How to Achieve a Minimalist and Christ-Centered Christmas


Perhaps it was the look of disappointment from my daughter when she didn’t find any more presents under the tree with her name. Or maybe it was me sprinting outside to put up the “Keep Christ in Christmas” sign while I grabbed the four Amazon packages sitting at my door. Or could it have been the shoving of toys into the closet that was already bursting with items not played with in years? Whatever it was, several Christmas’ ago my family and I decided we needed a change and adopted our version of a “Minimalist” Christmas.

Minimalism has been trending lately and I have been intrigued by much of their philosophy. Although some minimalists are too extreme for the comfort level of our family, the concept of clearing the clutter to make way for the important is significant. But as I have worked on clearing out the clutter of my life, I cannot help but think: “What do we fill this space with now?” I think what minimalism and my past Christmas’ were both missing is simple: Jesus.

Before you get defensive of your Christmas traditions and celebrations, please know that a Christ-centered Christmas will look different for every family. I can only offer suggestions on what we have successfully tried and hope to inspire some small changes with you and your families as well. The materialism and mammon need to fade while Jesus and his presence in our families needs to increase. Put the focus back this Christmas season, scale back on material things and tune up time spent with family, friends and Christ.

Here are some suggestions on how to achieve a “minimalist”, Christ-centered Christmas:

Clear the clutter before Christmas!

This works well especially if children are involved. The Advent season lends itself wonderfully to giving to others…why not give out of our own excess and let others enjoy. Don’t make this a sob-fest where you are giving away favorite stuffed animals. Get your whole family on board. Talk about why you are donating items and who they might go to. Children love the thought that another child will be as happy as they were with a toy. The more you practice purging and giving, the easier it gets.

Set Expectations

Whatever you decide is right for your family, tell everyone about it ahead of time. This avoids disappointment and makes it clear how many gifts each person will be receiving. Perhaps that is limiting Santa requests to one toy (save toys for other kids in need too) or scaling back on gifts received in general. We have adopted the following poem and it has not only taken the stress out of shopping, but has alleviated our Christmas excess. It goes like this: something you want, something you need, something to wear and something to read.

Give the gift of time 

My parents were the inventors of this for our family. Every birthday and Christmas their grandchildren receive coupon books for various things that involve time. Coupons range from cleaning their room, trip to the zoo, out for ice cream, special walk, etc. And are my kids disappointed that they are not showered with more toys? Nope! They love it and what is honestly more valuable than time spent creating memories?

Experience gifts are king!

This is so easy and makes Christmas time less stressful, once again helping us get back to the true meaning. Christmas with our extended family honestly has no physical gifts…no presents under the tree. And the kids don’t care! In fact, they look forward to the experience we decided to do together at another time. One time we pooled our gift money and were able to get a hotel room for a night…and create memories! A special trip to a waterpark in the summer instead of toys that clutter our rooms was another example. Everyone needs to be on board but when you decide to buy experiences, it’s a game changer!

Home made gifts

These are especially meaningful coming from children. Children need to know the importance of giving as well during this time. Homemade gifts allow them to do this while not spending tons of money and adding to clutter! I know many crafty adults who already put this into practice and the thought is always appreciated.

We can all learn from each other. And as we know, the world of commercialism is intense. The sway away from Christ seems to be getting stronger each year. Please share your ideas on how to have a “minimalist”, Christ-centered Christmas – I know that I can use all the help I can get!


Lisa Harms

Lisa Harms has been the coordinator of Faith Formation at St. Dennis Church in Madison, Wisconsin for nine years. Previously she taught middle school in urban, suburban and rural districts so she has "seen it all." She is married with two children (Ages 8 and 4) and is grateful for every day that she gets to be their mom.

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