Keep The Holidays Simple!

Last week my daughter came home with a homework project about holiday traditions. It was really fun to talk through all the things that we do to get ready for Christmas. After my husband and I got married, we adjusted our Christmas traditions and then re-adjusted after we had kids. We keep adding a tradition here and there, but in general, we keep it really simple and uncomplicated. These are our current holiday traditions.

Before Christmas

We decorate, but not a ton.

We kind of decorate gradually as the month progresses.

  • We hang our Christmas stockings along the banister (we don't have a mantle or fireplace in this house)
  • We hang a wreath and lights on the outside of the front door.
  • We decorate our windows with our christmas coffee filter snowflakes.
  • We hang up our advent calendar. We actually have 3 this year, because each kid brought home their own from school too. We’re doing all 3!!

We get a real tree, in mid-December.

We will pick up our tree this weekend, set it up and decorate it early next week. My husband and I have ornaments from when we were little (we actually have HIS baby’s first Christmas ornaments, awesome!). It seems like a lot of ornaments have stories, and it’s great to share them with the kids.

Last year when we decorated, there were several low spots on the tree covered with ornaments, and some big bare patches on the top, due to the height of our helpers :-) A couple of years ago, we made cinnamon ornaments for the tree. It was so much fun and made the house smell amazing! We’ll be doing this next week after we get the tree up and decorated.

Keep Holidays Simple 1 by Encourage Play

We decorate a gingerbread house.

I do it the easy way. I don’t make gingerbread from scratch, etc. I get a kit, put together the house and then let the kids go to town decorating it. Each year it’s a little different.

This year they were into patterns, alternating colors and types of candy. We decorated it while listening to Christmas music in the kitchen. It’s a tradition I didn’t grow up with but I always wanted to do it, so I started it with my own kids.

Making cookies for Santa.

Last year we made gingerbread cookies (from a mix) and decorated them. I let the kids decorate them because it’s fun. But they don’t look like traditional gingerbread cookies. Here’s how they looked last year. Clearly not Pinterest perfect, but yummy and a fun family activity.

Keep Holidays Simple 2 by Encourage Play


On Christmas Eve

My family comes over to my house. It’s a very low key event, on purpose. We affectionately refer to it as the pajama jammie jam. We wear pajamas (obviously) and watch Christmas movies together.  I keep the menu super simple, with only appetizers and desserts. We also exchange gifts, most of the gifts are for the kids. The adults used to do a meal exchange, but we all decided to stop that this year too, to keep everything as simple as possible.  

Christmas Day

I love waking up on Christmas and making a sweet treat for breakfast. I’ve made monkey bread or cinnamon rolls in the past. Not sure what I’ll make this year, but it will be sugary and have frosting :-)

We wait for both kids to be up, then we all go downstairs together and open up our gifts together. It’s just the 4 of us and I love our little family’s time together. We spend a lot of time with relatives over the holidays, but I think it’s also important that we have our own time to connect as a family unit.

Later in the morning, we go over to my in-laws. If everyone is there, it’s 10 adults and five kids 6 years old and under. It’s a ton of fun, but it can be overwhelming too. My kids, my son in particular, has needed breaks on occasion. Here are some hints you can use if your child has a hard time at holiday parties. I use these all the time!

Traditions we don’t do

Christmas cards

Of all the things I’m trying to do around the holidays, this one is just not a priority for me. We didn’t do it growing up and I had no desire to do it, even after kids. I tried it one year, but it just overwhelmed me given all the things I really wanted to do and enjoy. Rather than doing something I really don’t like, I just let it go and focused on other things.

Elf on the Shelf

I just know I’ll mess it up. I will forget. My husband and I both forgot the tooth fairy earlier this year, and that was just for one tooth! I did see one Elf on the Shelf tradition that I think I could do, where the elf brings super simple crafts. THAT I could do, with a little planning and thought. Maybe next year when they’re both in school.

This time of year is supposed to be fun but often it turns into a stressful, tense and aggravating time. It doesn’t have to be like that. Don’t feel like you need to do everything you see everyone else doing. If you need to say no to some parties or gatherings because it’s too overwhelming for you or your kids, it’s okay! Be conscious about what you choose to do and try to keep it simple. Figure out what works for your family and do it!

What holiday traditions do you have in your home?

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