Your Best Holidays Ever

You could win a copy of this book!

I’ve just finished reading a most inspiring book, “Unplug the Christmas Machine,” by Jo Robinson and Jean Coppock Staeheli. The authors conduct workshops to help people explore what might be missing from their holiday celebrations, and guide them to make some thoughtful adjustments to put the love and joy back in the season.

What the authors discovered is that most of us long for a simpler, more joyful expression of the holidays — with fewer presents, less shopping and debt, less pressure and stress, more relaxed time with our families, and a deeper sense of the spiritual meaning of the season.

But what about our kids? Won’t they be disappointed if we don’t have all the trappings of Christmas? Interestingly, the authors have determined that these are the four things children really want for Christmas:

  • A relaxed and loving time with the family.
  • Realistic expectations about gifts.
  • An evenly paced holiday season.
  • Reliable family traditions.

In our family, we’ve discovered that the more we simplify our holidays the happier we are and the more we enjoy the season. In the coming weeks, I’ll share some tips and ideas about whittling down your holiday ‘To Do’ list without missing out on any of the special aspects of the season.

In the mean time, I’m giving away a brand new copy of “Unplug the Christmas Machine” to one lucky winner. To enter, simply comment below. (Make sure you enter a working e-mail address when prompted, so I can contact you if you win. Your e-mail address won’t appear online and won’t be shared.)

If you include a tip for simplifying the holidays in your comment, you’ll receive two entries in the contest. If you link to this page in your blog or website and mention that in your comment, you’ll receive five entries in the contest. I’ll do the drawing and announce the winner next Wednesday, November 10.

Good luck!

P.S. You might enjoy this article from the archives, “One Real Family’s Real Simple Christmas.

About Eliza Cross

Eliza Cross is a full-time writer and the author of 15 books about food and home design. She has been blogging about simplicity and sustainable living since 2006.

12 thoughts on “Your Best Holidays Ever”

  1. I’ve been “pushing” my family to simplify over the last 5 or so years, but they keep “pushing” back for the big expensive crazy Christmas. Maybe this will give me some helpful hints!!!

    Thanks for the giveaway!

  2. Okay, I’ve changed my mind! I am saving the Unclog the Drain article for another issue. I am posting this story instead! I have a couple of tips for simplifying a holiday gathering. Don’t do it all yourself, make the main meal a shared experience. Everyone should bring something. Also, set boundaries with adult family and friends. Agree to either skip grownup presents altogether, or draw names and set a reasonable price limit so everyone needs to bring only one adult present. Focus on the kids! Watch for your shout out in tomorrow’s issue.

    I Love “Happy Simple Living”!

  3. We are a family that has not celebrated Christmas for a long time. This gets more reaction than you would believe – more than being vegan, more than being atheist. People just can not get their head around the concept of not ‘doing’ Christmas, let alone not having Christmas when you have a child! Really, some people see it as tantamount to child abuse.

    So my suggestion is – don’t feel you have to celebrate anything. Choose the things in your life you feel are worth celbrating and develop your occassions and rituals around that – you don’t need the shops to tell you when and what to celebrate. Trust me, celebrating something because you want to is a meaningful celebration, celebrating something because you ‘have to’ is hollow.

    (Please don’t enter me in the giveaway – the book looks awesome but I am sure there are others that would like a copy more than me 🙂 )

  4. I’ve been breaking out into hives thinking about the holidays this year! I’ve just started my simplifying journey ( and am worried about disappointing others in our family. One thing I’ve decided on so far is everyone is receiving one gift, that’s less than $20. We have some children in our family that are way too spoiled (thanks to us), so we’re not overdoing it this year and focusing on spending time together!

    P.S. Thanks for all your practical tips on your blog! It’s been fun to learn new simplifying techniques!

  5. This sounds like a great book! One way we’ve simplified the holidays is by only buying gifts for our immediate (not extended) family. This way people can save their money instead of spending it buying everyone else things that they don’t need or want.

  6. The first Christmas my husband I had together we made gifts for each other. We each spent about ten bucks, I think he might have only spent two. It was the best gift I have ever received in my life because he put so much thought into it and it related to how he felt for me. Since our first Christmas, we still always keep it simple. The most enjoyable part of the holidays for us is time with family and enjoying good food. There is way too much emphasis on gift giving.

  7. What a timely story! My husband and I have been trying to talk our families into simplifying for years now, with success coming very slowly. It seems to be a very sensitive topic for people; many seem to view piles of gifts as an important tradition. My husband and I throw or give away almost every gift we’re given and I wish people didn’t waste their money buying us gifts we don’t want.

    My favorite simplification idea is the gift my husband and I are exchanging. We’re going to make coupon books for each other. We have a toddler so coupons like “sleep in today” will be wonderful! Thank you for the article!

  8. Both my husband’s and my family have always drawn names for the adults (we use, which is really fun) and have had a $20 limit on gifts for as long as I can remember. For the last two years, we allowed (and strongly encouraged) the option of “regifting”…either something we had in our house that we didn’t want or something we didn’t use that we knew someone else would love.

    These free gifts have meant so much more to the recipients than something quickly bought under duress. Just one example from many: Several years ago I inherited stacks of mismatched dishes from my husband’s grandmother. In the stacks I found two old Fiestaware plates…I don’t collect Fiestaware, so they didn’t mean anything to me, but my sister does and she was absolutely silly with excitement over those two dumb old plates. I know that I could not have bought anything for $20 that would have made her happier.

  9. Brilliant idea for a book. My tips are 1) handwrite christmas cards to those you love. No more Costco and Walmart generic greetings. Go out on a limb and send it at a non-peak mail time of year like January or February, and it will mean even more. 2) always watch Merry Christmas Charlie Brown with whoever may be your loved ones, even just your dog.

    • Thanks to all of you for sharing your ideas, and I wish each and every one of you a relaxed, special holiday season this year. Congratulations to Katie for winning the book.


  10. The posting and comments are practical and inspirational – thanks! Her’s my tip: many schools and churches offer good quality free holiday concerts in December. Individuals or families can enjoy live holiday entertainment for no more than the cost of getting to and from the performance site.


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