A Singular Focus
by Kay Chance
Polaroids of family
Myhusband and I married on December 18, 1993. At our rehearsal dinner, each person brought us an ornament to hang on our future Christmas trees. Twenty-eight years later, we place each ornament on our tree and it reminds us of the people surrounding us during that time of celebration.
It was a simple thing.
But that wasn’t the end of the story. Over the next few years, we were gifted with so many Christmas decorations, as well as those we began adding ourselves—singing Santas, pieces to an It’s a Wonderful Life display of buildings and characters, manger scenes and knickknacks of every kind. We decorated the same way our mothers had, and we both loved it as children. But before long the idea of decorating felt like something we were obligated to do, not something we enjoyed doing.

So years ago, we decided we were done. We talked about the atmosphere we wanted to create in our home at Christmas, then we paused and started hitting the delete button. My husband and I decided our decorations would reflect our faith and family, and so we paired them down to those things that helped us to do that—just enough for one room we hoped would feel warm and cozy and welcoming for the holiday season.

A tree covered with the ornaments from our wedding… and ones our children made and picked out each year. An entire Bethlehem village. Advent candles surrounded by greenery alongside our chosen Advent book. Our stockings and simple mantel decorations.

That was all.
It only takes us a couple of hours to decorate, and then our family usually enjoys snacks and a movie together. Less decorating gives us more time for family and friends. It reminds us to enjoy the gift of Jesus and one another.
Simplifying the Holidays
“Simple refers to something that’s easy and uncomplicated, without too many steps to follow. Simple comes from the Latin word for single (simplus)…”
Let me take that definition and weave it into my philosophy on holiday celebrations in our home.

Simple holidays refer to ones that are easy and uncomplicated, without too many things to do like decorations and obligations and culinary concoctions and any other “-tions”. We choose to have a singular focus, and that one focus is on relationships—with God, family, and others.

Do you feel a yearning in your heart to simplify? To make the holidays more about the ones in your life instead of the things in your life? About engaging instead of entertaining? About worshipping instead of hurrying?

Here are some ideas to help you simplify your holidays while keeping the focus on your relationships.
Gather around the table for a family meeting. Talk about the things you love during the season, the things each person looks forward to the most. Be sure to schedule a time for each person’s “thing” to be done. Notice that “thing” is singular and not plural. You can’t do it all, so be intentional about what you choose to do.

Learn to say no. Our schedules can quickly become overwhelmed with obligations during the holidays—even though it’s with a lot of good things, like gatherings with friends and family, serving in the community, and holiday parties. At some point though, it’s too much. We have to give ourselves permission to say no sometimes to the good so we can have time for the best.

Does that sound contrary to the idea of focusing on relationships? For our family, a party with fifty people doesn’t allow for the same level of engagement as simply having another family over for the evening. We make depth a priority over breadth when it comes to celebrating with others.


Decorate with joy. If you love to go all out with “decking the halls” for Christmas, then go for it. However, if you find yourself dreading the boxes full of decor, then choose to keep only the things you love and focus in one area of your home. Ask yourself, “What atmosphere do I want to create during the holiday season?” Then you can make intentional choices about what you will do and how much.

But however much you choose to do, make it a family event. Whether you decorate for a few hours or an entire day, your family can connect and have fun together during that time. Put Christmas music on, start a fire in the fireplace, have snacks and hot chocolate available, plan for a movie night at the end of the day… whatever you can think of to make the day special.

Keep menus as easy as possible. Do you really need sweet potato casserole and mashed potatoes for your holiday feast? How many cookies and pies are enough?

Often we’ll do the whole “turkey thing” on Thanksgiving Day, but ditch the traditional meal and make a slow cooker of soup on Christmas. For the bigger, traditional Thanksgiving meal, we share the cooking with friends and family. We’ve “adopted” another family where we live and they head over for breakfast so we can spend the morning cooking together.

At other times, we’ve prepared themed meals instead. Tacos for the holiday meal, anyone? We also like to prepare a special breakfast casserole the night before Thanksgiving and Christmas so we can throw it in the oven the next morning.

Consider family gifts. Invest in ways to help you connect during the new year. This could include games for family nights, memberships to museums or zoos, subscriptions to activities you can do together such as You ARE an Artist, or experiences like vacations or nights of miniature golf.

Make gifts for others. This is a great way to spend time together as a family at Thanksgiving. Each person can contribute to a themed family gift for another person or family. Here are some fun ideas:

  • Movie Night. Fill a box or basket with bottled sodas, movie style candy, bags of popcorn, and a family movie DVD. If you know the other family has a streaming service, you could make a list of your favorite family movies available on it so they have ideas for their movie nights.
  • Meal Kits. Freezer meals can make a great gift for others. As a family, you can spend a morning or day together shopping and putting them together. This is such a helpful gift for friends and family that need the help—families where both parents work, busy moms with a house full of littles, older family members or friends, those who are going through a difficult time or dealing with a long illness.
  • Knitted, Crocheted or Sewn Projects. Learning to knit or crochet or sew can be a family affair—something you can enjoy doing together as you sit around the living room. And what better way to use your skills than to make gifts for others? There are even organizations and ministries that give handmade gifts—check out Project Linus, Crochet for Cancer, Snuggles Project, The Magic Yarn Project, The Sewing & Crafting Team for Soldiers’ Angels, and Warm Up America are just a few!

Serve in your community. Many communities offer a free holiday meal to those who are experiencing homelessness or who are struggling to make ends meet. Look for opportunities such as these to serve as a family. Consider taking your kids out for a treat when you are done so you can talk about your experience.

Have another family over. You don’t need the house to be in perfect condition or serve a gourmet meal. The goal is to engage with others instead of entertaining—whether it’s a pizza and game night, or conversations around the fire while making s’mores. For many, a more intimate gathering instead of a big holiday party will bring refreshment to their souls and yours.

Open your home to those who can’t be with their family. We live in a city with an Air Force base, and it’s been a joy getting to know student pilots through the years. Sometimes they can’t get home for Thanksgiving or Christmas, so it’s the perfect time to make them a part of the family for the day. Think about who you might be able to invite to your home this year.

A Caution
In the spirit of simplicity, don’t feel like you have to do all of the suggestions above! Choose one or two that will truly help you to focus on what’s most important to you and your family this holiday season. Happy Thanksgiving, Merry Christmas, and Happy New Year from our Homeschooling Today family to yours!
Kay Chance headshot

ay Chance homeschooled her children for fifteen years. While teaching them, she discovered a passion for writing and developing curriculum resources. She loves sharing natural learning methods and creative lesson ideas with other homeschooling parents. Kay is the co-executive editor of Homeschooling Today magazine and the author of the older extensions for the Trail Guide to Learning series. She makes her home in Texas with her husband Brian.

Want More Articles Like This? This article was taken from our 2021 Holiday Edition. Click here to view the rest of the issue.