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Making Christmas Merry | More Experiences, Less Stuff

This is not a unique or new concept, but I still thought it was worth devoting a post to because the average Christmas celebrator does things the opposite way…fewer experiences, more stuff.

In my observation, though, that leaves us feeling kind of like this cookie.

When I was a kid, I remember just loving the Christmas season. Like any kid, I was very anxious to dump out my stocking and open the presents under the tree, but what I most loved were our family’s Christmas traditions.

I forget a lot of the presents I received, but I clearly remember frosting Christmas cookies with my family.

I remember Christmas music playing in the house.

I remember frosting our tree with whipped ivory snow flakes (to resemble snow).

I remember stringing cranberries and popcorn together to make a garland for our tree.

I remember hanging ornaments on our tree.

I remember Christmas programs at church.

I remember learning Christmas carols to play on the piano.

I remember discovering pfeffernusse when we celebrated Christmas with my grandma and grandpa.

And I remember a happy, cozy feeling in our house.

Would I have been disappointed if there were no presents? Sure. But all these years later, the most meaningful memories I have are of the experiences and not the stuff. And as an adult, I feel the same way. Presents are fun and lovely and all, but the experiences of Christmas are where it’s at.

Of course, I’m not representative of the whole population of the world, but I’ve heard so many people say exactly what I just did…that experiences are more enjoyable than stuff.

So, let’s get these things ordered properly. It’s just plain silly how often we get this backwards.

If we spend less money and time on the stuff side of Christmas, we’ll have more money and time to spend on the experience side of Christmas.

Consumer Reports says that we women spend 20 hours just shopping for Christmas presents. Twenty hours is a lot! That’s half of a work week, for heaven’s sake.

What if we shopped less and spent more time with people we love, enjoying happy experiences?

What if you spent less time in the mall and more time looking at Christmas lights?

What if you spent less time shopping online and more time making cookies with the children in your life?

What if you had fewer presents to wrap and more time to spend with the people you love?

What if you could be free of financial fears because you spent less on presents?

Wouldn’t that leave you with a happier feeling after the holidays? If I had to choose between a pile of stuff or pile of happy experiential memories, I’d choose the memories every time. And I bet most of you would too.

Now, don’t go and get all overwhelmed-feeling at the idea of trying to create 82 memorable experiences in December. Remember? You don’t have to do it all and you can say no to things.

What I’m saying, though, is that if you save some time by cutting out some stuff-focused things (shopping, wrapping, or even making presents), you should have a little bit more time in December than you usually do.

And if you’re intentional about it, you can then spend that time doing something more fulfilling than shopping.

Next post in this series: Ten Christmas Experience Ideas

Previous posts in this series:


Think more about serving and less about impressing.

Make a priority list.

It’s ok to have an imperfect Christmas. And it’s ok to say no.

3 ways to lower children’s Christmas present expectations

5 ways to spend less time Christmas shopping

On compromise, unselfishness, and not falling out of the boat on the other side

Start a holiday activity/social plan

Make a list of giftees and plan your purchases now

On giving meaningful gifts

Lisey and I made a Lazy Daisy cake…go take a peek!

Joshua’s 365 post:

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~Simply dor

Tuesday 3rd of December 2013

In My Family we Buy gifts only for the Kids ( my 3 Neices Now age 11, 13, 14 ) & my Gma ( Giftcards to the Grocery Store & Walmart Things she can use instead of STUFF she's 89 & has enough STUFF ) & my Dad & of course we take him to TEXAS ROAD HOUSE His Favorite place ;) & my Adult kids ( 21 & 18 ;) I do a lot of Baking & give a lot of Sm Baked Goodies to the Neighbors & Friends & Family ;) I also give CHRISTmas Ornaments as Gifts (( TUESDAY MORNING has GREAT ORnaments that look Really old & Vintage for Really Cheap this year I got some @$2.99 reg price $9.99 ;) 1 for Me, the Others are for big People in my life :) But we keep it Simple We enjoy CHRISTmas Movies & Hot Choc & Going & Driving around to look at CHRISTmas Lights those are special things I enjoy && Sitting in the Dark w- only my Fake CHRISTmas Tree lights on & my CHRISTmas Tree Scented Candle lit ;) my Tree Saves me $ & I don't hv to worry about Sap or Mess or watering a tree ORRRRR My Biggest Worry a FIRE B'cuz I hv my Tree Lights on almost all Day & Night so my Tree would dry out FAST ;) I LoVe the Smell of CHRISTmas Trees but I feel More Relaxed & Safe w- a Faker ;)

MERRY CHRISTmas to Y'All ;)


Wednesday 31st of October 2012

Yup that is very very true. I stopped giving gifts to grown-up years ago. There are a few gifts I remember getting as a child. Once me and my sisters got real birds for Christmas, then when I was 14 I got my first computer :-) I do remember many many Christmas traditions and they always made Christmas special and they still do. Loved all these posts about Christmas.

Laura Vanderkam

Wednesday 31st of October 2012

Great post. I think you've nailed the problem with the idea of simplifying Christmas, taken too broadly. Sure, get rid of the meaningless stuff. But don't get rid of the meaningful traditions. Yes, it would be easier not to throw a party, or bundle the kids up to go look at lights or bake something everyone loves. But what are you saving your energy for? Bonus: get rid of some of the stuff, and you'll have more energy for the fun.


Wednesday 31st of October 2012

Yes...I think it's more about making Christmas meaningful than about making Christmas simple. Heaven knows baking sugar cookies with my kids every year isn't a simple process! But it is indeed meaningful and memorable, so it's something I want to make time for. Shopping? Not so much.


Wednesday 31st of October 2012

How to enjoy Christmas? I decided a long time ago to be "ok" with being the relative who gave the" LEAST interesting" presents.We don't exchange with many folks these days, the kids are mostly grown up.. but when we do I go to Barnes and Noble ( for out of towners) and our local indie bookstore and get GIFT CARDS.Period.We are known for giving gift cards to bookstores. I get them for any holiday exchanges I happen to be part of too.Gift cards to bookstores.That's it.

I LOVE to promote reading. And most bookstores also have candles, MUSIC CD's, and other stuff for sale.So the recipient can pick what they like. I personally LOVE to RECEIVE book store gift certificates too.

This means I get all my holiday shopping done in just two trips and they are very easy to mail .

I have lots of time left over for hiking, caroling, church events, concerts, hot chocolate, baking, watching TV specials for the holidays and enjoying the spirit of the season.

Making this time of year simple and relaxing, is a choice.And you have to give up "living up" to other people's expectations,too!


Wednesday 31st of October 2012

Experiences are definitely more enjoyable. There are only a few gifts that I actually remember really enjoying receiving as a kid. But I always remember the smell of a real tree. Love it!

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