Minimalist Christmas in 2020, with a dash of flair

For the past couple of years, magazines have been spreading a message of moderation when it comes to getting ready for the holiday season. Sustainability is one thing, but fighting over presents in shopping malls and going into debt for the perfect gift is far off from the true meaning of Christmas.

In the spirit of going back to basics, there has been a growing trend of exchanging handmade gifts, spending quality time together, or returning to the old traditions of Christmas. Devotion to a minimalist Christmas has never been so important or current, but how to celebrate is the question on everyone’s mind in 2020. Many people won’t be able to spend Christmas with their extended families this year, and let’s be honest, mother-daughter baking sessions are pretty much what we’ve been doing all year…

minimalist christmas

Hope and uncertainty

For many families, Christmas has taken on a new meaning in this strange year full of truly dramatic twists and turns. Getting ready for the holidays is different than last year. Yes, these times are filled with uncertainty, but perhaps also with the hope that the coming year will be easier for all of us.

We’re constantly asking ourselves the same questions: Who can we meet? Where? How? Should everyone stay home and celebrate separately, or should we find a way to get together with our loved ones we’ve barely seen all year? No matter the decision, one thing is for certain. This year, when Thursdays were like Wednesdays and we couldn’t tell weekends and weekdays apart, making the holidays a special occasion is especially important. That doesn’t mean spending all our money on expensive gifts and decorations, though…

Rituals for a sense of belonging

Holidays are traditionally accompanied by many different rituals: we sing the national anthem on national holidays and decorate a tree at Christmas. Of course, many people have their own family Christmas traditions, too. These rituals play a major role in shaping our personal and communal identities and they can reinforce the feeling that we belong somewhere. They are especially important for children as these recurring “narratives” provide structure and cyclicality in our loves, which strengthen our sense of security.

This year it’s not just children, but us adults who may feel like we need these rituals to hold on to. That feeling of certainty, that sense of belonging, and that our lives are going somewhere, that we have something to look forward to. Like the holidays – the anticipation itself provides a soothing sensation: that no matter what happens in the world, Christmas is here to stay, even if it changes a bit.

“Joy to those who await”

– reads a poem from Anna T. Szabó’s collection titled Advent Calendar. The advent season takes on new meaning this year, as we not only await Christmas, but also the arrival of a new normal. This is the time for putting our affairs in order in both the physical and spiritual sense. It will help us tackle any uncertainties that may arise with a clear head and keep us from sharing our homes during the holidays with objects and things that no longer have any place in our lives. However, one man’s garbage could be another man’s treasure, as the saying goes, which is something to keep in mind this season of giving.

We may find that we can really get into the Christmas mood by giving gifts to those who have helped us this year, whether they’re kindergarten or school teachers, doctors, or our favorite baker. Of course, what matters most is not the price of the gift, but the meaningful gesture and expression of our gratitude.

There’s not a lot to do in town this year, but it’s still important to spend as much time outside as possible. Take a family walk downtown or around your neighborhood and marvel at the Christmas lights – the little ones will surely be happy. Build a bird feeder or birdhouse with the older kids and place it in your garden or a park nearby. If you’d prefer a more modern approach, why not make a personalized playlist of songs and podcasts, which is something you can share no matter where your loved ones are. You could surprise them with a subscription to an online platform, too. Perhaps a different one every year.

Light up your Minimalist Christmas Eve

When Christmas Eve comes along this year, feel free to go all out! Trust me, you can’t have too many candles or Christmas lights, use as many as you can fit inside your home.

The dress code for a minimalist Christmas may have been sweatpants and any old sweatshirt in the past, but after barely dressing up this year, it’s time to break out your fanciest clothes and funkiest bowties. This shouldn’t just be a Christmas tradition for kids, but adults as well! Sure, you’ll have to watch out for crumbs when eating our gingerbread cookies, but you’ll feel very festive watching the Nutcracker or the Christmas sermon online.

Don’t hold back with the songs and poems either, learn some new tunes and teach them to your children, or entertain the family with a home talent show. And if you can bear looking at a screen for just a little bit longer, certain taboos can be broken, like having a tablet at Christmas dinner. Set your loved ones right beside you at the table, or share special moments like the little ones singing Silent Night by the tree.

None of these suggestions are things you have to do and it’s perfectly fine if you want to do something completely different. Perhaps you have bigger things to worry about this Christmas than which outfit to play dress-up with your children in.

The message is simply this: if you can, seize the opportunity to celebrate! Be it big or small, colorfully over-the-top invoking Swedish minimalism, together physically or only in spirit. Celebrate a minimalist Christmas! Enjoy the holidays, after a year like this, you certainly deserve it!

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About the Author

Luca Frankó