Christmas is not a competition…
Of how decorated your house is.
Of how perfectly perfect your gifts are.
Of how busy your days and nights are.
Of how much baking you do.
Of how many homemade gifts you can crank out.
Of how beautiful your family is (or appears to be).
Let’s all. Just. Stop.
We, you and I, are going to have to be strong this holiday season. We are going to set ourselves apart from the masses. We are going to set an example for our children and maybe our parents too.
We, you and I, are going to have to make an effort to STOP the holiday season from being so busy. Rushy. Crazy. Over-whelming. Un-fun.
Christmas has transformed from the Most Wonderful Time of the Year
Most Complicated and Frenzied Time of the Year.
It doesn’t have to be.
When my Mom was a little girl, she was delighted to find a dolly, an orange, and a few nuts in her stocking on Christmas morning. Can you imagine that? A doll, an orange, and a few nuts brought JOY on Christmas. And when I was a little girl, I was delighted to find that Magic Kit I’ve written about, a stuffed animal, a candy cane, and an orange on Christmas morning. Contrast that with NOW.
We, you and I, must BE THE CHANGE. (thanks for the words that apply so broadly, Gandhi.)
Me personally? The change I want to see is a simple and special Christmas.
And I have 4 ways to help me achieve that.
You in? Then, read on.
4 WAYS TO SLOW DOWN THIS CHRISTMAS SEASON
LIMIT SOCIAL MEDIA.
Stay off Pinterest. (And maybe Facebook too?) I heard you freak out just a little bit when you read that. But for real. Studies have shown that when we see other people’s apparent perfect lives on social media, we feel less than. We suddenly think everybody else has it better than we do. (Google it and you’ll find many articles and studies, but here’s one from Forbes that discusses this issue.)
Guess what? How much you decorated (or didn’t decorate) your front porch or cleaned (or didn’t clean) your living room is unimportant. Gasp.
Do you really need to see another photo of a white living room perfectly decorated for the holidays? Or another front porch adorned to the max with poinsettias and lights and garland? Oh, and a snoozing black lab on the door mat? If these provide you inspiration, that’s a-okay. But if they stress you out just a little, let them go this year. Do your own thing.
Now, I absolutely enjoy seeing REAL people’s homes and decorations. But that’s different than seeing the pristine, gussied up ones all over the Interweb. REAL people’s homes are imperfect and filled with things they love that don’t match. Their homes are lived in and have dog fur on the floor and unfolded blankets in the den for snuggling and a stack of books on the floor beside a chair and a cup of tea on the hearth. Those are the homes I admire.
So if images on social media puts pressure on you (to place emphasis on the wrong thing), then stay away from it this holiday season.
We all need to stay away from anything and anybody who puts pressure on us to exhibit PERFECTION.
This will help you appreciate the moment you are living, rather than looking forward or in the rearview mirror.
How to just breathe? When there’s so much to do?
“Square Breath” is an important tool for staying grounded and in the moment. Here’s what you do. Start by picturing a square in your mind. You’ll move slowly around the square with the rhythm of your breath. Each time you turn a corner to do something different. Here, let me draw it out for you.
Start in the upper lefthand corner of the square. And remember to count s~l~o~w~l~y when you do this.
- On Count of 1. Breathe in through your nose. When you turn the corner, you’re at Count 2.
- On Count of 2. Hold that in breath. When you turn the corner, you’re at Count 3.
- On Count of 3. Breathe out, release the air slowly though your mouth. When you turn the corner, you’re at Count 4.
- On Count of 4. Hold the empty space of no breath. When you turn the corner, you’re back to another Count 1.
Repeat this as many times as needed until you feel a sense of calm and peace overcome you.
This holiday, visualize how you want it to go. See in your mind’s eye how to spend your time. Think about the holiday you want to create for yourself and your family. What do you want it to look like? What would you like to fill your December weekends with? Maybe you’d like to start some new, more meaningful traditions.
This year I personally visualize a Christmas filled with simple delights. Less is more. More thoughtful, less scramble.
Maybe we could try decorating smaller. No need to drag out every bobble or Santa or snowglobe. De-clutter your Christmas this year and see how you feel about it.
Like this. I think I’ve decorated my kitchen all that I’m going to this year. I just went in there and put some greenery on my lights.
Creating change takes effort and energy and forethought. How will you and yours create change in your family’s Christmas? What would you like to do differently? Decide and then make it happen.
For me, I want:
More time in front of a fire.
More corny Christmas movies.
More outside activities.
More silent nights, holy nights.
FOCUS ON YOUR HAVEs.
Finally, focus on what you HAVE rather than what you HAVE NOT. Help your family do the same.
You know Oprah’s “favorite things” list? She does it every Christmas so you’ll know what to buy.
Why don’t you make a list of your favorite things that you already have? I know you remember the song from the Sound of Music that we hear this time of year on the radio: “raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens…”
What are a few of your favorite things? If you’re a journal-er, journal about it. Or maybe you’re an artist? Draw them. Or maybe you can think about them during your morning commute tomorrow. In any event, think about what you HAVE, rather than what you WANT. Consider all the wonderfulness in your life.
Here are a few of my favorite things.
Cat In A Box.
This is my “barn cat” Hey Jude. Hey Jude is a snuggler. He is a real love, a lap cat. His fur is incredibly soft, more like a bunny than a cat. Hey Jude is a people cat. But if he can’t find a lap, he’ll find a box or a blanket or a basket. Hey Jude is a very poor hunter. These are the reasons that Hey Jude lives in our house and sleeps on our bed. He is a “barn cat” in title only.
Cat in top of Cabinet.
I’m still working on the “Old Farmhouse Kitchen.” I took off the top panels and found these great empty spaces. I have filled them with Soup Tureens and Cats. Here’s Hey Jude again:
Yummy Yummy Pumpkin Pie.
When I lived in Georgia, I never made a Pumpkin Pie. I didn’t have to because my mother-in-law always made the pies. Now, since we moved away, we’ve been a quite pie-less during the holidays. When I mentioned this to a friend, she gave me the best Pumpkin Pie recipe, so yummy that one yummy won’t do for a description. It’s chock full of fragrant and delicious spices, which I love. And it is unbelievably easy. A whisk and a bowl is all you need. Now, about the crust. I have no idea how to make a pie crust, nor do I care to learn at this point. Don’t sweat it. Just pick up a frozen pie crust.
Here’s the custard filling recipe for Yummy Yummy Pumpkin Pie.
Mix together with a wire whisk:
- 2 cups pumpkin
- 2 eggs, beaten
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 1 large can evaporated milk
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp ground ginger
- 1/4 tsp ground cloves
Mix well and pour into any pie shell you can get, diary, frozen, homemade.
Bake at 425 degrees for 15 minutes.
Then, turn down to 350 degrees and bake another 45 minutes to an hour, until pie is set in middle.
Let cool to room temperature and serve with vanilla ice cream. Lots of vanilla ice cream.
My farm is in the Appalachian Mountains. Here, we admire and compliment each other’s firewood piles. Many of my neighbors and friends have sheds filled to the brim with neatly stacked wood. My husband and I have a small pile beside our door. We always purchase it from a neighbor. Firewood Man went walking through my woods with me this spring (he is also my Mushroom Man) and said, “Um, why in the world do you buy firewood from me? Look at all these trees!” And I was like, “Um, no.” I don’t see that happening. Me harvesting the gigantic trees on the high ridge behind my house into tidy little pieces of firewood piled beside my door. Um, no.
Which reminds me of an ad I saw on my local Craigslist. How’s that for a truckload?
And burning that firewood is another of my favorite things. I love a fire, inside or outside. Something about the aroma of wood smoke soothes me and cheers me. And I love to be hypnotized by the dancing flames. I could stare at a fire all night long. For me, the warmth that penetrates my body goes all the way down to my soul.
I wish I had a magic wand and could create a White Christmas for everyone who wanted one. But I obviously don’t. What I do have is a Snow Dance. And I’m just about to dance it too. I’ve had enough of this warm, dry season already. We haven’t had the first flake of snow this year. And we are having a crisis with wildfires burning all over Western North Carolina.
So, the time has arrived for me to do my thing.
My Snow Dance has been so successful that my neighbors call me at the end of winter or early spring and ask me to please stop doing my Snow Dance.
When you share, it’s weird how you THINK you’re giving something, but you’re actually getting something. And the something you get is far better than you anything you could ever give. Recently we gave a box of hams to a local church to distribute to needy families. It blessed us more than it blessed anybody else. I will seek out more opportunities to share this Christmas.
Of course I can’t talk about my favorite things without including You-Know-Who…
BOTH Merlin and HIS farm (that he allows us to share with him) are two of my very favorite-est things.
What about you?
What’s on your favorite things (that you already have) list?
I’d love to hear. We all would!
Just know this. The best present you can give your family and friends this year is to be present. Be in the moment, together with the people you love. Not in a frenzy. Not in a panic. Not in a rush. Not on your phone or computer. Just present.
With a smile on your face.Until Next Time, Savor the Flavor of Life!
Lots of Love, The City Farmgirl in the Country, Rebekah
Love your post ! We need to remember what’s important in this short time on earth! I TOO CHERISH our farm ! I love my horses! Goats !dogs!chickens! And a VERY spoiled farm cat named Gypsy! GOD forbid any of our animals should get cold! Ha! They ALL have shelter and plenty of spoiling! ILOVE to bake and entertain in my country,farmhouse kitchen ! We have great friends on neighboring farms and are VERY blessed! I DO LOVE to decorate ! I do for all seasons but NOT to impress anyone! I could CARE LESS to keep up with anyone else! Who cares! Love your family and life! I am very grateful for my husband of many years and family and friends! God bless ! Merry Christmas,Cindy
Rebekah, I think I love your soul. Merry Christmas from someone who has not decorated for 3 years because I wanted more time to do and be with people and things that meant more than tinsel.
A couple of months ago, At the top of my December calendar I wrote in BIG letters…MAKE MEMORIES! Making memories takes time but I’m doing it. I had two of my nieces Thanksgiving weekend. They are 13 now and I didn’t think they’d want to come over. We made Christmas bunting, a scene in a jar, Christmas cookies with Mom (grandma), went to the annual holiday light display, then a parade. Very full weekend. And it’s not December yet. I’ve been collecting gifts for my sister and cousin for months. Nothing expensive. Some handmade or on clearance from summer. Just fun stuff. I’m giving them a Christmas countdown bag of presents to open every day the month of December. Our family is going to see Scrooge at the Indiana Repertory Theatre. I’m loving it all. Spending time with family and friends is my favorite thing. I’ll rest in January!
And the house….tree is up, not decorated…gifts on surface spaces need wrapped and I’m in my pj’s drinking coffee. It’ll get done. I’m breathing!
Happy Snowy Merry Christmas Rebekah
Ps.praying for Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge residents.
I’m definitely in the “old lady” category and will soon add another birthday to the list. I have had really scant Christmases (no tree, no gifts and mac and cheese for dinner) and I been fortunate enough to have more elaborate holidays serving big dinners, lots of people and way too many non-necessary gifts under the tree. As my life has progressed I like to think that a real appreciation of the holidays has too. This year Christmas will be a small affair. I’ve decorated with memory ticklers and silly stuff that gives me a smile. I will drive thru town and ooooh and aaaah at the lights. I have a tote of handmade soft and warm items to offer to our church closet and I will bake a few items to share with friends and neighbors. And, the most meaningful thing I will do will be to hug my hubby and tell him he is still the best gift I ever received.
Wishing everyone a peace and love filled holiday.
I was just talking to my Hubby the other day about this exact topic! I remember when I was a child, getting just one special toy and of course an orange and a popcorn ball in my stocking. We didn’t decorate until the week before Christmas. I think this made it even more special. I also remember watching all the magical Christmas movies. My Mom and I would make all sorts of candies, breads and cookies to distribute to all the neighbors, friends and relatives. With six siblings the house was always “lived in” but the kitchen, although messy, smelled delicious with all that holiday baking! Far from the Pinterest perfect Christmas but somehow always the best memories.
This year I have a Charlie Brown Christmas tree and that is all. I have always relished decorating every room in my house but now that I live in a basically one room cabin, I don’t have the space or the inclination to decorate. I may go out to the woods behind my tiny house and cut some greenery for around my front door. Mostly because I love the smell. I sometimes feel a little guilty for not doing the whole house Christmas show but with my children all grown, married and living a good distance away, it just wouldn’t be the same. Christmas will come and go without all the dazzle and maybe just maybe, I will enjoy the real reason for the season in my tiny little house in the woods with the Charlie Brown tree.
Your place sounds divine, Diane. Merry Christmas from Australia.
I love this post because it’s exactly what I’m trying to do this year. Slow down and ENJOY the moment as it’s happening. When I was a child, we never got big lavish gifts; we got gloves, an orange, a little candy and sometimes a new box of crayons or small toy. And it was wonderful! A good fire has always been one of my favorite things….I have too many favorites to list. When I saw the truckload of firewood, I though of a saying that my dad used to use. Firewood warms you 3 times, once when you cut it, again when you chop it and finally when you burn it.
Loved your dad saying, Rebecca. So very true. Merry Christmas from Australia, where it’s usually hot at Christmas
My favorite things are going to the village holiday parade, eggnog, making gifts with the grandkids, watching The Polar Express on Christmas Eve and offering a toast in memory of my Dad at midnight on Christmas Eve as he was born at 12:03A.M. Christmas morning.
Merry Christmas, Rebekah! This post is just what I needed this morning. My mind has been racing with all I ” think” I need to be doing to get ready for the holidays. I’ve been working towards slow holidays for a few years now and your words today just gave me permission to finally just give into it with OUT the guilt…! You’re so right about social media, pinterest etc…Maybe we should all start taking photos of our imperfect homes and share them… That would be inspiring and freeing to many I bet! As a daily practitioner of gratitude here are a few of my favorite things…The twinkle in my hubby’s eyes when I’ve made him laugh, holding hands on the couch when we binge watch Sherlock together, hearing my mom say she loves me, ( she lives with us now, so I get to hear it often) a hug from my daughter, hearing my sons footsteps on the stairs just as I start dinner, mamma time with our corgi, Max. I love the sights and sounds of my family stirring about the house. To me these are the best gifts anyone could ask for. I wish you the same soul-satisfying holiday season on the farm! I know you’ll make it happen!
Much love from Deb, the Beach Farmgirl xoxo
I was thinking the same thing actually Deb, that we should take pictures of our lived in homes and share them. I think we would all relax more and take the pressure for perfection off of ourselves.
Have a holy and merry Christmas
I couldn’t agree with you more, Rebekah. Life is not to be lived in a rush. Savor the time with your friends and family, we lose them all too soon. Memories maybe the best gift any of us can give or receive. Relax, seek peace and rejoice in the season. Merry Christmas to all!
I love your post. The older I get, the more I savor the moments. I will make out my list of favorite things which includes, faith, family, farmgirls and fun! Have a blessed holiday season. Oh, did I forget to mention slow food…time to make and savor.
Thank you for your inspirational holiday thoughts. I am wondering how you are coping with the holiday demands and your recent ankle surgeries? It appears I may need knee surgery in these upcoming weeks and do far looking at a bare house and grandkids traveling here from afar. I so appreciate your insights. I too am a city girl raised in San Francisco and now on an acre of redwoods in northern California. Blessings
Linda, preparation was the key for me. Do what you can before the surgery. And let the rest go. Healing, following doc’s orders, and taking care of yourself will be the most important part of recovery…don’t push it. Hey, Grandkids can decorate when they get there! My other piece of advice is to let people help you. I have a friend, over 70, who had her knee replaced last year. She was up and about in no time at all. You will be SO HAPPY to have this behind you. Keep us posted so we can send healing thoughts and prayers your way! oxo
Just reading your post has calmed my spirit. Thank you.
I’m trying to breathe squarely while laughing at that load of wood!
xo at Christmas time to Everyone reading this!
Thanks for these tips. Christmas should be and was meant to be a time of joy,love and happiness. Now it has become a mad rush!
P.S. My family are adults and we still fill stockings.
Well written. And…thank you for writing to remind us what this season should be about. Have a very Merry Christmas.
These are a few of my favorite things: my Bible, my record player, albums and 70’s
45’s, Hank the Cowdog, my five hens, three horses, my guitar, our fertile almost 40 acres in the mountains of Northwest Wyoming, my pottery wheel, my journal, and my paints and canvases!! Not to mention my oven and bakeware that creates a variety of yumminess!!
Love all your thoughts you have shared. This is what I have been trying to do the last couple of years. Slow down and enjoy the season. This also is really almost the only time I change things up around my house during the year. Yes I paint and redecorate rooms as needed but I don’t really change things up much for any other season. I do love the lights and shiny stuff added to each room though at Christmas, so I would add that as one of my favorite things. Of course there are my many grandchildren, which there has been another added this last month. Enjoy seeing their delight when I can find that one thing they were hoping for, since both families have been struggling for 3 or 4 years. I am praying there will be a change with that soon. My hubs is back in the wood shop for the winter I love seeing him enjoy it so much. And the Bug she does love the snow I hope she has some soon to play in, me not so much. So my favorite things are my family around me and seeing them happy all the rest I could live without if I needed to.
I agree with what you are saying Rebekah. I am not a part of Facebook. Last christmas was not the best I promised myself and my husband that this christmas would be different. I worried so much last christmas about presents for everyone and making sure one gift was not more than the other since Facebook lets everyone know. When it was time to take our tree down I realized I didn’t allow myself or my husband to appreciate the true meaning and beauty of the holiday. Our porch will have cuttings in a watering can and a tiny tree. Nothing fancy inside or out. Its not for me. There will be presents but no worrying.
Little by little over the years how did this beautiful, blessed Christmas season become a burden? Bombarded with commercialism, the pressure to perform and compete has eliminated the joy and peace Christ provided at His birth. Thank you for reminding us we can bring change and the true meaning into our own hearts and homes by simplifying, giving and loving.
I loved your post. My daughter and I will get through these holidays but with some difficulty as my husband passed away in July of this year. We decorated the house already and put up some of his favorite ornaments. We think of him a lot during this time since he was a “Grinch”, but I think he may now feel that what we did during the holidays wasn’t so bad after all. I do agree that slowing down and enjoying the holiday is something that we all need to do. But it is hard – at least for me. We have been lighting our Christmas Trees and our decorated window every night so far. We just love that and I also like to put on a Christmas Tree scented candle and crochet. I would like to wish you and all your reader a wonderful Christmas! But I am praying for a non-white Christmas – sorry! Merry Christmas Everyone – Diane
Thinking of you, Diane…OXO
Praying for you Diane xo
Great post, great advice, I actually learned this years ago and have never gone back to all that hurry and scurry business, I just sit back and chill. Most of all I love the pic of Merlin at the end. I zoomed in and cropped and made me a picture of him. Hope you dont mind. the scenery was so pretty, I think I might frame and include in my CHristmas decor next year or this year if I get around to it. Be Blessed and praying for a White Christmas for all of us here in NC. Neta.
Merlin is honored! And so am I! OXO
Uncommon common sense and a heartwarming sense of humour. This post is a practical and inspiring gift in itself. Many thanks!
I can imagine a dolly, orange and nuts for Christmas, there were times that we shared the orange and nuts and didn’t get the dolly BUT it was still a wonderful Christmas. I am a Christian that has believed in less is more for many years and now that I am ‘way a senior’ it is easier to not HAVE to do it all. Being a decorator by choice this is hard for me but your wonderful words and pictures says it ALL!!! Bloom where you are planted and Dance with the Joy! God bless.
There’s nothing new I can add to what’s already been said, just sending my “thank you” for sharing with us what we all need to hear. It’s so easy to get pulled into the “competition” … baking, decorating, gifts…who has the best/biggest/prettiest. I’m heading outside now to put some simple old-fashioned greenery around our old farmhouse and let that be that! (and if Gladys Kravitz down the road and Polly Perfect across town aren’t impressed, that’s okay!) Thanks for sharing your thoughts…it’s a post I’ll definitely read over and over.
My Christmas this year is more centered on time together as my oldest son is leaving for London in March next year to work as a paramedic and this is last year to have Christmas together with us as a family for the next Few years. He’s 21, moving out of home now for the first time and when he does return, if he chooses to, life will be different for us all.
We are having all of my husbands family stay with us and celebrate Christmas together. It’s going to be crazy wild, but I’m hoping for some wonderful memories to be made for us all. I’ve decorated very simply inside my home with some pretty white twinkling lights and some ivy and holly tinsel and lots of lovely candles. All things I love and I’ve managed to grab cheaply thanks to discount stores and thrift shops. My basket of pine cones I grabbed off the side of the road I run on. I’m focusing on the reason for the season, keeping it simple and full of grace, kindness and love, imperfectly perfect through my mixed bag of emotions. Thank you for the stop and savor post. It’s what I’ve been thinking on and trying to implement in my daily life too. My favorite things are Christmas Eve church, late night chats p, watching the carols on Christmas Eve on tv and spending time together, cooking together and doing the advent bible study, savoring this time and what it means to me. Enjoying the beach in the middle of summer here with family and slowing down in the hot days here in Australia.
Have a wonderful joyous Christmas Rebekah
Our Christmas tree has been up since Dec. 4. It has pretty lights on it but no ornaments. The box of collected ornaments from the last 30 years is sitting on the floor nearby. It is now Dec. 21. I’m thinking the tree will wear her lights and be beautiful just like that. Not that I don’t have time, but I would rather spend it doing something else. This year I think that’s the way it’s going to be.