{ simple Christmas part deux }

On average, it takes 6 months for families to pay off holiday bills...ouch. The mode of our culture is to consume and shop throughout the year. During the holiday season people feel they have to shop even MORE than normal. Instead of shopping like crazy, here are some ways to simplify your holidays. { Here is my original post on this topic and here is a great article from the Seattle Times about moms taking back the holidays by taking on consumerism. }

1) Establish or honor family traditions.

2) Sit down with a calendar and make a list of things everyone in the family would like to do over the holidays. I like to build these things into our advent activity calendar.

3) Schedule in some "helping other" activities...donating food at the food bank, donating blankets to the homeless shelter, adopting a family for Christmas, etc. Involve your kids in choosing and taking part in these things. For example, I have Sam decorate paper bags that we then fill with food for the food bank and deliver together.

4) Celebrate the Winter Solstice on December 21st. It can be an all out party or a quiet, fancy dinner at home with your family.

5) Light a special candle each night during the month of December and take turns reading stories, poems or saying things you are each grateful for.

I've had a few questions about what to do with paring down the gifts and how to explain it to the kids like this great question: "Ok, so I am really into the Christmas idea you had with the 6 categories. It is hard b/c the kids have always just gotten gifts from Santa. So, I was wondering if you are really only getting that 1 gift for Samme from "Santa" and the rest are considered from you and Will?? I wondered if I could just use the categories as a guide and have them all be from "Santa" except for the handmade one . . . just thinking out loud. Any thoughts?"

I've figured out the kids 6 gift giving categories a bit better...here's my plan for Sam. Note: She thinks Santa leaves ONE gift for each child (lots of kids to give things to...only one per child reasoning).

1 Want from Santa: As of right now that "Want" of Samme's is the Barbie Diamond Princess Castle + associated crap (i mean stuff)...gulp. I'm trying to talk her into this Eco Friendly Dollhouse instead. :)

1 To Create: This is going to be a project we work on together...we are either going to paint and decorate this cardboard cottage and turn it into a home for her fairies or this cardboard dollhouse for her princesses. Note: Uncommon Goods also has a firehouse for boys.

1 To Read: This book.

1 To Wear: a new dress (most likely from etsy). Any etsy suggestions for 5T winter dresses?

1 To Learn: learning to read Clock.

1 To Help: some little helper cleaning items from For Small Hands.

Danyelle makes adorable gift tags for some of these categories to put on the packages. She does 4 categories in their house (Want, Need, Read, Wear).

I've also been hard at work on creating a year in review photo book from Shutterfly for all of the grandparents and birthparents. If you order them soon they are 30% off. This is all our parents/grandparents are getting {oh and some custom (painted by Samme) notecards}.

Teachers are getting homemade bread and LobotoME notepads. Neighbors are getting bread or cookies. Hostess gifts will be wine & LobotoME notepads.

We are putting up our lovely tree after Thanksgiving (I prefer the term reusable to fake...as much fun it would be to tromp into the woods and cut down a tree I can't bring myself to do it)...the peace wreath above on the front door, a live tree with white lights on the front porch (that we'll plant in the spring) and our stockings hung by the chimney. That's it. The rest of the holiday decor is going on ebay or to the VA thrift store next week.

Simple is good.

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