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Simply Advent: Simple Celebrations

Simply Advent - Simple CelebrationsWe’re approaching the end of Advent, and even though you probably have your Christmas plans set, here are a few ideas for simple celebrations. First, consider making some adjustments to grand-scale plans, and then, savor the here and now.

Make a Few Adjustments

Is there a simple way to celebrate Advent and Christmas? Every time I consider inviting people over, this machine turns on in my head, and it churns out these huge events with long, complicated menus and all sorts of expensive extras. And so then I decide that, no, we won’t have anyone over.

But there’s got to be a simpler way. Surely I can adjust plans so that they are similar to what I’m accustomed to yet much easier to manage. So I’m going to propose a few things, and please add your ideas and experiences in the Comments section.

Don’t do dinner. Instead of inviting people for dinner, invite them for dessert and coffee or hot cider. Or invite them for some snacks and beverages early in the day so that they can stop by but then still have their evening—because so many evenings are already spoken for this time of year.

Do trim the guest list. Recently my husband and I had dinner with two friends, whereas usually there’s a group of us. And although we were sorry the others couldn’t make it, it was really a treat to have just the two friends and one conversation we could follow in a relaxed way.

Don’t host at your home. Invite a few people to meet you somewhere else for a walk and a coffee or a concert or other event that you can enjoy together.

Do remember that it can be enough to stay home with a loved one. Would you and your family member(s) really enjoy staying home rather than going out? Could you eliminate some outside event and savor an ordinary meal together, maybe adding some music in the background or a movie in the living room afterward?

Savor Here and Now

Whatever you’ve done for this holiday, consider it enough. You are probably the only person who knows exactly what you have done and how much money it cost and how much time it took. You may have a family member who enjoys judging others so that they always fall short, but otherwise, people will not be examining your life carefully to assess how well you have “done” Advent and Christmas. You’ve done what you were able to do: you sent holiday cards, or didn’t; you did lots of extra baking and cooking, or maybe not so much; you connected with people, or were unable to do so as much as you’d hoped; and so on. Show yourself grace and wisdom and say, “It is enough.”

Whatever you hoped for during this holiday, give thanks for the reality. The USA culture hypes up this holiday season to absurd proportions. Mainly, all the hype is to sell us lots of stuff—it’s really about making money. Yet if we’re not careful, that mania seeps into our heads and hearts, and without realizing it, we pump up our expectations to impossible proportions. We expect a family that usually squabbles to suddenly get along smoothly. We expect an already full schedule to make room for hours of more time for multiple extra tasks. We expect our own hearts—heavy with recent loss or health problems or relationship problems or ongoing anxiety and depression—to become light and joyous just because we string a few lights.

I think that about all we can do about these out-of-control expectations is to stop and give thanks for our reality, to name specifically our gifts and blessings and tear our focus away from the hype and the high expectations.

Whatever you have failed to accomplish during this busy season, let it go. I could easily look at every Advent/Christmas season of my life and see failure. This is true partly because I have trouble keeping my expectations and plans realistic. This is also partly true because the holiday season does not prevent the world from proceeding on its difficult course, and so in addition to holiday stress I may be down with the flu or have a funeral to go to or yet another national disaster that drives me to prayer.

So it becomes a normal part of my every holiday season to look at all of it and let it go. Give it all back to God. Give up my angst and my disappointment. Give up my desire to make everything work better.

Christmas is in a few days. Take some deep breaths, thank God for the life you have, ask for what you need, and ask especially for the hope that we cannot generate ourselves but that must come from the very heart of Divine love.

Vinita Hampton Wright
Vinita Hampton Wright
Vinita Hampton Wright edited books for 32 years, retiring in 2021. She has written various fiction and non-fiction books, including the novel Dwelling Places and spirituality books Days of Deepening Friendship, The Art of Spiritual Writing, Small Simple Ways: An Ignatian Daybook for Healthy Spiritual Living, and, most recently, Set the World on Fire: A 4-Week Personal Retreat with the Female Doctors of the Church. Vinita is a spiritual director and continues to facilitate retreats and write fiction and nonfiction. She lives with her husband, two dogs, and a cat in Springdale, Arkansas.


  1. Thank you for these insights. I needed to read them today. Catching COVID effectively halted my Christmas plans, and it looks as if my husband and I will be alone without our family visiting for the first time. Our son will be far from us with his new wife’s family, for their first holiday together. But, despite all this, I know I need to let go, as you write, and give it all to God. I look forward to 2023 with hope that all will be well. Merry Christmas to you!

  2. And now, a new year – 2018 – of your sharing such wise words, that I will now read again — and then tomorrow morning (Christmas Eve) and then on Christmas.
    Bless you, Vinita. Today, through you, angelic wisdom was shared with me, a VERY slow learner. Time and time again, year after year, I vow to keep in front of my face “Jesus is the reason for the season” and try to savor Advent and slow down. And then….I stumble and fall.
    This morning, I shall rise again, and ask for help from above. A happy and holy Christmas to you and your family — and everyone who joins me in appreciating you, and the gift of your wisdom.

  3. Thank you! Your words are wisdom. We need to learn to celebrate without doing a deep dive into debt and the guilt of not doing enough.
    Spending extra time meditating on the wonder of the Infant Jesus and the challenges of Holy Family help ground me.

  4. Beautiful suggestions for simplicity in celebrating. I learned long ago when people ask if I am ready for Christmas just to answer yes because whatever stage of preparation I’m in is always just enough. Time is a precious gift we give ourselves.

  5. Vinita ,thank you for your articles which are always thought provoking and help bring me back on track. I’m on the other side of the Atlantic to the US and it’s not unusual to invite people over for minced pies and mulled wine during the Christmas season. They can be served at anytime ie late morning, afternoon or evening which makes things easier.
    Happy Christmas to everyone…….Mary

  6. Vinita, your essay was just what i needed to read today! I just had an unexpected $500 repair for my car and I had accepted an invitation for a $50 dinner which I was going to attend out of duty. It is more than I can manage both financially and emotionally, so I gave the hostess my regrets. I so miss your blog but am happy to read you on the dot.magis site from time to time. Peace and joy to all! Ann

  7. Thank you for pulling me back to a state of reasonableness and peace, rather than the angst I was allowing myself to sink into. My credit card was compromised two days ago and I still have to grocery shop for 15 people, my septic system has completely broken down, with 15 houseguests needing to shower and use the facility, etc. I was allowing this to turn me into a Grinch – but I am now more able to focus on the true “reason for the Season” – the coming of Christ. Christmas Peace and Joy to all!

  8. I’ve really enjoyed meeting friends for dinner at our favorite restaurants. It takes a lot of pressure off as no preparation required. We are mostly retired an some have no close family so it also helps keep us from being isolated during the holidays. It’s something we should do more often than just at Christmas. Meeting for coffee or dessert works well too. You can do it in any price range. It’s the fellowship that’s priceless.

  9. Thank you, thank you, thank you. I wish everyone could read this. But would we all believe it.
    I am enough today.
    Thank you!!!!

  10. I truly learned about simplifying the holiday, not just once, but twice. First time was when my son, whom we adopted as an infant and brought home on Dec. 3, developed a severe respiratory infection and ended up in the hospital on Dec. 23. Our family came together, abandoned our traditional, elaborate celebratory events, and took turns staying at the hospital for days, so my daughter, then 4, would have a magical Christmas morning of gift giving and Mass with my husband and me. Happy to say that baby boy is now 33 and healthy.
    Ten years ago, my sister’s beloved husband died, after a brief but serious illness, on Dec. 20. Once again, elaborate plans put aside to give her and her children whatever attention they needed.
    Both of those events make one realize that the true spirit of the season isn’t in the huge celebrations and over the top gift-giving, it’s in showing how much we lovingly care for one another.
    Thanks, Vinita, for your always lovely writing. Christmas blessings to you and your loved ones.

  11. Thank you so very much for this article. It is just what I needed today. Awakening with a very sore throat and aching chest, I fear that, although most of my errands are complete and plans are set, the next couple of days I may not be feeling my best. I probably will not be able to participate in my scheduled exercise classes, either. Your wise words allowed me to perhaps let some of it go and concentrate on getting myself well and doing what I am able to do with the Advent Passion at the forefront of my heart.


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