Given the economic downturn, many people across the U.S. and abroad are finding themselves having leaner Christmases than they’re used to. Still others are finding themselves without jobs this year. Uncertainty abounds, and that can make it difficult to get into the holiday spirit. I’ve been there. Last year was a trying year for our family. And we didn’t spend a lot of money on Christmas, either.

Fortunately there are some things you can do to take the focus off money and get into the Christmas spirit.

Remember the 3 F’s: Faith, Family, and Friends

For me, Christmas is all about celebrating the birth of Christ. I can do that without any money at all. I put on some Christmas music (I especially love Mary, Did You Know? by Mark Lowery) and sing as I go about my day. If you need Christmas music, never fear! Amazon is offering 25 days of free Christmas mp3 downloads!

Even if you’re not a Christian, focus on spending time with family and friends. Think of ways you can bless those that you love. Make a phone call. Write a note. Invite someone over for coffee. Focusing on relationships, rather than things is more fulfilling than trying to buy a Merry Christmas.

Know That the Kids Will Survive

If you’re used to spoiling your kids with lots of expensive Christmas gifts, yet can’t afford to this year, it will be OK, even though it’s hard. Be honest with your kids. Don’t scare them, but let them know money is a little bit tighter this year. Then focus on doing things together. Kids love to spend time doing Christmasy stuff with their parents (well, until they’re teens at least…I have no experience with that age group yet).

From personal experience, I can tell you there were Christmases when I received the dreaded underwear as a present, because I needed it, and my parents had to choose between buying me the underwear I needed or something I didn’t. I like to think I’m a pretty well-adjusted adult. And I don’t have any bad memories of Christmas. Kids are resilient, and a lean Christmas won’t scar them for life.

Reassure Yourself That This Year is Not Forever

Life can change on a dime. Though things might be tight this year, you never know where you’ll be next year. Last year, my family was on the church Christmas basket list. Things were that tight. And it was hard. This year we’re celebrating Christmas in our own house. I never would have dreamed life would change so dramatically that quickly. But it did. Remember that this moment in time is not forever. There’s always hope.

Christmas can be a difficult time, especially in the midst of a shaky economy. By focusing on what you can do, rather than what you can’t change, and by remembering that this too shall pass, you can find a little (or a lot of) joy in the holiday season.

How are you handling the holiday season this year?