Treasured holiday memories are often based on togetherness and tradition – the day the family bakes our great grandmother’s strudel recipe or the annual carolling trip with friends. The joy we experience from the simpler things no doubt drives the flurry of tips and tricks we read about reducing stress and excess at the holidays.

We want to make space and time for what matters and reduce that low hum of noise from capitalism and unwanted obligation – the endless shopping, travel, events and get-togethers.

And yet simplifying is more difficult than it sounds. As psychologist, Marie Hartwell-Walker, Ed.D., explains at popular website, PsychCentral, much is at risk for those who simplify. They feel guilty for cutting back at a holiday, take heat for balking excessive cultural and family traditions, and are subject to much pressure to make their holiday time measure up to the standards around them.

The real steps toward a simpler Holiday are as much about reframing expectations and managing emotions as they are about cutting back on shopping, travel and decorations.

Here are three simple things to consider if you want a simpler holiday season this year:

  • Let go of the “Perfect Holiday” fantasy: The holidays are a time of stress and expectation for everyone. Going into the season understanding that disappointment will be someone’s reality is a refreshing reminder about the limits of seasonal joy. Simplifying undoubtedly means saying No to something or someone, and that’s stressful and less than perfect. But ultimately it will be worth it to experience a small stress by saying no than a larger stress by continuing to say yes when you’d rather not.
  • Let people know, in advance, that you’re going simple: Again, don’t expect support or lots of praise upon announcing a simplified holiday plan, as no doubt your desires will run up against the expectations of others. But any changes simplicity might bring can be softened by both letting family and friends know ahead and accentuating the positives of your plan, such as, “I still can’t wait to come down and make Grandma’s strudel. It’s such a nice, simple tradition for the kids.”
  • Make the plan for simple and stick to it: Thinking “simplify,” may not be enough to truly lighten the holiday load when the season gets into swing and parties and other obligations loom. You may find yourself adrift in excess with simple ideals falling short. Decide and write down what stays and what goes in your new simplified holiday season. Set limits on shopping, travel, time spent at festivals and parties and also write what traditions you want to embrace instead.

Holiday wreath

Ultimately, a simplified holiday will be about highlighting joyful and meaningful experiences over the commercial blitzkrieg that sweeps us into a frenzy come December. It might not be easy or entirely un-stressful to simplify, but when you do, you’ll be setting an example for others who no doubt also want a less crazed season. Most importantly, you’ll be making the room for meaningful memories for you and your family.

Wishing you and your family the simplest and happiest of holidays!
from all of us at The Waldorf School of Philadelphia.

The image of the holiday wreath is courtesy of Miss Lucy in the Daisy Kindergarten. Miss Lucy threaded little squares of felt onto embroidery thread, pulled it tight and voila! a beautifully simple holiday wreath.