- Series: Elaine St. James Little Books
- Hardcover: 269 pages
- Publisher: Andrews McMeel Publishing; First Edition edition (August 1, 1998)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0836267850
- ISBN-13: 978-0836267853
- Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1.2 x 6.8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces
- Average Customer Review: 20 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,737,066 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Simplify Your Christmas: 100 Ways to Reduce the Stress and Recapture the Joy of the Holidays (Elaine St. James Little Books) Hardcover – August 1, 1998
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She begins this 1998 book by saying, "This book is written for everyone who loves Christmas but is tired of the stress and exhaustion that has become an integral part of the holidays. When I wrote 'Simplify Your Life,' I suggested that if you didn't like the holidays, you could bow out... First we discontinued our tradition of decorating the tree... We then stopped giving each other gifts, and halted the gift exchange with family and friends---except for the younger kids in our lives who still believed in Santa... And we decided not to participate in the Christmas dinner, mostly because it was too much of an extravaganza. The holidays have become a joyous season for us... They're an interval of quiet reflection and retreat from the busy world... when, in silence and simplicity, we can unite with each other and with our own souls... In these pages you'll find well over a hundred ways to reduce the stress and recapture the joy of Christmas." (Pg. xv-xvii)
She suggests, "If you're longing for a simpler Christmas, it's time to challenge the belief that the holidays are about crafting decorations for every room of the house, loading tables with foods that aren't on your diet, and shopping for---or handmaking---gifts of questionable value for everyone you know and many people you don't." (Pg. 12) Later, she adds, "we sometimes get so attached to the external symbols that we lose sight of their deeper meanings... We don't need to cut down trees; there is an infinite number of other ways to celebrate life. We don't need to have huge meals where everyone overeats in order to give thanks for our abundance." (Pg. 52-53)
She observes, "The custom of sending Christmas cards became very popular after World War II, when the post office recognized the opportunity to boost stamp sales. Then Hallmark got into the act, and now we have an expensive, time-consuming, environmentally wasteful 'tradition' that generates guilt in the heart of anyone who considers discontinuing it." (Pg. 54-55) She advises, "Whatever you do, don't accept invitations because you're afraid people won't understand. Many people won't, but that doesn't mean you have to spend Christmas with them." (Pg. 78)
About office parties, she says, "[A friend's husband] suggested to his colleagues that they take the money spent on Secret Santa gifts and use it to create a meaningful Christmas for a family in need. They contacted a community organization and found a family with two children they could sponsor... Now the main focus of their annual office Christmas party is displaying the gifts they've selected, then wrapping and delivering them. What a suitable way for coworkers to share the real spirit of the holidays." (Pg. 183)
Later, she suggests, "It's a safe bet that most every household in America could cut by half the amount and number of items served at holiday meals, and they'd still have too much." (Pg. 213) She cites a reader's membership in a Christmas Club savings play, and comments, "The Christmas club didn't help her save more; it helped her spend more... she spent twice as much on Christmas gifts as she had in previous years." (Pg. 251)
She suggests that we identify what are the things we REALLY love about the holidays: "[Gifts are] probably not high on the list of things you love about the holidays. You love the family gatherings and the feelings of togetherness. You love how the Christmas music always stirs something deep in your heart. You love it that people who don't even know each other smile and wish each other Merry Christmas. You love the magical feeling that makes the holidays a time when ANYTHING seems possible." (Pg. 187)
St. James' books may not be for everyone, but they truly are filled with valuable and helpful ideas for reducing the "clutter" of one's life.
I can understand how others might like this if you're sick of the commercialization of the season, or are elderly and too tired, etc. but I still have young ones at home and I want to make fun memories for them w/out showering them with gifts (some presents are their fave foods that I often say no to throughout the year).
It does have some good examples that helped me convince my hubby not to spend time with his extended family (the s-i-l is a you-know-what and it's not fun to be around her), so that came in handy! But a lot of the book is too "scrooge-ish" for me.