Less Is More: Experiencing Holiday Meaningfulness

This time of year is all about the “too much.” There’s too much food, too much temptation, too much decoration, too much noise, too much spending and too much stress. Anything which is already an existing reality, this time of year, is seemingly placed on steroids.

Ho. Ho. Ho. Jolly times.

A few years ago, an interior designer appeared on a morning talk show. She was there to offer helpful holiday décor tips for our homes. So, I was anticipating glitter, pipe cleaners, tinsel and every kitschy decoration known to man. I awaited pointers on how to transform each home into the Las Vegas strip.

So, it surprised me when she had some atypical advice…

“You don’t have to display all of your Christmas decorations every year. Sometimes, less is more.”

If we drive around in our city streets, it appears many people have not gotten that memo. There are assaulting twinkling, epic strobe lights, red and green everything and front lawn Nativity sets which also have Frosty, Santa, and Disney characters in attendance of our Savior’s birth.

Everything screams, “More is more! Here, let’s add some more tinsel and sugar to it all!”

Where does this more attitude come from?

A possible explanation may be from a spirit – and a deficit – of fear. The anxiety pops up, asserting things will go horribly wrong unless we pull out all the stops.

For those of us with food issues, this is a reality. There’s the “I-may-never-get-another-shot-at-this-buffet-again-because-after-the-holidays-I’ll-be-doing-my- New- Year’s-Resolution-Diet-so-I-better-binge-while-I can!”

The celebration spirit goes from “merry”to hedonistic, hinging upon the lie, “I will never get another shot at happiness again. So, I’m going to go for it until I physically can’t.”

The hidden message can often lie in one festive word: “should.”

“Should” is even more prevalent than Christmas cookies and Santa hats. It drives the holiday bus…right into the ditch.

Jingle, jingle, is that holiday stress I hear, see and feel?

And so, over the years, in response to that stress, I find comfort and freedom in scripture. There is, indeed, the permission to choose to say “yes” or “no” to anything, holiday fare included. That means it is permitted and encouraged to not be bound by oppressive, rigid constraints.

All things are lawful for me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but all things edify not.
1 Corinthians 10:23

“All you need to say is simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.” Matthew 5:37

There is no one “perfect” way to deal with the holidays. Unfortunately, the seasonal pressure, somehow, dictates we must attend every party, sign up for every bit of volunteering, buy gifts for everyone, eat and drink everything and never put the brakes on any request or situation. Full tilt experience: to quote the satirical film, “This is Spinal Tap…”

“These go to eleven.”

But this is not only unrealistic, it is also unhealthy. For, there are many personality types out there- and not all of them are of the social, “party-party-party”variety.

And then, add to that baseline, complex, real life circumstances: addiction struggles, grief of a loved one, any sort of personal, legal or financial trouble and it creates further cruelty to pressure anyone to perform to the rigid holiday standard.

Self-care needs to be at the center of this holiday season. We can tend to forget or forsake that this time of year. It is usually viewed as selfish and self-centered.

And, again, according to holiday specifications, we all “should”be generous to a larger than life degree.

But to that, I offer a bit of inflight advice…

“Put on your own oxygen mask first.”
– Airline companies

It is impossible to help, love, be generous or festive with anyone else if we cannot first do that with ourselves.

Still not convinced, you “Should Monster,”you? Okay, well how’s this?

Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in your midst? 1 Corinthians 3:16

If we wouldn’t dream of hosting an all-out cocaine, sex and debauchery-fueled kegger within our churches, why would it be okay, then, to trash our own temples in body, mind or spirit?

Sometimes, it is all just too much.

The party, the expectation, the expense – it is just not good for us. The healthier option is to withdraw, not to isolate like a hermit, but to replenish ourselves.

Even our Savior needed to get some alone time away from “us,” while communing with the Father (Luke 6:12).

The “less is more” holiday approach goes beyond how much decoration and activity we engage in. It has more to do with finding the personal, meaningful significance and connecting with that spiritual intimacy.

Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth. 3 John 1:2

Sometimes, that prospering occurs when we go against the “holiday should”expectations. Sometimes…
… it’s the quiet, rather than the Christmas carols…

…it’s the subdued room, instead of the lit Christmas trees…

…it’s in saying “no”instead of “yes…”

Each holiday season, I find myself sharing NEDIC’s helpful advice with stressed out people. The resource focuses on disordered eating and the holidays, but I think it extends to the sheer stress of the season as a whole.

    Predict high stress times and places; decide which events you will and won’t attend, and plan to have some time to yourself to restore yourself and take care of your own needs.

    Predict which people might make you most uncomfortable and plan appropriate ways of excusing yourself from their company.

    Predict negative thoughts that you might have during the holidays, and practice thinking differently.

    Carry with you a list of phone numbers of friends and crisis lines, and a list of self-soothing activities.

    It may be helpful to realize that the “picture-book” holiday sense is not a reality for many people. Some cannot afford it, there are many single people who are
    not close to their families or do not have a family, and there are many families that do not fit into the dominant cultural model of “family.” Do not blame yourself for family or friendship conflicts. People are not different during the holidays than any other time of the year. Remember that you are responsible only for your own actions and for taking care of yourself.

    For more info:
    NEDIC Bulletin: Vol. 7, Coping With the Holidays
    Used with permission.

Take the time, the care, the priority and the gentleness you need to make it through this season however you need to. Go easy on yourself. Liberally apply the

Most High’s grace to your circumstances.

You and I are not perfect and we will not do life, including holiday life, perfectly either.

Give yourself permission to do “less is more.” And perhaps, you will find an unlikely holiday happiness in doing so.

Blessings, rich meaning and joy to you; may we all experience what this season is about!