The countdown has begun. Well, for some of us it began a few months ago.

Filling the space under the tree can be a major stress factor as the end-of-the-year approaches.

As a minimalist, Christmas has become more intentional and less about the stress and more about the purpose. Here’s a few things we do to make our Christmas fit with our values.

Snow & Tell

As empty nesters we now do a holiday Snow & Tell instead of traditional gift giving. I read the idea a few years ago and it involves giving our family and friends an opportunity to share stories & knowledge instead of material gifts. We host an open house with finger foods and drinks. Guests can bring a refreshment to share but the main thing is they need to do a Snow & Tell. Topics from the past have included Top 10 Things I learned This Year to how to castrate a cow. Others have shared vacation photos, recipes, song lyrics, school projects, blacksmithing creations and family history stories. It is a time of sharing and laughter. While it takes a bit of explaining, once our guests catch on, they have seemed to enjoy it. The hardest part for me is letting it evolve into whatever happens. As with many holiday traditions, I tend to get a picture-perfect setup in my head and I have to relax that in order to really enjoy the moments that come.


Prior to snow & tell, my husband and I had drastically reduced our gifts under the tree. We live in such a blessed society and we wanted to move away from the pressure to just give gifts as some sort of gauge for our successfulness. Our model was the Something you want, something you need, something to wear and something to read. I love the simplicity of this and the way it gives you a framework. Of course, I adjusted this with additions such as something to give and something to make. I think the overall goal is just to be intentional about the gifts you give and why you are giving them. For us, the why was never to fill the spot under the branches or to have a really big mess but because we were thoughtful and mindful about the gift.


I can not repeat enough how time is so much more precious than toys or clothes or stuff. Giving the gift of a dinner together or just stopping by at the home of an elderly neighbor and listening is the single most important gift you can give. And be sure to include any young people in your life. If they do this when they are young, it won’t be as difficult when they grow up.

Dinner with a twist

Gift certificates and coupons are nothing new. They make a great gift to bless a receiver with dinner, a back massage, or a car wash. My nieces and nephews get a coupon with the gift of making me dinner. I provide the ingredients and they come to my house and do all the cooking. They love it! It is a really special time and it keeps us interacting the whole time they are here to visit.

Scavenger hunts

For a couple years we gave our family 12 items – one for every month of the year. We then created a website and each month we posted a picture of ourselves with the Item of the Month at a local landmark (well-known but more often than not not-so-well-known). They submit their entries and the following Christmas we gave the winner a gift certificate to a local restaurant.

Scratch off game

Look for another blog post on how to create this. For this gift I created a large scratch off board with activities to complete throughout the year. I choosed a theme – I think the first year was encouragement – and I created 52 activities – 1 per week – that would encourage themselves or others. Activities included writing a card, making a phone call, delivering flowers, making cookies and writing a scripture. Many of them were to specific people – a relative, neighbor, teacher or health care worker. The following Christmas I awarded the completers for a full year of encouragement. As always, this could be altered to your specific scenario. For example, this coming year I’m focusing on health. So I might do squares related to different exercises, taking walks at specific places, making a healthy recipe for a neighbor or sharing a health tip on social media. And I might do 23 activities instead of 52 to promote a bit more involvement.

Wow! Just reflecting on these ideas has made me excited to get out the Christmas decorations. I have to wait though. No decorations at our house until after turkey day.

Merry Christmas!