Some have dubbed me the “queen of Christmas,” which is totally ridiculous. But it’s only because I’ve published more than a dozen Christmas novellas in as many years. And although that clearly does not make me an expert on Christmas, I’m often asked about my family’s Christmas traditions—as if I should have some wonderful holiday secrets to share. But the truth is that our traditions have grown simpler with each passing year. Attribute this to getting older and less energetic or, as I like to think, wiser.
So I’d like to share my “secret” with anyone who, like me, has begun to feel overwhelmed by Christmas activities. Honestly, I reached the place where I felt buried by tasks like sending Christmas cards; getting everyone the ‘perfect’ gift and wrapping it with creative flare; decorating my home from floor to ceiling, not to mention the exterior lights and trimmings . . . and then there was the food thing. I felt compelled to make cookies and fudge (with far more calories than this family needed) as well as to plan for ‘entertaining.’ And what about finding something great to wear while attending holiday festivities? On went my to-do list. And it was all too much!
That’s when I remembered the Bible verse about being a “cheerful giver.” Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 2 Corinthians 9:7 (ESV)
That’s when I decided, if I couldn’t perform a certain Christmas activity with good cheer, I should remove it from my list. And that’s just what I did. I can hardly describe how liberating this felt. For the first time in my married life (and we’re now on year 38) I felt as if a load had been lifted. And the good thing about my “secret” is that each year is different. Some years I feel energetic and can’t wait to pull out the stops for the season. Other years . . . not so much. And everything always turns out just fine. No one in my family has ever complained.
In my quest for a ‘simpler’ Christmas I’ve discovered some time-saving tips. For instance decorating can be as easy as throwing down some evergreens with white lights strung through them—add a few pine cones, a bowl of red apples, or votive candles in mason jars and voila, you feel festive! And gift bags (purchased from the dollar store) are uber-easy (and I even recycle the ones my family casts aside). And everything I cook does not have to be homemade. My granddaughter is just as happy decorating cookies made from store-bought dough as ones we made from scratch. And so it goes—in my home simpler really is better.
So I challenge you to listen to what your heart is telling you—if you are doing Christmas “reluctantly or under compulsion”—you need to rethink your plans. Because God loves it most when we can give to others cheerfully. And in this season of sharing, isn’t that what matters most?
~Melody Carlson, author of THE CHRISTMAS JOY RIDE and HOME, HEARTH and the HOLIDAYS.
Over the years, Melody Carlson has worn many hats, from pre-school teacher to toying with interior design to a senior editor. But most of all, she loves to write! In the past few years, she has published more than 200 books for adults and teens—with total sales of over 6.5 million copies. Several of her books have been finalists for, and winners of, various writing awards, including the Romantic Times Career Achievement Award. She and her husband have two grown sons and a granddaughter. They live in Oregon with their dog Audrey. They enjoy camping and traveling and rehabbing houses.