Do you break out in hives just thinking about the craziness and chaos that comes with Christmas? It doesn’t have to be that way. Inspirational authors Cara Putman, Sarah Sundin, and Tricia Goyer share about Christmas’ past in their new novella collection Where Treetops Glisten. Their three stories “White Christmas,” “I’ll Be Home for Christmas,” and “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” will take you back to war-time 1942, 1943, and 1944. The authors have also teamed up to give tips on simplifying Christmas this year! Join us December 1-6 on Not Quite Amish Living for the Simplifying Christmas series.
12 Tips to Turn Chaos to Wonder
by Sarah Sundin
Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year! We long to fill our homes with red and green, with pine and holly, and the smells of cinnamon and vanilla. But in the process we often find ourselves depressed, stressed, irritable, and in debt.
Food and decorations create a festive mood and wonderful memories, but they take a great portion of our time and energy. While writing my novella for Where Treetops Glisten, I was struck by the relative simplicity of Christmas in World War II. Rationing changed menus, shortages meant fewer decorations for sale, and many women had jobs outside the home and less time to prepare for the holidays. Overall, Christmas in the 1940s was simpler—fewer gifts, fewer decorations, and simpler food—but no less meaningful.
So what can we do to simplify here and now?
1) Remember Why
Why are we decorating, cooking, and baking in the first place? To celebrate Christ’s birth. If our work tears us away from this purpose, we need to re-evaluate. When my children were little, I’d remind them—and myself—why we did things. The lights remind us that Jesus is the Light of the World. We give cookies to our neighbors because God gave His Son to us.
2) Embrace—and Trim
I love to bake—but I’m not crafty. Therefore, I make lots of cookies from scratch, but I use the same store-bought decorations every year. Embrace the things you love, the things that bring you joy and bring joy to others. But the things you don’t care for—feel free to trim them back or eliminate them—without guilt!
3) Evaluate Before Adding
That darling handcrafted centerpiece! Twenty-five clever ways to display your Elf on a Shelf! That complicated but tempting new turkey recipe! Cookies decorated like miniature works of art! We see these things in our friends’ homes or on Pinterest, and we’re ready to jump on board and add another item to our Christmas to-do list. Take a moment and think. Do you have the time, money, energy? Do you really need to add something new? Will you truly love doing it? What can you remove from your list in its place? Are you considering it just to fit in or to impress others?
4) Less Is More
Last year a family emergency forced us to simplify Christmas. Our kids all agreed the tree was a necessity, and I wove a lighted garland around the banisters put the Christmas linens on the table. That was about all we did. Yet those simple decorations had big impact, and you couldn’t really tell we hadn’t put up a lot of decorations. If you want to simplify your decorating, look for those high-impact items and trim back the knickknacks.
5) Treasure Tradition
Often we feel pressured to buy or make trendy new decorations or recipes. If you adore making crafts or trying new recipes, go ahead! If not, it’s all right to resist the trends and treasure the traditions. My children love seeing the same ornaments every year and telling the same stories.
6) Store-bought Won’t Kill You
If you hate baking, buy cookies. If you hate cooking, buy prepared dishes or have a potluck for Christmas dinner. If you hate crafting, buy decorations. Don’t apologize. You are no less a woman than your friend who does it all herself.
7) Decrease Variety
If you’ve always made eight cookie recipes, make four. Rotate the recipes from year to year. If you want a large quantity of cookies, double the batch—it’s far less than double the work. Do a cookie exchange with a few friends for the variety you crave.
8) Make Ahead
Crafty people can start making new decorations many months in advance. Buy the materials on clearance in January and have Christmas in July. Make and freeze your cookie dough in October, then defrost and bake in December. Make and freeze pumpkin bread in advance, then defrost for a simple and delicious Christmas breakfast.
9) Make It a Party
To enlist the help of your husband and children, make it fun! When we decorate the house, we put on Christmas carols and set out cookies, and the work gets done quickly. Also do the baking and cooking with the children or grandchildren. They love to feel included, and the sweet memories are worth the extra mess.
10) Let the Perfectionism Go
This is hard, isn’t it? We want the house and food to look Pinterest perfect, so we do everything ourselves, stress ourselves out, and push our family members away. Ouch. When the kids are little, including them means more work, but when they’re older they can be truly helpful. Last year my teenagers did all the baking! When we let the children help, they learn useful skills, feel like an important family member, and gain a sense of accomplishment. So divide the cookie dough—you can decorate half and they can decorate half. You can make the tree a work of art, but let the kids decorate the mantel.
What do you do to simplify cooking, baking, or decorating? Or what do you want to do to simplify?
Download and fill out the Food & Decorations Planning Guide Worksheet to help you simplify this Christmas!
Where Treetops Glisten Gift Basket Giveaway!
Waterbrook Multnomah has created three wonderful gift baskets to give away to readers! To enter to win this basket, please fill out the Rafflecopter forms found on Tricia Goyer’s blog, Sarah Sundin’s blog and Cara Putman’s Facebook page!
Each basket contains:
Copy of Where Treetops Glisten
Christmas DVD – Holiday Inn Bing Crosby, Fred Astaire
Christmas CD (includes all the book title songs) – “A Jolly Christmas” Frank Sinatra
Apron made from vintage pattern
Recipe cards from each character
About Sarah Sundin
Sarah Sundin is the author of six historical novels, including In Perfect Time (Revell, August 2014) plus a novella in Where Treetops Glisten (WaterBrook, September 2014). Her novel On Distant Shores was a double finalist for the 2014 Golden Scroll Awards. Sarah lives in northern California with her husband and three children, works on-call as a hospital pharmacist, and teaches Sunday school and women’s Bible studies.
You can find her at sarahsundin.com
About Where Treetops Glisten
Siblings forging new paths and finding love in three stories, filled with the wonder of Christmas.
Turn back the clock to a different time, listen to Bing Crosby sing of sleigh bells in the snow, as the realities of America’s involvement in the Second World War change the lives of the Turner family in Lafayette, Indiana.
In Cara Putman’s White Christmas, Abigail Turner is holding down the Home Front as a college student and a part-time employee at a one-of-a-kind candy shop. Loss of a beau to the war has Abigail skittish about romantic entanglements—until a hard-working young man with a serious problem needs her help.
Abigail’s brother Pete is a fighter pilot hero returned from the European Theater in Sarah Sundin’s I’ll Be Home for Christmas, trying to recapture the hope and peace his time at war has eroded. But when he encounters a precocious little girl in need of Pete’s friendship, can he convince her widowed mother that he’s no longer the bully she once knew?
In Tricia Goyer’s Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas, Meredith Turner, “Merry” to those who know her best, is using her skills as a combat nurse on the frontline in the Netherlands. Halfway around the world from home, Merry never expects to face her deepest betrayal head on, but that’s precisely what God has in mind to redeem her broken heart.
The Turner family believes in God’s providence during such a tumultuous time. Can they absorb the miracle of Christ’s birth and His plan for a future?