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The minimalist guide for holiday dorks

Posted: Friday, Dec. 03, 2010

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Emily Achenbaum Harris

Hi, I'm Emily and this is my blog about career-questioning, minimalism-seeking, gardening, earth-saving, pregnancy, parenthood, and my pathological ability to make the same mistakes over and over again. See more at littlehousesouthernprairie.

The anti-consumer minimalist in my heart believes in keeping my focus on The Reason for The Season this December, and exchanging little more than Christmas tree ornaments, cards and cookies is not only all I need, but freeing.

But what if you also like glitter? And reindeer figurines that hold candles in their antlers? OMG — glittery reindeer candle holders?!

Where’s the sweet spot between eschewing all the insane, totally unfulfilling holiday shopping excess and stress, and still enjoying some of the cuteness? I don’t like the way a lot of minimalism doesn’t seem to leave room for The Cute. It seems the choices are emotionally and financially exhausting consumerism, or “keeping it simple” by making 40,000 things by hand. Sweet lordy, no! There is a third choice.

I’ve figured out what gives me the December fuzzies, and it’s not shopping, gift wrapping, or lots of parties. Nor is it solemnly reciting everything I’m grateful for all day long while staring at the grey sky.

I want the smells — the sights — the idea of magic.

So I’m walking the streets of my neighborhood in the early evening, smelling the delicious smoke coming from the chimneys. (Our fireplace is off limits this year; currently blocked by our coffee table as the baby kept climbing in it, or using the fireplace screen to practice walking).

I’m boiling cinnamon sticks in water on the stove, and made sleigh bell straps to hang from our door out of old belts bought at the Salvation Army for 99 cents.

I made a gingerbread house with my relatives after we hosted Thanksgiving, and am plotting the design of the baby’s Christmas stocking. I found a red velvet dress at a yard sale for $2, and that’s all I need to take a sweet Christmas photo of her.

Smoke, sleigh bells, cinnamon, sugar, velvet, crafting, baby sweetness … that’s what makes December wonderful for me. I can forget the rest.

But I did enjoy one more thing.

Two weeks ago I hit the Southern Christmas Show here in Charlotte. It has more than 650 exhibitors and attracts 100,000 people, some of whom come by chartered bus. I wore a cranberry-colored shirt and dressed the baby in green to prevent being called a communist, pelted with pine cones, doused in powdered sugar and flambéed into a holiday pull-apart cake ($5.99 a slice, $8.99 for two). Walking the aisles is like snorting a Christmas speedball, and the crowd that day featured 5,000 middle-aged white women who were likely thinking to themselves, today is the day I get to live inside a Thomas Kinkade painting at last!

(Susan Orlean fans, which I assume is everyone? Read this:

I didn’t buy anything, nor did I plan to. It’s a lot of over-priced crap from China, some dubiously homemade things, and stuff that defies category, like my favorite find of the day: An oil painting of Santa in Washington, D.C., reading from the Bible to school children, with multiple war monuments and statues crowded into the background (yours for $300).

After walking around for 45 minutes I felt high off the fumes of apple potpourri and like I’d chugged a gallon of fudge.

But that, for me, was the fun.

A little magic, a little silliness, a little glitter.

Happy December, everyone! Wishing you a calm, quiet, snuggly month.

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