First Things First: Celebrating simply and abundantly

Julie Baumgardner
Julie Baumgardner

This is the time of year when your calendar is filled with social gatherings, community events, recitals, office parties and early morning shopping escapades. You're also dealing with classroom parent responsibilities, cooking, church functions, baking goodies for friends, wrapping gifts, visits from in-laws mixed in with decorating, the usual household chores, sports practices and having children home all day for three solid weeks. Everything is demanding your attention. Bake all of these ingredients for 30 days or so and you'll have a recipe for a huge batch of holiday overload.

Any other time of year, most would describe a person as nuts for willingly taking on so much in a short amount of time. Yet so often the guilty party is the face in the mirror because "no" just doesn't seem like an option. Intent on making sure that the family enjoys this time of year, common sense can give way to total frenzy. When all is said and done, exhaustion is the order of the day instead of a sense of real celebration.

How do you celebrate simply and abundantly without going overboard?

Planning and celebrating the holidays is an important part of family life. With a certain amount of organization and thoughtfulness, the holidays can create great memories for your family instead of becoming a time of tremendous stress and anxiety.


What are your goals for this holiday season? If it is to provide a time and place where people can relax, celebrate relationships, laugh, count their blessings, play and help create warm memories, it may be time for a change. As the old saying goes, simple is better and it's often a lot more fun for everyone involved.

These ideas can help you celebrate with more focus and less fuss.

-Make a list of everything you plan to do. Divide it between must-do, would like to do and not really necessary.

-See what you can mark off your list. For example, maybe you won't send holiday cards this year. Instead of throwing a holiday party now, put it off until July.

-Let each family member choose a few of their favorite decorations to put out, and leave the rest in the closet.

-Participate in alternative gift-giving. Tell everybody that all gifts have to be homemade this year. Challenge your children to be creative, and let them do it themselves.

-Donate to the favorite charity of a family member or friend in their honor instead of spending hours at the mall purchasing a gift they don't really need or want.

-Ask family members to bring a favorite dish to the family gathering instead of doing it all yourself.

The key to feeling good about the way you spent your time and money during the holidays is to make a plan and stick to it. It is important to involve your family in the process, so share your goals with them and discuss ways you would like to simplify. Encourage them to find creative ways to celebrate. Then work your plan together.

Julie Baumgardner is president and CEO of family advocacy nonprofit First Things First. Email her at

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