I vividly remember how special my parents made the Christmas season, especially Christmas Eve. We had supper, went to midnight mass and then around 1:30 in the morning, we opened presents. Somehow mom managed to keep all the gifts hidden, and while we opened presents she had a story for each one. One year, she even managed to convince my brother and I that we got a karaoke machine.

However, my favorite Christmas was when she made thirteen quilts for all of the family members. Each quilt had its own story, and she shared those stories for hours that evening. My dad would be the first person to say, “How special you felt during the Christmas season is because of your mom.”

My mom passed down her love of the holiday season not only to me, but also to her oldest granddaughter. I love everything about the holidays from the sounds, to the smells and even the decorating. Our teenage daughter loves everything from the snow to the apple cider – and the festive movies. My husband says the Christmas season is “our thing.”

I agree the holiday season is definitely my thing. If I could bless everyone during the holidays, I would.

However for my husband and a few of my close friends, the Christmas season is not their thing. I respect this. The stress, people and commercialization: these things add to a wearisome time.

To find a balance, we began to simplify the Christmas season around our home. As our children have grown older, the simplifying has led to all of us being more present in the season.

I decided to share four ways our family has simplified the Christmas season:

Build Your Own Family Traditions

One of the best pieces of advice my mom gave me was, “Now that you have a family, you have to create your own traditions.” I was determined to carry on the traditions that my husband and I grew up with, but these weren’t really our own family’s traditions. We needed to create a tradition that was unique and special to us. Our family tradition now includes going out to eat for Chinese on Christmas Eve rather than me spending hours cooking.

Create a Giving Box

Three years ago, I put an empty box under the tree. I challenged my family to fill it up with things our family likes to do together. We filled the box with puzzles, playing cards, spaghetti supplies, etc. Once the box was filled up, we delivered it to another family. This year, when I put the empty box under our tree, our son asked if we could mail the box this year, because he already decided who we were going to bless this year.

Exchange Names for Gifts

For many years, it was crazy how many presents we were actually opening. On top of the presents we bought, our kids bought presents for us and each other too. One year, my husband and I decided to have the family draw names for gifts. We put rules on the gift giving: you can only spend $25, and we’ll shop at the same store and at the same time. The evening is filled with laughter and sneakiness as we have to purchase our gifts without each other seeing!

Focus on Family

My husband and I work diligently to make sure we protect certain days throughout the year where there are no appointments, no practices and no commitments of any kind. There’s a certain number of days during Christmas break where we don’t make any commitments. We just do family things around the house, watch movies, put puzzles together, make hot chocolate and simply take the time during this busy season to reflect and enjoy our family.

Yes, there is holiday season excitement around our home. Yes, Christmas season is my kind of thing. However, through simplifying our holiday season, we don’t give into the commercialization of the it. We give into the joy of the holidays by blessing others and being present with our family.

Shelly Mowinkel

Shelly Mowinkel

K-12 & Teens

My husband and I have three kids. Our oldest is a freshman in high school, and our youngest is in second grade. Most days, I feel like we are a “tag-team chauffeuring” service, yet I wouldn’t have our life any other way. Not only I am a business/technology teacher at Milford, I am also the district technology integration specialist. I love teaching because I get the opportunity to make those around me better. My hope is that, through my blogging, I am able to inspire, encourage, and share with you my adventures of being a wife, mother, and professional.

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