A Merry Minimalist Christmas
My aunt recently passed. She was vibrant and fun; loud and loveable; and had a grainy, deep voice that I’ll never forget. And her laugh! Her raspy, rich laugh could fill a home with warmth and make any stranger feel welcome. Oh, that laugh.
The day after she passed I found myself mourning the loss by poring over old family albums for hours. I laughed, I cried and I continued to do so (in rotation) through more than 13 albums in my parents’ basement, until 2:00 am. And it was somewhere between 11:00 pm and 1:00 am that I had a profound realization about simplicity.
Life used to be simple. Yes, of course, life was simple; I was young. What I really mean is that our day-to-day life was actually really quite simple – and simplicity brings happiness for the little things, the true things, and the pure things. Simplicity gives us the freedom to truly see what’s right in front of us, to see what’s important. Simplicity declutters our homes, our lives, our relationships, our minds and leaves us feeling at first raw and bare, and then complete and whole. Simplicity.
The fact that I found simplicity while poring over nearly 1500 photos is not lost on me, so let me explain. In those pictures, I saw birthdays celebrated with family, where homemade cakes were presented in a beat-up old Tupperware container. Where there were no ‘guest rooms’ for when company slept over, but rather all the kids were displaced from their bedrooms, and together, with our cousins, we would form one giant slumber party on the floor of the basement. Where we would roam the neighbourhood playing ‘kick the can,’ ‘hide and go seek,’ or ‘ghost in the graveyard,’ and we would know our curfew from the street lights turning on. In those pictures, under the Christmas tree, there was a perfect blend of practical yet enjoyable gifts, picked and wrapped by my mom, my aunt, and my grandma.
Times change – I get that, but when did we decide, as a society, that birthday cakes needed to be big and bright and professionally baked, with fondant on top. And that if you had three kids you needed to buy at least a five-bedroom house to account for guest rooms. And that there always needs to be at least one adult outside with the kids, at all times. And that quantity over quality is a general preference when it comes to presents for kids, and that gifts in gift bags are somehow just as fun to open as wrapped gifts (they’re not). When did we decide that simple was no longer good enough?
Simplicity can be found in the art of mindfulness. Being acutely aware of the important things, the little things; the memory makers. Cultivate them, nurture them, and cherish them. Open your heart to the possibility that something so simple can bring such joy. Give the gift of presence. This season, create a simple holiday, one filled with love, family, and laughter – raspy, rich laughter.