“Focus is often a matter of deciding what things you’re not going to do.” – John Carmack
Growing up, my Christmas Eves were simple—and wonderful.
Because my grandfather was a pastor, every Christmas Eve, we would pile into our family car, drive through the South Dakota snow, and attend Candles and Carols at the church on Melgaard Road. Following the service, all the relatives would cram into my grandparent’s small house. We would eat. We would each open 1-2 presents. And make some of the most beautiful memories of my childhood.
Our Christmas was simple and wonderful. I wouldn’t change anything about it. In fact, I think it was wonderful because it was simple. It kept our main thing the main focus of the holiday.
Church came first. Always. Everything else came afterwards—and only as there was room for it. The less important was secondary and never allowed to press out the most important reason of our season.
There is a growing debate over how to fix Christmas. I’m not sure society is at a tipping point quite yet (retail numbers would seem to indicate otherwise). But as holiday displays show up in stores earlier and earlier, as more and more Black Friday sales begin on Thursday, and as consumers sink deeper and deeper into debt, the world is beginning to recognize that our holiday season is broken, expectations have become too high, the perfect Christmas is beginning to appear unattainable, and the less important is beginning to crowd out the most important.
But the perfect holiday season is not as difficult to find as most think. The perfect holiday season is found in simplicity, keeping your main thing the main thing, and not allowing anything less important to take its place.
- Holiday gifts are fine—just don’t let them distract from the most important.
- Seasonal decorations are fine—just don’t let them distract from the most important.
- Christmas cookies are fine—just don’t let them distract from the most important.
- Large, delicious meals are fine—just don’t let distract from the most important.
- A busier schedule is manageable—just don’t let it distract from the most important.
Surely, each of us will define our holiday most important differently. Many will seek spiritual renewal. Some will celebrate family. Some will refocus on giving to others. Some will seek rest. Some will set aside this year to remember the passing of a loved one. Others will consider the opportunity to evaluate the passing year and refocus on the next. Many will choose a combination of the above.
But your most important step is to define your main thing this holiday season. When you do, you’ll surely have space to include some of the holiday trimmings. But once you feel the less important beginning to push out the most important, it’s time to refocus, cut-back, and simplify.
This may mean fewer gifts, fewer lights, fewer decorations, fewer cookies, fewer side dishes, and fewer commitments. But that’s okay. Your Christmas can still be simple—and wonderful. I know mine was.