How The Dekker’s “Do Christmas”

posted by Andrea | 12/20/2013

the dekkers

Over the past years, I’ve gotten numerous questions about how Dave and I “do Christmas”.

For example, how many holiday parties we attend, what type of parties they are, what food we bring, how many holiday cards we send out, if Dave and I give gifts to each other, what type of decorations we put up, what traditions we have, etc. etc. etc.

So since I’ve only blogged a little bit about each of these topics sporadically over the past 3+ years, I thought it might be time to consolidate it all into one nice, neat post.

Of course, how we “do Christmas” changes a little each year — and I’m certain it will continue to change. However, this is Dave and my 8th Christmas as a family, and for the most part… this is how we’ve been doing Christmas for those 8 years.

2013 Christmas Tree

Holiday Cards:

I’m frequently asked if we send holiday cards — and the answer is yes! (read more on that here)

I really enjoy sending holiday cards (and I say “holiday cards” because we don’t always send “Christmas cards”). I definitely do not think a holiday card is necessary — but since I enjoy doing it, I plan to continue this tradition in the future.

For the last couple of years, I’ve gotten our cards printed through — I like that I can include a few pictures along with some text updating the recipients about our year.

Right now, we send out about 70-75 cards each year, and I do hand address them — mainly because I enjoy doing this too, and we don’t have a super reliable printer at the moment 🙂

Here’s a look at the FRONTS of our past years’ holiday cards:

2013 = Thanksgiving card

2012 = Christmas Card

2011 =  New Year’s Card + Nora’s birth announcement (sent at the beginning of 2012)

2010 = Christmas Card + We Moved card

2010 card

2009 = Hand-made JOY Card (still probably one of my favorites!)


2008 = New Year’s Letter (sent at the beginning of 2009)

2007 = Cute little handmade cards (they took forever!)


2006 = Store-bought cards without a picture


Christmas Parties:

The number of Christmas parties we attend each year has decreased steadily over the past 8 years — and I’m OK with that!

We get together with my immediate family on Christmas day for a big lunch after church.  And then we do the same thing with Dave’s immediate family on New Year’s Day. We LOVE having the two immediate family parties separated by a whole week as it really draws out the holiday season and makes things so much less stressed and “jam-packed”.

We usually have some type of party with our group of college friends (8-10 couples each year) and that’s alway a super casual, bring a dish to pass, dress in a crazy Christmas outfit kind of party.

We also still have a casual pot-luck Christmas party with my Mom’s side of the family and my Dad’s side of the family — usually on a weekend night a couple weeks before Christmas. Of course, now that all my cousins are getting married, moving, and having children of their own, not everyone is always able to make it. But it’s still fun to see everyone again — at least once a year. I’m honestly not sure how much longer these parties will last… but we’ll keep going until they fizzle out!


Seasonal Decorations:

I go back and forth with this every year based on how much time and energy I have. I LOVE the look of tons of decorations, but I don’t love the work of putting them all up (and then taking them all down again) — and I really don’t love storing them all year long.

I’ve had years where I literally put a fully decorated Christmas tree in EVERY room of the house (it was so much fun to come up with themes for each tree) and have decorations spilling off from every shelf and wall. Then I’ve had other years (like this year) where I just put up the main tree with a few basic ornaments and call it good.

I’ve actually purged and donated almost all my Christmas decorations besides a few favorites — one main tree, a cluster of Alpine trees, my wooden nativity that Dave’s grandma made for us, some bronze bells, and my favorite JOY blocks. I think that will be the happy medium for me over the next few years.

None of these items are breakable, they are all kid-friendly, and they give just the right amount of holiday cheer without having to spend all day decorating (and all year storing mass amounts of decorations.)

joy blocks


Gifts is obviously a big part of the holiday season, whether you like it or not — although it’s most definitely NOT the main reason of the season.

I’m really committed to simplify gift-giving, just because I don’t want it to be the main focus of Christmas, and because I just feel that most gifts are often unnecessary (I promise I’m not a Scrooge!) I realize this will change a bit once we have more kids who are older and actually understand the concepts of gift-giving and receiving. But for now, I will enjoy the simplicity of gift-giving with a two-year-old who could honestly care less!

Also, I want to note that I do NOT care about “fairness” when giving gifts. Of course, I’m not going to hand one person a $100 bill and another person a $5 — but when it comes to gifts, I’m not the type of person who has to give every single person the exact same number of gifts or spend the exact same dollar amount on every person. For example, if we spend a certain amount on Dave’s parents, we won’t necessarily spend the same amount on my parents, and we don’t necessarily spend the exact same amount on our nephews either.

The point of gift-giving for me is not to figure out how many nickels and dimes I’m spending for each person — but rather to give them a gift they want and something they can use and enjoy. If I can do that, then I’m happy and will not stress about spending the exact same dollar amount on every person each year.

And since I’ve been asked over and over again, here’s how we handle gift-giving — at least for now.

Gifts between Dave and me:

At this point, Dave and I don’t exchange gifts with each other — and honestly, we never really did. We’re the type of people that if we really NEED something, we wait for a sale and then buy it. If it’s something we just WANT, we search Craigslist or try to find it for free, and just do without until we find a rock-bottom price.

Once our kids are older, I think we’ll decide on something we can exchange just so they see us giving each other gifts — but Dave and I personally don’t feel it’s necessary to buy each other a gift when we don’t need anything and we’re both more “acts of service” gift-givers anyway.

Gifts for Nora:

Nora is JUST starting to realize that it’s fun to get presents (thanks to her birthday party last month) so I think Christmas presents are going to be really fun this year! That said, we’re only getting her a FEW small items to open because she really doesn’t need anything.

I love the idea of doing 4 gifts per child (something they want, something they need, something to wear, and something to read).

This year, we’re getting Nora the following:

WANT =  Shaker Eggs (she’s been begging me for them ever since we started going to Music Class in September)

NEED = this isn’t necessarily a wrap-able gift… but since she doesn’t need anything, we’re considering the decorations for her new bedroom a Christmas gift 🙂

WEAR = Big girl underwear (she’s been asking for this too — even though she’s still not totally sold on using the potty)

READ = The Very Hungry Caterpillar book (I think I’m more excited about this one than she will be!)

Gifts for Extended Family: 

A couple years ago, both Dave and my immediate family’s decided that we would not do gifts for the siblings and spouses anymore (Hallelujah!) So we just do gifts for our parents and then the nieces and nephews.

Obviously this helps to simplify things A LOT and majorly decreases the number of gifts we need to buy every year.

Also, we don’t buy any type of gifts for either of our extended families (grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, etc.) and they don’t buy gifts for us. We send out our holiday card and spend time together at the family parties — that’s better than unnecessary gifts.

Gifts for Coworkers, Friends, Neighbors, etc:

I obviously don’t have any coworkers and Dave’s school doesn’t do anything with gifts.

We decided amongst our friends not to do any Christmas gifts and instead, just get together several times a year to hang out and enjoy each other’s company.

As for neighbors, we honestly don’t know many of our neighbors that well at our new house. At our old house, we did bring them cards and baked goods — but that was it.

Family Traditions:

At this point, besides sending out a holiday card, putting up a tree, and attending holiday parties; we really don’t have any set traditions just yet. We don’t have a “set day” where we put up the tree or decorate the house. We don’t have a tradition of baking 40 dozen cookies in one day and then bringing them to the neighbors. We don’t always do “such and such” the same way every single year. We don’t read a special story, do special stocking gifts, drive around to look at holiday lights, go to a live Nativity, or anything else like that.

I love the idea of traditions — but since our family is still quite young and Nora wouldn’t really get it yet anyway, I think we’ll need to wait a couple more years before really starting any strong Christmas traditions.

Oh, and for the record, I’m totally NOT the type of person that feels like I have to do something a certain way just because that’s what has always been done. I do value tradition and I think it’s awesome for kids to have those traditions in their lives — but even still, I don’t think I’ll ever be the type of person who always, ALWAYS does something one specific way forever 🙂

So there you have it.

A little run-down of how we “do Christmas” — at least for now! 

How do YOU “do Christmas”?

Filed under: FamilyHolidays

Leave a comment


  1. Rainey Daye


    We did the four gifts (want, need, wear, read) thing this year with our kiddos too. Bug got a kid’s digital camera (want), a kid’s full ESV Bible (need), a Minecraft Creeper t-shirt (wear), and a book called “Food Allergies and Me” (read)…since he has a peanut allergy. Sweetpea got a baby toy camera (want), a Doidy cup (need), a tiny Skip Hop ladybug backpack/harness (wear), and a “Global Babies” bilingual board book in English and Spanish. In Bug’s stocking he got two Matchbox cars, two Tootsie Roll banks (they are safe for him with his peanut allergy), and a small carton of Goldfish. In Sweetpea’s stocking she got some stretchy headbands for her practically bald baby head and two teethers. It was a nice, simple Christmas and I bought all their main presents online because I broke my foot on December 5th. My husband got their stocking stuffers at the store when he went grocery shopping about a week before Christmas. They still had a decent haul from relatives, but overall…even with what they got from family, it was nothing too big or overwhelming and I really don’t feel like Christmas cluttered things up like in previous years.

    With my broken foot and a crawling baby we even simplified our decorations. With the exception of my three little snowmen decorations on the kitchen table…we just had our stockings and our small tabletop tree that we put our yearly family ornaments, our gifted ornaments, and any that we have made on…and we skipped the big color coordinated tree in our front window or any outside decorations at all. Each year since marriage we have bought a yearly ornament as a couple/family, then each year since Bug was born he has gotten an ornament as well (typically related to an interest for that year…1st was Baby’s First Christmas, 2nd was Buzz and Woody, 3rd was Thomas, 4th was a monster truck, and this year was an ornament with a hammer and wrench cause he has really been into Handy Manny, but there were no actual Handy Manny ornaments at the store we went to). This was Sweetpea’s first Christmas, so we did a Baby’s First Christmas ornament for her. 😀


  2. Jenifer


    As another simple and minimalist family, we do try to keep it simple.

    We’ve never done christmas cards, though we will send one or two to people whom we really want to. This year, we are sending two. This is because we mostly see people, so I see no reason to send cards to them when I see them. Cards that we receive are displayed and later composted.

    We decorate and celebrate simply, very close to the start of the holiday, rather than well before. We also use natural (found or purchased) objects, odd objects (usually found/discovered), and paper to create our decorations so that everything is compostable. The only decoration we store — which we use year-round in our celebrations — are lights for the tree.

    We are unusual in that our holidays are not ‘normal.’ We are a bit funny in that we are buddhist and pagan-ish (with norse/shamanic leanings). So, we celebrate 4 buddhist holidays per year, plus also the solstices and equinoxes (2 of each, of course). And then we celebrate birthdays.

    Birthdays are event-based gifts (time). Buddhist holidays are service-based gifting (i.e., we serve each other, we serve our community on or near that day). One Solstice and one Equinox have object exchanges because of their proximity to the normal, western way of celebrating around these holidays (christmas, easter).

    In terms of gift-giving, we often give service gifts (coupons to my sister and her husband for child care, housekeeping, pet sitting, etc), and then fun gifts to children. But, only one, and within our budget. Sometimes, we find an object for adults, too — but we usually give them as a couple’s gift — MIL and FIL get one gift; SIL/boyfriend, one gift; Sister and BIL — one shared gift. So, we buy about 6 gifts a season for family, tops.

    In terms of receiving, we tend to want very little, and simple ask for either something needed or for nothing at all. It’s hard on “objects-as-love” givers. But, they seem to be mellowing to it a bit. My husband and I do not gift to each other, and we simply tell DS “I truly want for nothing.” DS was asking a lot about this recently.

    We ask family to give him experiences in lieu of objects — paying for his various lessons, museum passes, etc. And, if they must, only one gift from each “couple” (i.e., my parents give him one gift; my ILs give him one gift; my sister/BIL gives him one gift, etc). This means he’ll get 4 gifts from them, and typically we’ll give him one, too. So, he caps out at 5, and that’s decent.

    We do stockings (referencing a myth about Odin that was adopted into santa myths), and those have sweets (chocolate, peppermints, and fruit candies), oranges, nuts/trail mix. It usually includes consumable art supplies.

    It keeps the holiday simple — and considering the buddhist holiday runs 30 days from the start date and the solstice celebrations run for 12 (from evening 20 Dec to evening 1 Jan), gifts are such a small part of the whole thing.


  3. Melissa Q


    Oh, the alpine trees! That would be a great idea for a little something joyful in our kitchen/eating area. I asked for Christmas decorations as gifts this year — might just have to point these out to my hubby — fortunately he’s a last minute shopper 🙂


  4. Julia


    We have 4 kids aged 23,12,9 and 5. One of our Christmas traditions is that each year the kids get to buy a new Christmas decoration. These are stored in separate boxes named for each child. They love pulling out their box of decorations each year to put on the tree. When they leave home – they take their box of decorations with them so that they can start their own family collections.

    We also do an Advent Calendar for the three youngest children. It is actually a large quilt with pockets for each of the days in Advent. As well as a little chocolate treat – there is usually an Advent Activity to do that day. There have been fun things like go ice-skating, watch a Christmas movie as well as activities about other people eg getting together a basket for our local “adopt a family for Christmas appeal”. It is 6.53 AM here at the moment, and, as I type – they are opening today’s pouch which is “make chocolate fudge for the neighbours”.

    I must admit – I haven’t always been this organised at Christmas time and am a great believer in not enforcing tradition just for the sake of it. However, this year I was inspired by reading this and other blogs to get a lot more organised for the holidays. As a result I managed to take care of ALL the Christmas planning, shopping and wrapping before school closed for the summer holidays on 6th December. I sent out cards for the first time in 5 years, but more importantly I have been able to spend time with the kids doing all these activities which they’ve really enjoyed.

    Thanks for a great blog Andrea – I really enjoy reading it each day.

    Wishing your lovely (and growing) family a joyful Christmas.


  5. Kristen


    Thanks for sharing! Holiday and family traditions are so personal and it’s nice of you to “put yourself out there” and give us a glimpse into your life 🙂


  6. Shantel


    Great post! I too, try not to get wrapped up in spending the exact same amount down to the penny on people, or saying we did one thing past years so we MUST do it again. Things change, lives change, budgets change, etc. I try to do what is best for us this year. Sometimes I do a lot of baking& sharing, and this year not as much. The one thing I look forward to is that we stay home on Christmas day, make a yummy brunch and take things slow (ie, in jammies most of the day 🙂 Merry Christmas!


  7. Theresa


    This is our first year doing the four gifts (want, need, wear, read). We were a little worried the older kids would protest, but everyone was really responsive. I am enjoying the simplicity it offers.
    Thanks for sharing your traditions, have a Merry Christmas!


  8. Chris


    My parents just cover their tree and store it in the garage – you could do the same with your basement. I, like you, do not enjoy decorating the tree. In fact, I just might keep the lights on it this year. I usually keep it assembled and covered but undecorated. (in my shed).


  9. Rose


    Thank you so much for being so honest!!!!!!!!!! Makes some of us feel that we aren’t the only ones thinking along the same line as you!

    To all that end up reading this comment,

    Have a Merry Christmas and A Happy & Healthy 2014!


  10. Debby


    I love your simplicity. We don’t live near our family and we ran our kids all over the state of Ohio when they were little. Now that my oldest is going to college next year, we are changing that. We will do things weekends before or after but staying put on the holiday. I will have a brand new kitchen to cook in and we will watch movies, play games, and some video game dancing. It’s never too late to change things when the old way isn’t working for you anymore. Merry Christmas to you, Dave, and Nora. You feel like friends


    Andrea Reply:

    Thanks Debby — Merry Christmas to you too 🙂


  11. Leanne Heern


    thank you for sharing! your blog gives me such great ideas for organizing and simplifying my life! it’s one of my favorites! Have a Blessed Christmas and a Wonderful New Year!
    Leanne Heern


  12. Kylie


    We don’t have kids yet, but I’m logging your idea of the 4 gifts! I love it… As a teacher, I can’t believe I’ve never heard of it before…. but I’ve already shared it with my husband – who equally loves the idea – that we’ll be doing this when we have some kiddos. Thanks for sharing!


  13. Maria


    My parents split when I was little so I have always spent Christmas running around town. My husband on the other hand grew up spending Christmas day at Home with his family. Totally different worlds! We have decided to stay home every other year. This year I get to work the day before And the day after so I am very thankful to be staying home. We will still see family, but we will do it this weekend and next.
    We will be starting a Christmas Eve tradition this year. Our son (3) will open 1 gift, a new pair of jammies (for cute Christmas morning pictures) and a DVD or Book for us to watch/reed as a family. This year he is getting the Charlie Brown Christmas DVD (Daddy’s favorite Christmas movie).


  14. glenda


    Feliz navidad andrea,,la leo siempre traducida al espanol, ya que es mi idioma…usted ha cambiado mi vida, mi casa, mi dinero, todo..Que pasen en familia una bendecida navidad y un feliz ano Nuevo..


  15. Charissa


    Thanks so much for sharing, Andrea! Merry Christmas to you and your lovely family!!!