Day 292 The holiday season is upon us

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About Colleen Madsen

Colleen is the founder of 365 Less Things and lives in Newcastle, Australia.


  1. Celebrating Christmas over the summer holidays sounds lovely. Between end-of-year concerts for both of my kids, the Christmas pageant at church, my eldest daughter’s birthday, charity drives, and the general bustle of the holiday, the two weeks that the kids have off from school are completely crammed and not always so pleasant. Add to this the fact that my in-laws, who we only see for a few days a year, want to come during this most busy of times, and it can start to feel more like working two jobs than celebrating the Lord’s birth with those we love.

    I’ve tried to convince my in-laws that they should come during the summer or over Thanksgiving, when we all have a few days off and no additional obligations, but they are fixed on coming at the end of the year “because it’s Christmas.”

    • Hi Cindy,
      I must confess that the pressure to get together at Christmas is the one that bothers me the most. The road carnage alone is enough to scare anyone. It is the worst time of the year to drive anywhere. Even if you fly there are still roads between the airport and your ultimate destination and most accident happen within 20 miles of your home. The sad part is that having family around you is the thing I like most about Christmas as well so it is a no win situation for me I’m afraid.

  2. I’m wondering why some of the best Christmases were the ones when we had the least money and were too poor to purchase many gifts. I shouldn’t wonder; I know.

  3. Hey Colleen — your idea of taking a new view on Christmas is interesting. I guess from my perspective as a 24-year-old, I can see how only 10 years ago, my excitement during Christmas was huge. Now, not so much. It’s funny, when my parents ask me what I want, I usually am not that sure. Before, I knew exactly what I wanted. I guess now, for me Christmas is just a time to get together with the family, reflect on the past year, and enjoy some good holiday cooking.

    • Hi Reggie,
      it is good to get your view especially as you are a lot younger than me. Interesting how the novelty of gifts has worn off for you just as it did for me at your age. I think also that by the time we reach our 20s we have certain requirements when it comes to certain products and quite often it is best to choose for yourself what to buy rather than someone else getting it almost right and ending up with gift clutter.

  4. Colleen, you are the first person EVER to put into words what I’ve felt for a LONG time!

    The “magic” wore off for me too when I got a job and was able to buy things for myself.

    Like you, I thought I’d enjoy Christmas again once I had my own daughter–but I never did.
    The excitement was gone, and all that was left was stress and the pressure of expectations from everybody.

    Years ago, I used to be astonished to hear elderly people say that they “didn’t celebrate Christmas any more”, or they “didn’t put up a tree any more”, and I wondered how that could possibly be any way to celebrate a holiday.

    Now I know. The simpler I can make things, the better/less stressed time I have, and the better my mood is (which my husband appreciates, ha ha). This even includes not putting up a tree those years that we don’t feel like it.

    I prefer to hang a fresh green wreath and set out a poinsettia or two, and call it done. It still looks festive and pretty, but keeps things very simple.

    Another thing that has cut down on stress is that we now usually give cash or gift cards, creatively wrapped, instead of worrying about shopping for the “perfect gift” for everybody.

    I like receiving consumable gifts because I don’t want any more “stuff” to have to find a place for in our house, so in turn, I try not to clutter up anybody else’s house either.

    It’s been working out well so far.

    • Hi Becky,
      I wonder if people who are less troubled with stress enjoy Christmas more. I tend to be susceptible to stress which I know is mostly self perpetuating but it can certainly put a damper on some things that would otherwise be enjoyable for other people. I suppose I am just not wired that way and that is OK I am who I am and I am OK with that because it is probably the reason for my admirable traits too.

      As the saying goes – The simple things in life are often the best – and if I can strip Christmas down to its bare bones and enjoy it more that is what I will do. My husband is all for it and the children are grown so why not.

  5. I am torn between wanting to do less, which seems easier and less stressful, and knowing that after the holiday I will regret not having the decorations, the tree, the baking, the visiting. Blech.

    • Hi Jo,
      why not set aside one Christmas to try it out. Work out what you are prepared to compromise on and create you own Christmas by design. Or do it the with step-by-step approach that you know I love so much and eliminate one thing at a time each year until you come up with the perfect Christmas that suits your needs. The key is to stick to your guns and don’t let yourself be railroaded by others to conform.

  6. Jo, I agree with Colleen to go step by step, slowly paring down each year.

    That’s how we finally got to the no-tree way to do it, but it took a few years.

    You might be amazed to see how much more you enjoy it, and that you DON’T regret not doing everything you think you “should”.

    Can you imagine a December 26th where you’re not faced with a bunch of decorations to take down and put away, a tree to either take down and pack up, or take down and throw away, then deal with needles in the carpet for three months?

    Then there’s the matter of maybe having too many leftovers crammed in the fridge, wondering how to use them up before they go bad.

    A lot of people that try to “do it all” for the holidays put a lot of stuff on their credit cards, then wonder, in January, why they feel so stressed.

    You might find that other people in the family will follow your lead after awhile, and will begin to simplify the holidays for themselves too.

    Good luck with your experimenting!

  7. Christmas 2008……My husband was out of work and our 21 year old son was a typical college student with no money to spare. So we all agreed not to give each other gifts. We didn’t even buy a huge tree like we usually do to display in the window of our Victorian-style home. I put candles in the windows, put a tiny, already decorated artificial tree on our coffee table, set up the nativity set and had a lovely poinsettia that a friend had given us adorning a side table. My only shopping was to purchase what I needed for our Christmas dinner. At the end of the day, my son came over to give me a hug and said, “Mom, this is the best Christmas ever.” Well we all had to agree with that.
    With my husband’s siblings, we decided a few years ago that each year someone’s name would be chosen out of a hat and that person would choose a charitable organization that we would all donate to. We then have a $10-gift exchange with a Yankee swap game, have a lot of laughs and a little haggling over that one gift that everyone wants, have a great dinner followed by a variety of board games, and we all go home very content just to have gotten together for fun, fellowship, and festivities without a lot of stress or stuff.

    • Hi Di,
      what a beautiful story. I will put that one in the favourite five for this friday so anyone who doesn’t read comments has a chance to read it. It must have been tough for you all at the time when your husband was out of work but if this story was the result then you must feel it was worth it.

      • Thanks, Colleen, yes it was tough for those eleven months, but that Christmas was a real blessing. Today my husband told me he found the perfect gift for me online and for me not to approach the computer less I see it. I told him I don’t really want anything, I’m trying to get rid of things, but he’s so pleased with himself for finding the gift and so early too. Now the pressure is building up again. “Sigh”

        • Di, It sounds like you and your husband have a lovely marriage. Every relationship is a give-and-take, and this applies to gift giving too. This is your year to get something fabulous, but if you can’t think of something fabulous to give him, don’t worry. Another year will come, and perhaps that will be your year to be inspired while he struggles.


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