ Letters to Elijah´s last blog post..Go Straight to Confession after Eating This!

  9. As much as no one wants a recession, our economic conditions have really made it easier to say (and hear!) “no” this season. It seems to me that lots of folks don’t want the christmas the corprotocracy is selling and hard times have finally given folks “permission” to opt out of the spending and activity frenzy. I am always asking (ok, begging) for Grandparents to show restraint at christmas. The kids get overwhelmed and the wastefulness is antithetical and depressing. Fewer folks are giving me stink eye over my anti-consumptive campaign this year and for that I am very grateful. Plus, I’m Brokey McBrokelyn and that makes it easier too!

  10. this is a great year to simplify. several of our relatives and friends have welcomed the opportunity to cut back.

    i like to have a discussion with my family and we make a list of what we really want to do (go to a parade, bake, watch christmas movies, see our daughter in the nutcracker, etc.) and that’s what we do. i don’t mind a bit of frenzy as long as WE are driving the bus and not just responding to everyone else.

    i also need to get my shopping done early, as my relatives are out of town and i need to ship everything. i should be able to cross that off my list after one more shopping trip (with my husband) tomorrow.

    my holiday cards have arrived, and i always make them “new year’s” cards just in case i can’t get them out early. we go all out with our cards, but again, it’s something i love doing.

    my usual plan is to get as much done as early as possible, then spend as much time watching christmas movies with my girls. makes me totally happy!

    make art every day´s last blog post..I love a parade.

  11. We’ve decided not to buy anything in preparation for the holidays. Anything that goes up or is used to put us in the mood is going to be handmade. Last year it was a cutout manger scene, and this year I want to try some of the cutout stars you featured earlier in November. That way we’re not broken up when Grandma’s precious figurine is shattered by the baby, or when the neighborhood kids deflate the penguin snowglobe! Thanks for the inspiration to simplify!

    evenshine´s last blog post..Gr8fl

  12. I think simplifying has become important to everyone in our family because of the economy right now. It is a forced simplicity for some,but great for those of us that were on board with it from the start. We are looking forward to there being a little less financial stress this year :)

    amy´s last blog post..A Perfectly Cozy Gift

  13. We simplified our Christmas season in 2006 when Lawman was out of a job and it was one of the best Christmases….hmmm. Since then it’s been my goal to keep it simple. We put up the tree, garland and stockings this weekend as a family. Warmed my heart as the girls remembered Christmases past as they placed ornaments on the tree (they get a new ornament each year). I organized my plans for the season yesterday by making my to do lists and then crossing some of the ‘to dos’ off as I realized they weren’t important enough to include.

    Nancy´s last blog post..Menu Plan Monday

  14. I want to keep things simple, too. My church is doing Advent Conspiracy (, which promotes that idea. I’m getting a wreath instead of a tree and baking biscotti for friends.

  15. In an effort to teach my girls about the true meaning of Christmas I’ve made more work! Worth it though. For Advent we are doing 25 Days of Giving. You can read about our journey (and see if I can actually accomplish this without losing the meaning).

  16. Yes! I absolutely am! I blogged about it, here, if you are interested in a cool 2 minute video on simplifying the season. :)

    Erin´s last blog post..Can Christmas Change the World [again]?

  17. Yes! Saying no to some outside activities to make room for the ones that we really want to do; saying no to TV for the most part for the month – with the exception of a few evenings especially set aside for Christmas movies and family snuggling time. :)

    stephanie´s last blog post..Bloggy Book Tour ::: In the Shadow of Lions (a repost w/ giveaway)

  18. YES! I wrote just today about my hopes for this month for myself. I hope for a month of quiet reflection, love, family, friends, relaxation and appreciation. There is a reason for the season and it’s not spending and chaos. It’s love and sacrifice that brings this holiday season to us and we should remember that and live that out. I plan to.´s last blog post..A Mug of Hot Chocolate Cake

  19. We’re not Christmas people, but we are also on the holiday simplicity bandwagon. There is a Chanuka show for children at my synagogue, which I’ll take my 4 yr old to see. His grandmother is taking him to see the Nutcracker ballet as well. Our gifts, never a focus in our family but especially this year with the economy unraveling, will be mainly home-baked goodies and photo books.

    We’re hoping to make a latke party as well — wanna come?

    Naomi´s last blog post..The obligatory thankfulness post

  20. Less is indeed more. My family has agreed to homemade gifts or frugal gifts. On the 25th we’re going for a winter walk and snowshoeing on the farm. Then have a simple dinner. No big turkey and fixings to worry about this year. No fuss, no mess.

  21. I am new to your blog, but like you I am not even getting the decorations out yet, and am not taking to sitting down with the calendar to “plan it all out”! My husband and I have scaled back the hugeness of it bit by bit for years now. The older kids seem to have the hardest time (they remember the before), but our youngest two….well they know nothing but simple, homespun, thoughtful C-mases. It’s about Christ after all, not what is wrapped and under the tree….I love to hear of others doing the same!

  22. The most meaningful and spirit-filled Christmas I’ve ever known is, ironically, the one after my Dad died. I was too heartbroken to go through the motions for all but the most simple of preparations. Too numb to care if there was a list and whether it was checked twice. Too grief-stricken to attend parties. All of the usual trappings fell away. The most amazing thing is that that year is when Christmas came to me, like a peaceful dove. All of the trappings had fallen away. The few things I did do brought a kind of simple joy. I felt the love of God and others at the deepest level. I learned how to be a gracious ‘receiver.’ I felt comforted and lifted. I truly understood the gift of Christmas for the first time, and what it means to us here on earth.

    Julie Marr´s last blog post..

  23. I think I too have finally fallen off the holiday treadmill. One of my daughters is now a real live adult and living on her own. Her absence has made me more aware of what I TRULY want for Christmas….time together as a family.

  24. “I’m not getting organized for Christmas this year. I think I’m just going to show up for it.”

    Honestly? I got tears in my eyes as soon as I read this. That is SO what I’ve been thinking. I felt a sudden lightness in my spirit when I read that line because it completely puts words to where I am. Freedom.

    Thank you for this, Rachel.

    Megan@SortaCrunchy´s last blog post..Babywearing Tip: Wearing Baby On Your Back

  25. Oh wow! I just turned on my computer this morning and found all of these comments. I wasn’t sure how this post would be received, but now I am really excited. I am so glad to see so many people on the same page, and I’m looking forward to hearing more about your ideas!

  26. V. Higgins says:

    This is our first married Christmas and our focus is mostly just to make memories together, we’re trying to pay down debt (sadly not as a Christmas gift, as planned, but hopefully before Spring) so we’re keeping our spending to a minimum. I already got about 70% of our Christmas shopping out of the way (just immeadiate family). We put up the decorations and got our tree the day after Thanksgiving (after a trip to Urgent Care ^_^;;) and spent the rest of the weekend relaxing together and watching Christmas movies. We plan to have at least 2 more weekends like that before Christmas :-D

  27. Yes – in fact this year, the only preparation I am doing for Christmas is preparing for a community Christmas Feast we are holding at our church for people without family to share Christmas together. When my children were little we used to decorate a Christmas tree – usually on my daughter’s birthday on the 6th, and had lunch together with their unclues/aunts and cousins etc.

    My gifts have form any years been something I have made during the year for everyone. I love a simple christmas

    Janet McKinney

    Janet McKinney´s last blog post..Frugalling Fun

  28. Because we are often away for Christmas we really don’t do a ton. We have a little (fake) tree. We read stories. We put up a few lights.

    CC´s last blog post..Marvelous Children’s Book Monday: Charlotte’s Web

  29. Well, now that you mention it, sounds like a lovely idea. I guess since I’m prone to “over-the-topness”, it didn’t occur to me NOT to over~plan or over~celebrate. I think though, in light of many things, that’s just what I needed to hear. Thanks for the great post!

    Rebecca´s last blog post..Thankful For

  30. Over the past few years we’ve scaled back a little and it definitely makes the month more enjoyable. The problem we have is convincing other family members to take it easy with gifts for the kids. This year we’ve made suggestions for “experience” gifts instead of toys so we’ll see how it goes.

    Alana @ Gray Matters´s last blog post..Stocking Advent Calendar

  31. My husband and I are cutting back on spending on gifts. I’m excited to try this approach as I think it will save us a lot of money! Your idea sounds great…it’s a shame when all our hectic preparations overshadow what’s really important.

    Sarah H.´s last blog post..Houseplant Hacks – Three ways to manage your time more efficiently

  32. We are only buying Christmas gifts for our four year old this year. Not for family, friends, friend’s kids, the mailman, the daycare teacher…no one. Only Grace.

    I thought we would have to buy one for a cousin present trade, but they all declined and wanted to go lite as well.

    After spending nearly $2000 last year, shopping at 3 am on Black Friday and Grace crying Christmas morning because she didn’t want to open any more gifts…this year feels like a blessed relief.

    Lisa´s last blog post..Thanksgiving Family Reunion

  33. Last year each of our two children received two gifts and one shared gift which was a set of unit blocks. The unit blocks have been played with everyday. We are doing the same again this year. Simple is good. It is less stressful and more joyful. It also feels good to have money to donate so that others can give their children the memory of food on the table and a gift or two instead of hunger and no gift.

    Nina´s last blog post..Thankful…

  34. Christmas is one of my favorite times of the year and this year I just want to savor it for as long as possible. Last year it was all over before I was ready and that is a icky feeling.

    One idea had to encourage myself in celebrating a little more intentionally with out the intensity is to limit myself to only baking two kinds of cookies. I know that sounds kind of silly, but I have a tendancy to get carried away. :o)

    Leslie´s last blog post..Simple Joys

  35. I’ll be baking and making, and we’ll be spending far less. It’s good to be frugal, and we’ve encouraged the rest of the family to do so as well. I’d like to eliminate some of the traditional resource-sucks, so I’m working on them one at a time. The most important thing is time spent with each other.

    Betsy – Passing Thru´s last blog post..THINKING OUTSIDE THE TRIBE

  36. I am loving this idea. I think you should start a movement. I’m in!

  37. It seems others have done what I did this year: I made a list of the things I did not want to miss, the traditions and events that make Christmas feel special to me. And I decided I would concentrate on doing those things and only those things. And not even those things if they feel forced or make me stressed in any way. I am all about “feeling” Christmas this year.

    Great post!

    wesleyjeanne´s last blog post..31 Days of Joy::1

  38. I am against modern Christmas frenzy. The stress. The obligations. The financial irresponsibility.

    I favor a holiday more like Thanksgiving with pretty lights.

    Tina Kubala´s last blog post..Twilight

  39. I’m giddy just thinking about all of the things I’m NOT gonna worry about this Christmas!

  40. I’m right there with ya. My heart’s just not into spending money or stressing out. Not sure why it’s taken me so long to figure that out! Looking forward to your suggestions for simplifying.

  41. We’ve cut out a few adults that we normally buy for and just bought for thier kids. At work, we have Secret Santa. On my wish list I noted that I would like instead of receving a gift, that person donate the money they would have spent to Lutheran Hospice or American Cancer Society in honor of my mother. Honestly, we are so blessed and have MORE than we need (Praise the Lord) that we are hoping this is a low key Christmas and others will follow our example…LOW KEY! It’s not that serious. I would really like to reflect more on the most precious gift we’ve been given…
    “For unto us a Child is born..”Isaiah 9:6

    Amanda L´s last blog post..Day 80

  42. Oh, yes…I cutting back a lot this year. My children will be with family for Christmas, so I don’t think I’m going to do the whole decorating thing…..

    RisaJ´s last blog post..Toast in Pink

  43. “I can tell you what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.” :)

    I think you’re totally right. I’m going handmade whenever possible this year, and trying to give gifts that are beautiful and useful at the same time. My boyfriend and I are actually skipping gifts altogether and escaping to Block Island for a couple of days in January.

    Thanks for the reminder–it’s easy to lose perspective this time of year.

    kitchendoor´s last blog post..Menu Plan Monday

  44. Hi Rachel, this post echoes what a lot of us are feeling.

    I believe most of the stress of Christmas, the whole buying, cooking thing, is bought on by oursleves anyway, so this year I’m taking a real step back and I’m looking forward to it more than ever.

  45. This all sounds too wonderful. What I wouldn’t do for a more simple Christmas. I am guilty of spoiling my girls at Christmas with everything they ask for. How do I stop? I don’t think I could handle the disappointed faces on Christmas morning.

  46. an excellent resource is a very small book packed with great information called The Hundred Dollar Holiday by Bill McKibben. It’s philosophy fits in well with this blog.

  47. I’m beginning to think I’ll just bake up a storm & wrap some “yummy” packages & call it good. :> I’ll be decorating a bit around the house but I think we’ll be doing more family activities like driving around to look at Christmas lights & baking together more than anything else.

    Vicki´s last blog post..All things clean

  48. Wonderful.
    I’d encourage you to still be intentional about what you do. I took a non-planning approach to Thanksgiving this year, and missed out on some of the things that make good memories.
    For Christmas I’m going to plan for the most important things and let the rest come as it may.

  49. We are definitely going simple this year. Instead of getting lots of presents, we’re only doing stockings, with a twist. Each stocking will contain: 1 DVD, 1 CD, 1 food item, 1 book, and a wildcard item. We think it’s going to be fun!

  50. We are simplifying the gift giving aspect quite a bit, but trying to make this and future holiday seasons rich with meaningful and fun traditions…this being the first year that our daughter will start to understand what’s going on, we will likely make many revisions over the years.

    I put up a holiday activity garland, each link in the chain that we’ll pull off to count the days until Christmas has a simple but fun activity (listen to Christmas music & drink hot chocolate, take a drive to look at lights, etc). I’m hoping this helps me schedule what we want to do in little bits without feeling overwhelmed. It may end up being to constraining, and if so, we’ll adjust…

    great post!

    Steph @ Problem Solvin Mom´s last blog post..Friday Funnies – A What The? Moment and Flashback

  51. I have been hearing/seeing more and more of this simplify idea, and it echos my own heart desires – I am really excited about narrowing our gift giving attitude. We are only giving our chilren 3 gifts
    like the 3 gifts of the wisemen
    1 – something they want
    2 – something they need
    3 – something to read
    stockings are from santa but we emphasise that the reason we (and santa) give gifts are to celebrate Jesus. We have an advent calendar and this year we are reading a little at a time from a childrens nativity story each night after dinner to go with the calendar

  52. I look forward to reading more of your posts on this. What a wonderful topic. I have definitely been trying this in varying ways over the past several years and have felt/seen improvement but am also still experimenting. Kelly

    Kelly´s last post…12 more days . . .