Parent Corner: Embracing Simplicity and Generosity this Christmas

One of my favorite Christmas memories: beneath a starry sky, my three sisters and I haul supplies to a clearing in the nearby forest – firewood, food, and hot chocolate in those old-school thermoses with little cups for lids. My parents build a bonfire. I’m eight or nine years old. The bitter, numbing cold penetrates through my oversized, hand-me-down boots and bulky Polaris snowmobile jacket, until the fire springs to life. 

We settle on fallen logs layered in crisp snow, warm our fingers and toes, pierce plain hot dogs on sticks that Dad sharpened with his Swiss army knife. There are steaming brown beans and salty potato chips. We eat our simple meal, sing carols and mom likely asks us to share something we’re thankful for. 

The details are a bit hazy, but I remember feeling content, recognizing that this was something special – just being together by this fire until our cheeks stung from the windchill. Then we trekked back home, slipped on our pjs and slippers, and opened presents.

But I don’t remember a single present I opened that Christmas. Not one.

We parents put so much pressure on ourselves to make this holiday extra magical, sometimes at the expense of our own enjoyment. We stress out over the gifts, trappings and traditions we feel we must take on. Yes, every child deserves a sweet, warm Christmas, but that doesn’t mean a pile of presents. Or a decadent Christmas dinner. Or Elf on the Shelf in a creative new situation every morning (unless that makes you happy!). And while we’re at it, you don’t have to send out Christmas cards if that stresses you out, or make Christmas cookies. You don’t even have to watch all the nostalgic Christmas movies or listen to Christmas tunes 24/7. It’s OK to keep it simple, whatever that looks like for you and your family. 

And keep it local. Door County’s communities, parks, restaurants and businesses offer an array of opportunities to create meaningful holiday memories with your children. Let others take over some of the planning. There’s tree-lightings and wreath-making, breakfasts with Santa and holiday parades, library programs and family-art workshops. Let the Peninsula Pulse Events Calendar be your holiday guide, and lower expectations on yourself and your children. At two-years-old, my daughter wasn’t going anywhere near Santa Clause, heck no. At three-years-old, she was perched on his knee showing off her heart-patterned pants and requesting a mermaid suitcase. 

As for gifts, Door County’s toy stores, bookstores, boutiques, galleries, gift shops, and clothing stores offer enriching, high-quality toys, books, art supplies, and clothing. They’ll help you find something you feel great about putting under the tree. Remember – quality, not quantity. 

If you have the means, please consider donating a new toy or money to Door County Toys for Kids (which ensured over 550 local children, infants through 17 years, received a present last year). If you have a child, take them along to help you pick out that toy. And if you need some assistance this season – with gifts, clothing, food, or heating bills – know there is a generous community eager to help you make your child’s Christmas warm and special.

Donation boxes for Door County Toys for Kids are all over the community. They accept donations until Dec. 7. For more information or to register your family to receive benefits, 

For more Door County caregiver resources and support, visit