Traditions: Choosing the Best for THIS Season

Written by monthly contributing writer, Trina Holden

Are you feeling overwhelmed at the thought that Christmas is just around the corner? Are you passionate about maintaining family traditions and creating memorable moments but are stressed at the mere thought of all the the work that entails?

Perhaps you have just welcomed a new baby into the home, recently moved, or are traveling during the holidays.  This year my days are full to the brim with three little ones, plus our family is going out of town for 10 days in December. This is requiring me to sift through the list of traditional ‘to-do’s’ around our house, choosing the best and letting go of the rest to ensure a peaceful Christmas season. Here’s a list of ways you can simplify this year…

In the Kitchen…

  • Choose your favorite recipes and ditch the rest. I’m making just two kinds of cookies this year (gasp!) and one sweet bread. I’m also not obligating myself to any cookie swaps. If we miss some treat terribly, I’ll do up a batch on Valentine’s Day.
  • Plan simple and wholesome breakfasts to allow more time for the holiday baking and to balance out the extra sweets you’ll be consuming. Soaked Oatmeal and Smoothies are quick and easy!

Around the House…

  • Let some routine tasks go for the month to give you more cushion time. Skip the weekly library run, or use the dryer instead of the clothesline to get the laundry out of the way faster – just for a few weeks!
  • De-clutter rooms in preparation for holiday decorations. Box up knick-knacks and put away excess toys and books for the month. It will be easier and more enjoyable to decorate if you start with a clean space.
  • Choose one or two ‘go-to’ outfits for each member of the family at the beginning of the season. Keep them washed, ironed, and set aside so you know exactly what you’re all wearing in advance of parties and outings.

And the Gifts…

  • Go digital with your family photo and update. I only print and mail to those who don’t have internet, like grandparents. Or, let yourself skip the letter every other year (I do this, too!)
  • Postpone some gifting ’till after the season. I don’t know about you, but around here the kids get deliciously overwhelmed by the generosity of friends and extended family on Christmas Day. I’m actually saving a few ideas of things I’d like to make for them till I have the time for crafting in January. I’m sure they’ll appreciate a random, mid-winter surprise!
  • Choose ‘One-Size-Fits-All’ gifts for extended family and friends. That list of people you’d like to give ‘just a little something’ to seems to grow each year! Simplify  by choosing a single item that will delight many. Last year, inspired by Lindsay, I made little jars of homemade vanilla extract by the dozens. Every woman on my list got one and they all loved it! A one-size-fits-all gift for guys could be new gloves. For kids this year, I’m thinking homemade play-dough packaged in jam jars, which my children can help me make and wrap.

My goal for this holiday season is to put extra emphasis on our family values and together time. Taking a moment to step back and choosing only the traditions that work for us in this season in our lives ensures I won’t be too rushed and burnt out to enjoy the little moments of twinkle lights reflecting in my daughter’s eyes, or my one-year-old’s wonder at erecting a tree in the corner of the living room.  May you, too, be inspired to simplify so that you can enjoy the season well.

What can you let  go of this year? What traditions are dearest to you or your kids, that you will be sure to make happen? And why?

About Trina Holden

Trina enjoys offering hospitality from their 1800’s farm house in Upstate New York. She loves to encourage women to nourish their families, celebrate the journey, and choose to thrive at

17 Responses to Traditions: Choosing the Best for THIS Season

  1. Kendra November 21, 2011 at 9:24 pm #

    I’m also an advocate of the one-size-fits-all gift idea. Since my siblings have grown up and now have children and their own little family units, gifting has become so complicated. It was too much pressure to try to find appropriate gifts that each person would love, and the last thing I wanted to do was waste money and clutter their home with an unwanted something. I started using the one-size-fits-all idea for my ENTIRE family and found it to be such a relief and alot of fun for the whole family to open the matching gifts together. I try to find a useful gift that will be enjoyed by both adults and kids. One year I bought everyone matching leather and fur moccosins, which the adults loved because they were a luxurious treat, and the kids and babies looked so adorable. Last year I bought everyone matching watches (and kiddie watches for the children). I find it to be a nice way to bring the focus on the family rather than the individual gifts, and the matching gifts have made for some great pictures, too!

  2. Lyndall November 18, 2011 at 4:26 pm #

    This post was a much needed reminder to me to keep things simple this Christmas time. After browsing a few blogs, I was getting excited with lofty ideas of crafty advent activities to attempt every day. On reflection, for my young family, this is unrealistic and would only cause more stress than joy! I’ll sift through my ideas and focus on the best, and what will glorify Jesus in our home – the reason for the season!

  3. Dana @ Cooking At Cafe D November 16, 2011 at 12:34 pm #

    Each year we run out of time for all the things we want to do. While we don’t want to rush the season, we are starting a bit early – to take our time and savor the season.

    This year we are going to try and limit how much cookie and candy making we do. We have a lot of fun doing it, but it seems like we are always preoccupied with what is coming next instead of focusing on what are doing at the moment.

    Thank you for your wonderful reminders.

  4. Jess November 15, 2011 at 6:05 pm #

    I’m letting go of a WHOLE lot this year lol I’m only going to try and make a couple of small batches of cookies/fudge. We do very simple gifts for family and for kids….fortunately we don’t do a ton of gifting with extended family and friends. My big thing is Christmas movies (It’s a Wonderful Life, Little Women, Rudolph, etc) and getting our tree decorated. I’m not even sure I’ll pull out our village pieces this year.

    Great post Trina!

  5. Ashley Willcox November 15, 2011 at 9:32 am #

    Simplifying posts are some of my favorites! Thank you for this one! This year I thought ahead to who I would buy gifts for this Christmas season, and in January I stocked up on post-Christmas sales to be able to give to friends and family. Now that it is nearing the Christmas season, I am SO THANKFUL I thought ahead so far in advance because I find that I have all of my gifts purchased or in the process of being made!

  6. Kay November 15, 2011 at 9:06 am #

    I loved your post! Years ago, my husband and I let go of gifting to extended family individually. We have done ‘one size fits all’ gifts for some time now. We usually give a new and exciting board game. My family has always responded well to this. Games get expensive, so getting new ones every year builds up over time. I can tell you my parents have a ton of games now, and it always makes for a good time when we visit! I guess you could say it’s kind of our holiday tradition ;)

  7. Joy Price November 15, 2011 at 12:20 am #

    anyone have any “one size fits all” gifts that can be shipped overseas? We live in Scotland, but all of our family lives in the states- any suggestions for something small that can be shipped to them?

    • Lindsay November 15, 2011 at 1:30 pm #

      Gift cards? I know it might seem lame, but I love receiving them myself (especially for Amazon), so I can go pick up something I want from my ever growing wish list. ;)

      • Joy Price November 16, 2011 at 1:46 pm #

        thanks! that’s a great idea! Hope you are doing well keeping up with those precious little ones, so thankful for this blog!

    • Jodie December 25, 2011 at 1:47 am #

      It’s too late for this year, but you could buy from and have it shipped straight to the recipients. Spend a certain amount for each household and you will get free shipping because you’ve used the local amazon!

  8. Valerie November 14, 2011 at 8:52 pm #

    This gives me lots to think about. I agree with Bethany; I forget to be intentional about simplifying around the holidays; I just go into “do what we’ve always done” mode and do it all. I needed this post in July! {Thanks – I’m saving it and will think about it for next Christmas! :) }

  9. Bethany November 14, 2011 at 7:14 pm #

    Great ideas! We’ve really struggled with focusing on what’s important to us at Christmas time. We follow the philosophy of voluntary simplicity during the rest of the year, but at Christmas we often forget how much more pleasurable it is to live deliberately.

    • TrinaHolden November 16, 2011 at 5:07 am #

      Great point, Bethany. Why should Christmas time be different! Thanks for your eloquent thoughts.

  10. Stacy Makes Cents November 14, 2011 at 6:13 pm #

    Great post. :-) Simplicity is bliss. I try to let most of my cleaning go during the holidays so that I have time for cooking and enjoying family. We do a lot of “one size fits all” gifts because my husband is a woodworker. Most people don’t think of doing something like that.

  11. Lacey Wilcox November 14, 2011 at 11:23 am #

    The one size fits all gift idea is great–there are some people I just want to do something for, but know that I don’t want to do a ton of time and money to do it–thanks for the tips!

  12. Lindsay @ BytesOfMemory November 14, 2011 at 8:40 am #

    Great list of ideas to simplify things this holiday season. I have some deep cleaning going on this week and next so I can enjoy the holidays and just keep things tidy and not have to worry about deep cleaning and de-cluttering!

  13. Alana of Intentional Womanhood November 14, 2011 at 8:34 am #

    Love all of your ideas. Especially the “one size fits all” gifts for those you want to give something to but just can’t afford to spend a ton on. I may have to make some homemade vanilla extract for the ladies on my list, as well as homemade play dough for the kiddos! :)