I’ve been on a multi-year quest to simplify the holiday season, and this year it’s been more important than ever because of time and financial constraints. I’ve asked myself, do my children’s godparents really need a pine-scented candle, a keepsake ornament and a scarf?

At the beginning of this month, I sat down with my calendar and a blank pad of paper to plan my holiday season. I blocked off time to decorate our tree, made lists of people I wanted to remember with gifts and planned our Christmas dinner menu.


I was determined not to overdo it or procrastinate this year, vowing I wouldn’t end up in a 24-hour drugstore on Christmas Eve, searching for last-minute gifts for someone I inexplicably forgot.


I’ve been on a multi-year quest to simplify the holiday season, and this year it’s been more important than ever because of time and financial constraints. I’ve asked myself, do my children’s godparents really need a pine-scented candle, a keepsake ornament and a scarf? Must I keep up with my baking-fiend friend, who whips up dozens of cookies and batches of homemade fudge to give to her children’s teachers? Or would a small loaf of mom’s recipe for pumpkin bread suffice as a simple, heartfelt gift?


It’s not that I don’t want to bless those I love with abundance, particularly in the baked goods department. If I had the time, I would happily make cookies for days on end, wrap them festively and present them with a handmade card that would rival anything Martha Stewart could churn out. I’d have to admit, however, that some of that effort would be put into the project in expectation of the feedback I’d get –– that my baking is delicious, or that the packaging is beautiful. Those things are important, of course, but how much of what I’d be giving would be about the giver?


Better, I think, to let people know I am thinking of them with something simple. They’ll appreciate the thought, and my family will appreciate that I’m not a raving lunatic in the kitchen for the last week before Christmas. If I’m not baking until midnight, flour drifting like snow from one end of the kitchen to the other and the sound of the mixer keeping everyone awake, it might actually be possible to have peace on earth, or at least in my little corner of it.


So the next week will see me focusing on what’s really important: singing carols with the kids by the fire, telling stories of Christmases past, sneaking one more gingerbread cookie and then artfully arranging the remaining ones to camouflage the missing.


I won’t be elbowing my way through the mall, searching for inspiration at the 11th hour. My pumpkin breads are baked, wrapped and ready to go, lined up like so many toy soldiers on the counter. When I give the command, they’ll march into the hands of teachers, godparents, friends and family, conveying a simple wish for a sweet holiday season.


If you’d like to try Julie’s mother’s pumpkin bread recipe, visit http://juliefaysblog.blogspot.com/2010/12/moms-pumpkin-bread.html