This article first appeared in the December 2020 issue of Tiny House Magazine. As you can tell, it reflects the pandemic holiday season of that time. I’ve included an update at the end.
I just love the idea of a nostalgic Christmas. It felt cozier and more intimate as we focused on family and friends, food, and festivities. It was less about presents and more about presence. I imagine sitting by a fireplace and next to a twinkling tree watching the snowfall outside the window. It’s the Christmases of the songs and carols we love listening to this time of year.
Many of us who have lived the tiny life equate “tiny” with “cozy, ” which has translated to holiday decorating and celebrating. While we may not be able to host massive feasts (even before 2020), we can put up a small tree, light our woodburning stoves, and sip hot cocoa with mini marshmallows. As part of our new, more minimal lifestyle, we transitioned from giving large or expensive physical gifts to sharing experiences with our loved ones.
Christmas in America wasn’t always about Black Friday sales or Happy Honda Days. At one time, the pioneer spirit that led people to travel east to west meant families had few belongings but a lot of perseverance. I remember reading the Little House on the Prairie books when I was a child and wishing Christmas could be just a little more like that.
We have these things in common. And whether you’re living in a tiny space or want to reflect on the philosophies of tiny living, you can have a cozy Christmas this year. Especially in a year when we’ve been asked to keep things small. Here are a few ways you can get started.
Focus on Experiences
A common refrain among tiny house dwellers is that experiences are more valuable than things. And what a perfect time to live that value than the holiday season. You and your family don’t need a lot of new “things” to celebrate. Enjoy walks in the woods, building a snowman, or baking at home instead.
Decorate with Nature
The winter solstice, around December 21st, marks the longest night of the year in the northern hemisphere. And for cultures living in the northern places, where the season was cold and snow-covered, the focus turned to a celebration of life. Our traditions of decorating with evergreen trees, holly, ivy, and mistletoe came from that history. Putting greenery into your home will make the season warmer, especially when you light it up.
Celebrate with Food
Food is also an expression of love. Just ask anyone with an Italian mother-in-law: “Are you hungry? Just a snack? Okay, I’ll make lasagna.” The American South is full of rich food traditions, especially around the holidays. Wherever you’re from, there’s a holiday dish unique to your region or family. Cooking or baking makes your home smell amazing, especially with warm winter spices like cinnamon or clove.
Isolation around the holidays is a serious problem, and rates of depression are on the rise in the cold winter months. Many people fear that a tiny lifestyle will only increase their loneliness. In a year where many of us will be spending time away from friends and family, we need to acknowledge feelings of isolation in our conversations. But we also live in an age where connection is just a button click away. My favorite suggestion to stay connected is a throwback to a simpler time. This is the perfect time to write letters and send holiday cards in the mail to your friends and family.
2020 has been a rough year for all of us. So spend some time over the holidays reflecting on the quiet peacefulness of the season. Celebrate a cozy, nostalgic holiday season in whatever size home you have.
2022 Holiday Season Update: While we are mostly out of the woods regarding the pandemic’s severity, many of the lessons we learned in 2020 will stay with us. I hope one of those lessons is focusing on what’s most important around the holidays.
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