It’s the most wonderful time of the year. Or at least, it should be. But sometimes we lose sight of the beauty of the holiday season because it’s buried under the pressure of over the top expectations. It doesn’t have to be that way. It IS possible to reduce the holiday hoopla and simplify Christmas.
Know your why.
What is your reason for celebrating Christmas? That sounds a bit crazy, right? The thing is, sometimes we let it get away from us. The reason becomes “it’s what we’ve always done” or “it’s what everyone else does”.
My reasons for celebrating Christmas are 1) to celebrate Jesus’ birthday and 2) to spend some lovely quality time with my family. When you narrow your focus down to what really matters, it becomes much easier to simplify Christmas.
The year we were in a serious car accident, I knew that we weren’t going to be able to have the huge holiday celebration we usually had. I wasn’t even able to handle all the ins and outs of everyday life yet. An elaborate Christmas was out of the question.
So, we sat down as a family and brainstormed. What holiday activities and traditions were the ones that meant the most to us? We looked at ways to include the most important ones, even if it meant scaling them back a bit.
And then we looked at some to let go of, even if only for that one year. It was freeing and I think our Christmas was better than ever. By not attempting to do it all and not trying to be everything for everyone, the things we did were even more meaningful.
Have realistic expectations and goals.
This goes hand in hand with prioritizing. I always start with the calendar. What firm commitments do we have? School plays/concerts, extended family obligations, the holiday office party, and so on get added to the calendar first.
Let’s pause here for a moment. Look at those “firm commitments” – are they really all that firm? If you don’t enjoy the holiday office party, don’t go. Afraid this will look bad to your employer – make you seem like the workplace Scrooge? There are other ways for you to share some holiday cheer with your co-workers.
Politely decline, citing a previous commitment. Then consider doing something fun like picking up some appetizer trays for the last day of work before the holidays. Or bake a couple batches of your prized shortbread cookies to share with them. There are plenty of ways you can still be a team player without going to the party.
Once you’ve added in your commitments, have a close look at how much time is still available. Be honest about you and your family’s energy levels. We are homebodies and we know that scheduling in too much in a short period of time will only result in tired, cranky people.
Consider personalities and physical limitations. How well do you and your family members do with a lot of noise, with crowded spaces, a lot of standing, or with cold weather? We learned last year that Walter does NOT like being out in the cold – this year we will test it out with a very short time outside at home first before venturing beyond that!
This is one of the biggest lessons I learned from our car accident. With my physical limitations, it’s a necessity but it can also be incredibly valuable for everyone.
You don’t NEED to decorate the entire house in one day. Your holiday baking doesn’t have to be completed in one weekend. Christmas Eve doesn’t have to be a hectic night spent wrapping all the gifts.
Again, here’s hoping you’ve cut back on those activities in the first place. Maybe you’re only baking 1 kind of Christmas cookie this year. Maybe you’re not baking at all – you found an amazing local bakery and you’re letting them do all the work! Delegation is a GREAT idea for cutting back on the chores and leaving you more time for those special holiday moments.
But for things you’re going to take care of yourself, pacing is key. You could choose to spend 20 minutes every week wrapping the gifts you’ve purchased so far. Bake one batch of cookies every Wednesday evening and freeze them. Trim the tree one weekend; put up the other decorations the next.
This goes right back to my first point – know your why. Is it the magazine picture-perfect Christmas tree that is most important to you or is it the act of decorating the tree with your family? (Both might matter to you and that’s okay but trying to have it all can be stressful.)
I’d rather bake 3 kinds of holiday treats instead of 10 if it means I have time to sit down with a cup of hot cocoa and watch White Christmas with my daughter. Perfection for me is not looking like a Norman Rockwell painting. It’s family time. It’s midnight Mass. And most of all, it’s the time to bask in the pure joy of the holiday.
Need some more ideas on how to reduce the stress this holiday season?