Wish you could simplify Christmas? Learn 4 ways to help you simplify the holidays!

Learn how to simplify Christmas

Do you ever feel like the holidays get a little out of control?  Wouldn’t you rather be able to just sit back and actually enjoy Christmas and everything that comes with it?

This idea of a simple Christmas becomes even more important if you have a special needs child who gets over loaded by all the holiday hoopla.

How do you go about creating a simpler Christmas?  What would that look like?

I’m going to give you 4 ways to help you achieve a more relaxed  holiday season!

1. Let go of your expectations.

This sounds easier said than done, right?  Well, it doesn’t have to be!  I’m very blessed because I grew up in a household that always had a low key Christmas.  We didn’t go anywhere, we didn’t get a ton of presents, and the day was relaxed and easy.  That’s all I knew, so it was fairly easy to create that with my own kids.  On that note, even with having a fairly simple day, it is still  hard to let go of those perfect movie pictures that run through my head of what our day should look like!

And when you throw autism into the mix?  Ha!

Make sure you throw ALL of those expectations straight out the window!

2.  Pick just a few easy traditions and stick to those.

In other words, you DO NOT have to do ALL THE THINGS!  You do not have to attend the town Christmas parade.  You do not have to take pictures with Santa.  You do not have to attend every Christmas party.  You do not have to participate in your church’s program.  You do not have to make a special Christmas breakfast.  You do not have to decorate all the presents.

Get the picture?

Remember what that first Christmas was like….

You know Mary didn’t have ANYTHING in the way of a modern Christmas!

Heck, she was recovering from birth… in a barn!

(All you mamas can say Amen!)

What would that look like in your own house?

Well, I can tell you what we do in our family and what we gave up over the years as Reece’s autistic issues became more front and center.

Traditions we do every year:

  • Homemade coffee cake for breakfast.  My grandma’s coffee cake is a family tradition that we won’t be giving up!  I make it the day before and then pop it into the oven to warm up again right after we’re done opening gifts on Christmas morning.
  • Reading the Christmas story out of Luke.  We have a few easy snack foods on Christmas Eve and read the Christmas story together that night in the evening.
  • New “comfy” pants for the kids to wear to bed that night of Christmas Eve.  When they were younger, I always sewed them, but as they’ve gotten older and bigger, I buy them πŸ™‚
  • Decorating the tree with personalized ornaments.  I have all of mine from when I was a kid and my own children have amassed quite the collection.  It’s not coordinated and magazine worthy, but it’s ours!
  • Making gingerbread houses.  Some years I throw a big party, but if we’re recovering from cotton harvest I keep it small.  We do it a few days before Christmas.  It sounds like a lot of work, but I keep it simple if I need to!  I don’t try to replicate it the same way every year.  I’ll have an upcoming post of how I make our homemade gingerbread houses (it’s easier than you think!).
  • Going to Grandma’s (Jeff’s mom) for Christmas dinner.  I like this tradition because then I don’t have to do a lot of cooking, lol!
  • Make peppernuts.  They are a Ray family tradition dating back to our origins in Germany.  We LOVE them and only make them during the Christmas season.
  • Christmas letters.  Some years are better than others, but I try to do a full blown letter every year.  I save a copy of each letter every year for a neat family record πŸ™‚  My grandma does this and it’s so fun to read her letters from the 50’s!
  • Putting ornaments on the advent quilt.
  • Make and decorate sugar cookies.


Traditions we gave up or have never done:

  • Pictures with Santa.  We don’t “do” Santa so this was never a priority in our house.
  • Full blown Christmas decorating.  We put up a tree and hang our stockings, but that’s about it.  I don’t have time to go over the top (we usually in the cotton field until the first week of December and after a month of hard work like fall harvest, I’m too shot to think about elaborate Christmas decorating!)
  • Candlelight service.  We used to go every year, but it made Christmas Eve horribly hectic!  Between getting all dressed up, feeding the kids, doing the girls’ hair, and getting out the door, plus trying to keep Reece in line, it just became too much.  That’s why a few years ago, we started having snack foods and reading the Christmas story at home.
  • Christmas activities.  It helps that we homeschool, so we don’t have parties or anything to attend, but there are activities around that we could go to, but we choose not to.  We like just staying home and relaxing as much as possible!
  • Tons of gifts.  We don’t follow strict guidelines, but we try hard to give the kids useful things.  As they have gotten older, they don’t want “toys” so this has become easier.  They usually get one “bigger” gift (which usually costs about $30-40) then a few smaller things, like socks, underwear, a new shirt, and a few stocking stuffers like gum, hair accessories (girls), beef jerky or candy (Reece), etc.  Sometimes we do concert tickets if there’s somebody coming to Wichita that we want to see.
  • Elaborate gift wrapping.  We definitely don’t go overboard in this department!  There are no Pinterest perfect gifts under our tree!  In fact, I choose one wrapping paper per kid and wrap all of their presents with that!  Makes it easy on Christmas morning for them to sort out their presents.  We generally don’t do bows and ribbons, which makes wrapping fast!
  • Fancy Christmas cards.  Yes, I try to write a letter (I like to write- can you tell?? Ha!), but I don’t worry about taking coordinating family pictures specifically for Christmas.  Some years I get cards made, but I just use candid pictures or something for the card and some years I just add the pictures onto the Christmas letter and print them that way.  It depends on the year and what’s going on at the time (cotton harvest takes up a lot of our time during November!) so I try to only do what I have time for.


Now, some of our traditions you may have no interest in doing and some of things that we don’t do, you may love to do!

And that’s fine!

My point is that you don’t have to do what everyone around you is doing πŸ™‚

3. Don’t place unnecessary expectations on your kids, especially your special needs child.

If your kid won’t smile for family photos?  Fine!  Move on πŸ™‚

They don’t care to open all of their gifts?  (Toddlers are notorious for this and my son Reece often feels overwhelmed with all of the gifts.) Let them open one and play awhile or take a break.  Or if they don’t care to open presents at all, don’t wrap them!  We started putting all of Reece’s gifts into one big box for him to open.  He’s good opening one but hates sitting there to open several.  This way, he is less stressed out and we’re all happier!

You’re afraid they may start a fire at the candlelight service?  Don’t go!  Have a little service at home worshiping our Savior πŸ™‚  (On a side note, Reece tried to start a hymnal on fire at the last candlelight service we attended!  Ha!)

They don’t want to build a gingerbread house?  Great!  That’s not a requirement for a happy Christmas πŸ™‚

I’m all for disciplining kids and making them do things they’d rather not do (chores, schoolwork, etc), but most of the Christmas stuff isn’t really a life necessity, right?  The season is full of expectations that we place on ourselves and our kids that society says we must do.

Don’t feel like your child is ruining the season by not doing x, y, z.

4.  Don’t feel like you have to spend an inordinate amount of money on gifts.

I suppose if you have the money, that’s fine.  But if you’re like the majority of us Americans, we may be fine with our day to day living, but we cannot afford to spend hundreds and hundreds of dollars on gifts every year!

Who wants to start off the new year with major credit card debt??

Yeah, not me and I think the stress of that would definitely not fall under the category of a simple Christmas!

We spend a certain amount on family members (about $25 per person) and about $100 (includes stocking stuffers) on the kids (but we only have 3!  If you have more than that, your allotted amount per child may be a lot lower!).  Your budget may look different from ours, and that’s fine.  This is the level we feel comfortable spending and it doesn’t cause us extra stress.

Something we started doing years ago in my extended family that reduced the stress and simplified our Christmas was the adults quit giving each other gifts.  I come from a large family, so we didn’t buy for everyone (we drew names every year), but it still got to be too much.  Plus, it became a time of exchanging gift cards, lol.  Now, we only have the cousins draw names.  So, even though I have 7 nieces and nephews on that side, we only buy 3 gifts.


The whole point of this post is to get you thinking about your Christmas.  What do you want it to look like?  What are your kids like??

Take time to think about your expectations and the reality that God has blessed you with.  Then, let go of any guilt and do what feels right and comfortable for your family, regardless of what tv ads, hallmark movies, or even other bloggers tell you to do πŸ™‚


What are some of your favorite Christmas traditions?  What things have you given up in an effort simplify your own Christmas?



Melinda Donley
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