How to have a minimalist Christmas

November 26, 2018

How to have a minimalist Christmas | These Four Walls blog

I love Christmas – I always have. I love the sights and sounds, the scent of pine needles and mulled wine, and the chance to spend time with family and friends. And I love that hint of magic which always seems to hang in the air, even when you’re an adult.

But if I’m honest, the last few years have been a little strange. My family and I have tried so hard to recreate the wonderful Christmasses of our past, but dwindling numbers have left the whole thing feeling a bit flat (most of my grandparents are no longer with us, one of my brothers lives in Canada, the other is a doctor who normally has to work, and none of us have any children). And I know plenty of others who’ve had similar issues, either because of changing circumstances or because they’re tired of the pressure and endless to-do lists that the festive season seems to bring.

So, this year we’re taking a simpler approach. Rather than try to do everything and just make ourselves irritated in the process, we’re going to pare things right back and embrace a minimalist, more meaningful Christmas. If you want to do the same, here are a few tips that might help…

Choose which traditions to keep

Don’t feel you need to hold on to Christmas traditions just for the sake of it. Work out which are important to you and do away with any that no longer hold their magic. We’re hosting Christmas for the first time this year and we’re going to get rid of a few festive rituals that don’t really mean anything to us, or which involve unnecessary stress. And we’re going to create a few new traditions that work for this stage of our lives, including having the main feast on the night of Christmas Eve, followed by a long, lazy brunch on Christmas Day. The aim is to have the Christmas we want, not the one we think we should have.

How to have a minimalist Christmas | These Four Walls blog

How to have a minimalist Christmas | These Four Walls blog

Keep decorations simple

When it comes to decorations, less is generally more, and a bit of natural foliage and lots of flickering candles are all you really need to create a festive atmosphere. I’ll be getting a big tree because that’s one tradition I do enjoy, but Christmas can still be Christmas without one if you don’t fancy the hassle. As for other things like baubles and lanterns, try to choose timeless pieces that can be reused year after year, and opt for sustainable materials such as wood and paper over non-recyclable plastic and tinsel.

You can see my tutorials on how to make simple garlands and wreaths here and here, and some ideas for easy festive table styling here and here. There’s more to come over the next few weeks, too.

How to have a minimalist Christmas | These Four Walls blog

How to have a minimalist Christmas | These Four Walls blog

Do gifts a little differently

So many of us spend money we don’t really have on gifts just because we think they’re expected, but presents really aren’t what make Christmas special. I like to keep my house minimalist and clutter-free, and I’d much rather receive a small, thoughtfully chosen gift than more ‘stuff’ that I don’t want or need.

And there are so many ways to do gifts differently. You could give experiences (spa days, theatre tickets etc) rather than things, organise a Secret Santa draw with a set budget, or borrow the Icelandic tradition of exchanging a book at Christmas. You could even avoid gifts altogether and make donations to charity instead, perhaps choosing individual causes for each recipient to put a personal spin on things.

Whatever approach you want to take, have an honest conversation with family and friends to avoid any awkward moments or hurt feelings further down the line. And if you do purchase presents, focus on finding intentional items that will be treasured, rather than panic-buying meaningless things just for the sake of ticking someone off your list or matching a certain value.

How to have a minimalist Christmas | These Four Walls blog

How to have a minimalist Christmas | These Four Walls blog

Take the stress out of get-togethers

I’ll be honest: there is a part of me that likes playing the hostess with the mostest à la Monica from Friends. But I also know my limitations when it comes to time and money, and in the run-up to Christmas I generally have little of either to spare. As we’re hosting Christmas this year, we’re going to ask visiting family to contribute to a kitty for food and drink rather than buying us presents – after all, spending time with the people we love is all that really matters. Another idea could be asking everyone to bring a dish, or turning the festive cooking into a fun event where everyone gets involved over a glass of wine.

How to have a minimalist Christmas | These Four Walls blog

How to have a minimalist Christmas | These Four Walls blog

Make time to slow down

Finally, don’t feel pressure to go to every party and event you’re invited to – it’s OK to say no and prioritise rest and relaxation. I’m determined to carve out time to savour the little things this Christmas – perhaps going for a walk on a frosty morning, curling up with a hot chocolate and a good book, or even just snuggling up in my PJs and watching a festive film. I know it’s not always easy, especially if you have lots of family commitments, but even setting aside half a day to do what you want can make a huge difference.

How to have a minimalist Christmas | These Four Walls blog

How to have a minimalist Christmas | These Four Walls blog

Of course, the above are just ideas, and there’s no right or wrong way to do Christmas. I’d love to know your thoughts, so please do share your own experiences below. What makes Christmas special for you? And have you felt the need to simplify things in response to rising stress levels or changing circumstances?

All photography by Abi Dare

14 thoughts on “How to have a minimalist Christmas

  1. Ingrid Opstad

    Such a great post Abi, I agree with so much of this. I was hoping to start my own traditions but my family is insisting on me coming home and doing it the way we have always done it.. I prefer a relaxed and slow celebration without too much fuss and gifts, for me a secret santa or something simple would be better. Looking forward to the day I get to do it how I want it too.

    Reply
    1. Abi Post author

      Thanks so much Ingrid. I hope you get to have the Christmas you want one day soon. And I hope that you still have a wonderful time with your family this year x

      Reply
  2. Christine

    As children grow up and leave home, Christmas tends to reflect what older family members enjoy just in case it is their last festive season. This year we are taking a simple lunch to my 94-year-old father’s house (he is no longer fit to travel to our house), then we are going to our daughter and son-in-law’s beautiful home for a pared-back Christmas night and boxing day, which will be HEAVEN after hosting full-on Christmases for 42 years.

    Thank you, Abi!

    Reply
    1. Abi Post author

      Awww thanks Mum! You’ve done the most amazing Christmases, but this year you deserve a break. Can’t wait xxx

      Reply
  3. Jacqui Benvenga

    Hi Abi
    I have just read your Christmas blog and so agree to changing our Christmas rituals. I have over the last 30+years had a houseful of family and friends. Not only on the day but during the week up to New Year. This year we have for the last 9 months been renovating our home and have been living in absolute chaos with builders etc. So when we finally finished last week I said to my husband and family that I’m not doing Christmas lunch this year and I would like to go out to a restaurant and be waited on for a change. I want to wake up and welcome my grown up daughters and my grandson and just sit and see his little face when opening the presents. I do not want to be pulled away to go and stuff the turkey etc.
    So this is what we are doing this year. I also have told my elderly mum that she needs to stop spending a lot of money on presents. She spends around £30 on her 3 children, 2 grandchildren and a great grandchild also her in-laws. So that equates to £270 which for someone at the age of 86 and on a pension is ridiculous. So I suggested that if she feels she wants to give then a bottle of wine or box of chocolates between each couple should be suffice. If she feels she needs to buy for grand kids then that’s fine but for us 3 children we do not need anything but just enjoy having her around.
    So for this Christmas and beyond we are going to set new rituals too.
    Fab blog by the way 👍

    Reply
    1. Abi Post author

      Thanks so much for your comment and kind words Jacqui. Your plans sound wonderful – so much less stressful, and you will be able to spend so much more time with your family. So often we get bogged down in expectation at this time of year and it takes away all the joy. Wishing you and your family a fantastic Christmas and a delicious restaurant meal! x

      Reply
  4. Katarina - Sukhirugs.com

    What a wonderful way to bring back the Christmas spark to Christmas! We often tend to rush to do as much as we can this time of the year so it can be really stressful. I was thinking about going minimalistic this Christmas too and I love all your ideas. They seem like an excellent starting point, especially the one about ditching everything that doesn’t bring us magic and creating our own, new traditions. Thank you for sharing, lovely post! 🙂

    Reply
    1. Abi Post author

      Thanks so much Katarina! I’m so glad you liked the post. And you’re so right – we rush around and forget what really matters. Wishing you a magical, minimalist Christmas with some wonderful new traditions! x

      Reply
  5. Skandic Hus

    Ah great post Abi and has certainly got me thinking about my own Christmas – Too late for this year but I think next year I will follow your example and have the main festive meal on Christmas Eve. Just makes Christmas Day a much more relaxed and chilled affair. Will be interested to see how it worked for you.

    I think it’s good to keep the traditions alive that still mean something, I always serve smoked salmon canapes (my late Mother’s recipe) and bubbles on Christmas Day, I can still remember my parents doing this when I was a child and it brings back such happy memories. I’m bowled over that my son in law has also started to follow this family tradition!

    Thanks for some great Christmas décor inspiration, right up my street 🙂 I hope that when the time comes, you and your family enjoy a very happy and peaceful Christmas.

    Reply
    1. Abi Post author

      Thanks so much! Glad you liked the post. Your Christmas sounds wonderful, and I love the idea of passing on traditions that do have real meaning. I’ll let you know how I get on with the Christmas Eve meal, but I can’t wait! xx

      Reply
  6. Karen

    My late mum and I started having our Christmas Day on Christmas Eve. We had our dinner in a pub – normal prices- and spent a relaxing Christmas Day in front of the TV with a serve yourself buffet on the dining table. Perfect. I intend to continue this new tradition.

    Reply
    1. Abi Post author

      That sounds like a wonderful way to do it! And so sorry to hear you lost your mum. Carrying on a tradition you created with her sounds like a lovely thing to do x

      Reply
  7. Catherine Houston

    Hello Abi
    I’ve just read your blog post and, consequently, was inspired to re-think our Christmas holiday, here at home. Tip no.1 “Choose which traditions to keep” really struck a cord! So simple, yet I’d not thought on it that way, before!? I just suggested to my husband, therefore, we try serving up our Christmas feast on the night of Christmas Eve and keep Christmas Day a gentler affair and he LOVED the idea! There’s always lots going on in our village, too, on Christmas Day, by way of casual drinks with close neighbours AND we like to try and get out for a good walk, locally, so having it freed up by brunching and grazing throughout the day, instead, is rather wonderful. So… thank you very much for sharing your new rituals and thoughts on the subject and here’s wishing you a memorable Christmas holiday with your family 🙂 Cheers! x

    Reply
    1. Abi Post author

      Thank you so much for the lovely comment Catherine – I’m so glad you found the post useful. I think so many of us get wrapped up in what we think we should do, or what we’ve always done, that we forget to relax and have fun at this time of year. I love the sound of your new plans, and I wish you and your husband a very happy and relaxed Christmas! Abi x

      Reply

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