I’ve recently been asked, “What advice does Bertha have for Christmas?” Now I think they might have been asking about what great clothes to wear and what parties to go to and how to find the best gifts…

Of course, you never know what you’ll get when you ask Bertha for advice. She jumped on her red and green glittered and tasseled soapbox and asked me to share these words…

The best gift you can give is yourself. Your time. Your love. Your energy. Going into debt for extravagant gifts or elaborate decorations or a fancy meal isn’t necessary to have a great holiday and only leads to depression when the bills come in.

What not to give or accept? Judgement. It’s so easy to get down on yourself and judge what you are or aren’t doing. What traditions you are or aren’t keeping. How big is your Christmas tree? How many presents are under it? How full of inflatables is your yard? What will the neighbors think? And don’t compare this year with the ghosts of Christmas Past. Each year is its own. Let it be what it is and enjoy whatever that is. And what it isn’t is a Hallmark movie… but I still love to watch them and so does Bertha.

So how does this advice play out in my life? I must say… it’s a different tune every year. Some of you know that I live in a tiny house… yes… it’s cute and not very big and I have two cats and… Bertha. So, Christmas is not so traditional around here. Not by a long shot.

That’s right… there’s no tinsel adorned evergreen gracing the living room. With cats that love to climb and play with shiny balls and limited space, it just isn’t practical. In fact, I recently gave my daughters the important ornaments. Now they can enjoy them every year in their own homes. And I find that not having them now does not diminish my memories or joy at all. As a nudge to Christmas trees, I have about fifteen tiny trees of different kinds that I place around the house and they work just fine without shedding needles.

For several years, my grown daughters and I have made an effort to keep gifts minimal. We often choose a theme. One year we gave each other things that would reduce the use of plastic on a daily basis. But even in our minimalist efforts… who can give up Christmas stockings? Well, we tried and it wasn’t fun. So, now we all contribute to each other’s stockings and it feels like Christmas magic.

Last year was the first time that we did not celebrate a meal together. They had all just come from another gathering and no one was hungry. At first, I was disappointed until Bertha reminded me that I get to choose how I respond and that I wouldn’t have to spend the day in the kitchen. Okay, she won me over. We actually had a great visit. No one over ate. We just enjoyed each other and our gifts and there were no dishes when they left.

How will we do Christmas this year? I really don’t have a clue. It’s up for discussion but if Bertha has her say… and she always does… we’ll choose to enjoy and celebrate however it shows up. And there will be much love. And isn’t that what’s it’s really all about?