A Guide to Simple Holidays

You might think I don’t want anything for Christmas. You are absolutely right. That said, I intend to participate fully and joyfully in giving and receiving gifts this holiday season. After all, less is not nothing.

More importantly, my friend Joshua Becker reminded me that it’s not up to me. He said, “who am I to deny something that makes someone else happy. If it makes someone in my family happy to give gifts, who am I to tell them no.”

I celebrate Christmas, but this guide should help you regardless of the holidays you celebrate. Now that Halloween is over, radio stations will start playing Christmas music, holiday sales and promotions will be in full force, and if you aren’t paying attention, January 1st will roll around and you’ll wake up dazed and confused, not to mention exhausted, and broke.


You may not be in a position to spend extra money right now. Honor that and do not spend more than you have. It’s so tempting to break out the credit cards to fully immerse yourself in shopping for people you love. Instead, immerse yourself in loving people you love. Spend less, love more.


You might think that one heavy, high-fat meal won’t hurt you, but research shows that a few hours after eating a high-fat meal, blood vessels stiffen and levels of triglycerides can soar contributing to heart attack risk. In addition, drinking too much alcohol can induce heart arrhythmias and increase the risk of falls and car accidents.

This doesn’t mean you can’t indulge or enjoy your favorite holiday meal, but lighten it up. Start your holiday meals with soup and salad and you won’t be as tempted to overload your plate with less healthy options.

Remind yourself that the foods you think are so special during the holidays are not exclusive to that time period. Thanksgiving is not your last chance to have pecan pie. If you choose to, you can make any food that you typically over indulge in during the holidays all year long. No need to eat enough in one month to last you the whole year. Eat less, live more.


Between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve, there are more parties available than any other time of year. Office parties and family events can be fun, but overwhelming. If you love spending all your time at parties, say yes to them all. If that’s not your thing, choose 1 or 2 and say “no thanks” to the rest. You can also make mini appearances. Show up with a bottle of wine or tin of homemade cookies, spread a little joy, and go home early.

If you have your own party, ask guests to bring a dish or make things you can prepare in advance. Just because you are hosting the party, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t relax and enjoy time with your guests. Party less, rest more.


If you bring more holiday boxes into your house than the day you moved in, you might have more than you need. The holidays are exciting enough without an overly decorated home.

Think of your home as your sanctuary. A peaceful room dedicated to the holiday you celebrate might be more inviting than flashing lights and cluttered surfaces. Decorate your tree or home with meaningful ornaments, candles and greens. Don’t feel compelled to adorn every empty space with nutcrackers and Santa figurines just because you have them. See if decorating more simply let’s you enjoy the holidays in a more meaningful way.

If you’ve noticed in year’s past that you can’t wait to clear the holiday clutter and box up your festive stuff, consider decorating with less. If you don’t miss the items you don’t display, donate them. Enjoy less stuff and more joy.


You do not need a new outfit for every holiday event you attend and you definitely don’t need a sweater with Christmas trees, penguins or elves on it. Sometimes we spend a little more on what we wear during the holidays to impress or fit in, but the reality is, no one will know if you wear the same outfit twice or don’t have your nails done to match your lipstick. Give yourself a break and don’t spend money or time on things that don’t matter. Focus on the outside less and inside more.


There is no doubt that the holidays require a shift in schedule. With school breaks, holiday events and family gatherings, you might stop exercising or carving out time for yourself. After all, you time is the most easily sacrificed. Because the holidays require more physical and mental energy, you have to take time to feed yourself. Don’t skimp on sleep, yoga, quiet walks or anything else that makes you a better version of you. Do less, be more.


I saved this for last, because gifts are always the central area of focus during the holidays, but often the least important part.

Simple gift exchange recommendations

  • Do not give out of guilt.

  • No credit cards, no matter what.

  • Remember that you cannot buy love.

  • Say no to Yankee swaps and white elephant exchanges. Enough said.

  • Be grateful. Say thank you and be grateful that people care about you.

  • Use green paper. Save bags and boxes and re-purpose them into creatively wrapped gifts.

  • Pass it on. If you can’t use a gift you receive, give it away. Keep a donation box nearby, and fill it with items you receive or other things that surface during the holiday season that you don’t want anymore.

Gifts that you give or receive do not measure wealth or worth. They can’t prove love or soothe guilt. If giving less means you are out of debt faster, give less. If giving less means you don’t have to work overtime, give less.

Simple gift recommendations

  • Books are a lovely gift.

  • Spa and dining certificates.

  • Consulting services or other classes.

  • Wine and chocolate or other consumables.

  • Charitable Donations.

These are just a few ideas that don’t take much space. Remember to give what they love, not what you love. Give less to give more.

What is the meaning of the holiday?

I love that people naturally focus a little less on work and business during the holiday season. Even through the hustle and bustle, there is a bit of a slow down that happens. People take time to care more about other people. They love more deeply, give more freely and are usually moved in some way. Sometimes in an emotional way, sometimes more spiritually, but moved just the same. In the best cases, a little of that carries on to the new year.

There are some universal meanings of each holiday, but what the holiday season means to you is unique. That is a question you will have to answer. By focusing on what is most important, you can take the time to find an answer and seek out joy in the simplest parts of the holiday season.