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  • Writer's pictureBarbara J. Mayfield, MS, RDN, LD, FAND

Which Christmas helps you celebrate with joy - one with gifts or memories?

Christmas nativity and candle with a quote from The Grinch by Dr. Seuss

The timeless Christmas classic, The Grinch Who Stole Christmas, by Dr. Seuss, teaches that even when the Grinch takes away all the presents, decorations, and food for the feast he can’t steal Christmas from the people of Whoville. He learns Christmas means more than stuff.


This Christmas is our third “stuff-less” Christmas. The first two are described in “The secret to holiday happiness is…”  This year we are taking our family, which is 14 of us, to a vacation home in Tennessee for a week. We are exchanging minimal gifts with the goal of making maximum memories with minimal stress.


What is the most important part of your Christmas celebration?

Is it the gifts, the decorations, or the food? Though all wonderful, I venture to guess that the most important parts of your Christmas celebration center on the people you spend time with and reflecting on what Christmas means.


Though gift-giving is fun, I appreciate giving up the stress this year of shopping and wrapping presents. We don’t need anything and neither do our children and grandchildren. In fact, we all have way too much stuff.


Though I love Christmas decorations, I have enjoyed not feeling pressured to spend days getting my house ready for company nor anticipating the days required to put everything away in January. Fewer decorations can still feel festive.


Rather than planning to feed my extended family and do most of the food shopping and preparation, we are making plans to share the cooking at our vacation home. A communal kitchen is a great place to make memories.


Are you ready to buy less stuff?

How many Christmas gifts from the past can you remember? Probably fewer than the memories you can recall. Which ones last longer? With a few exceptions, memories win.


Though gift-giving can be delightful, it can also lead to a tremendous amount of stress. Unreasonable-expectation stress, decision-making stress, financial stress, limited-time stress, and more. Is it necessary?


How could you cut back on gift-giving? Or simplify it? Here are a few ideas…

  • There are likely others you exchange with that would welcome a new approach. Agree to give one another a memorable activity together rather than something to unwrap.

  • Do you exchange with everyone in your family, your circle of friends, or among coworkers? Draw names and buy one gift instead of multiples.

  • Select gifts that create memories such as a museum membership or event tickets. Plan to go together.


Is it too late to buy less this year? Plan now for a new approach next year.


Are you ready to make more memories?

What Christmas activities mean the most? Prioritize those and say no to the rest. Memory-making, like gift-giving, can become stressful if overdone.


Prioritize the activities that are most important. If it’s baking Christmas cookies, have a cookie-baking party. If it’s caroling, get a group together and make it happen. If it’s a Christmas Eve service, say no to the gathering that conflicts.


When you’re together with family or friends this Christmas, share with one another the traditions and activities that are most important. Make memories that honor everyone. They will become a lasting gift.


“What if Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store… What if Christmas, perhaps, means a bit more.” ~ The Grinch (Dr. Seuss)


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