This time of the year can be crazy and stressful or beautiful and meaningful. Whether you celebrate Hanukkah, Solstice , Kwanzaa, Christmas or something else, there is so much to do.
December is busy for me. I celebrate not just Christmas, but also our wedding anniversary and several family member’s birthdays.
I’m older now and more relaxed about a lot of things but the first few years as a young wife, I wanted to have the perfect Christmas.
I wanted everything to be just right, so I did everything. I was baking lots of cookies, had a long list of gifts to buy and wrap, decorated every room of the house and went to every Christmas event in town. Too much energy went into these efforts and I still never, in my mind, had the perfect Christmas! I was bound and determined to create the best Christmas no matter what! I learned in a few years time that I wasn’t enjoying Christmas like I wanted to. I was just exhausted and spending money we didn’t have. I couldn’t wait to put Christmas away, but first I had to create a most amazing holiday. It was a crazy wheel and I was ready to jump off.
It was only when I decided to set some limits for myself that I began to actually enjoy the season. I saw the need to be real about how much time and money I had. Anything else would have to slide. Too bad, too sad. Nobody noticed that I wasn’t doing as much as years past. If they noticed anything, it was that I was more relaxed. It took me a few Decembers to really ease back but it became my new personal tradition. I do less now. I do what I decide to. Some years I do almost nothing and other years I do more. It depends on what else is going on and what mood I’m in. Now I enjoy the perfect, non-perfect holiday.
I hang up my red and green superwoman cape for the month of December. I work outside the home and don’t have people who clean my house and wrap gifts for me. I only have so much time and money to work with. So here’s how I take control of the biggest holiday of the year. Maybe you’ll find it helpful. (Keep in mind that if you are able to have a big and fabulous holiday and you enjoy it, then I say go for it. Friends like you always spread the glitter and cheer into my life and I enjoy all the work you do! You bring joy and beauty to the world! )
First, decide what is most important to YOU. The holiday will come and go no matter how much you involve yourself or not. It’s on the calendar and you have no say in that. Surprise, you are not making it all happen. You’ll find that those around you will still like you even if you have a shorter ‘to do’ list. They’d rather have you not stressed out. Period. Decide what 2 or 3 areas are most important to you and focus on those.
Last year I decided my energy would go into making some crafty things and I lived in a beautiful mess of glitter and ribbon on the living room floor. Also I put a (dollar store) light in every window of the house including the tip top attic and all 9 front porch windows. It looked impressive I have to say. And I baked lots of cookies. We didn’t put up a real tree, just a table top fake tree.
This year I decorated with fresh greenery rather than a live tree, also I want to enjoy the huge collection of Christmas music we’ve collected. It’s a wide range of music styles and I haven’t played it for a few years now. Then, I’ve got some tree ornaments that need to be restrung. I can do that while I listen to festive music. I plan to bake a few things, maybe…There are so many sweets and treats every time I turn around that if I don’t get to baking, I’ll still enjoy what other’s have made.
But let’s talk about the biggy, gift giving, which can be very stressful in so many ways! Gift giving can get out of hand. Now days, my husband and I have a budget limit which may be only $5.00 making it fun to see what we can do with that silly amount, or (my favorite) we each get to buy something special for ourself. Last year he completed his harmonica collection and I went out and got a cute pair of winter boots. No wondering if you got the right gift and nothing to wrap or return, just a free pass to shop. For many years we gave new gifts wrapped up in lovely paper and bows but now we save that for birthdays.
My in-laws are on board for going easy on gift giving. Stocking stuffers with coupons for hugs, and candy-pooping reindeer may appear. This year they’re not even doing stocking stuffers…just getting together for a potluck. Only the youngsters get new gifts. On my side of the family, there’s a lot of thrift store items and homemade things. A brand new item may pop up from time to time but the norm is to keep it cheap and simple. You can see there’s no shopping headaches or credit card debt here.
Maybe choose a theme like everyone gets a mug from the thrift store or everyone gets a book, new or used. Do something easy and fun. Many families draw names. New gifts for everyone is too much if you have lots of people on your list. (This way too, there’s more money to put into the kettle to help others.) If your loved ones can agree on setting limits this can lower the stress level a whole lot! You’ll find most are ready to go simple and welcome new ideas.
Less gift giving leaves what’s more important which is just being together. Reading seasonal poems, short stories and Scripture, telling stories, playing board games or watching a holiday movie are some no fail old school fun ways to experience time together! Who needs more things when more time together is what we really need. (Although I do think kids should get gifts!) What if you all went Christmas caroling? What a great memory that would be. Those old fashioned ideas are sure to be your best holiday memories…ever! Don’t knock it ’til you’ve tried it. Bring them back. The next generation will thank you for it.
Last Christmas, we bundled up, stomped through the snow to sit by a roaring fire under the Minnesota stars, drinking hot beverages while my husband played guitar. Then we came indoors to watch “White Christmas”. It was wonderful.
For me, I want and need quiet time during the Advent season. I take a few minutes here and there to reflect on the spiritual meaning of the season. As a Christian, the birth of Jesus is important. Time in the scriptures and prayer is a must for me. It makes the entire holiday meaningful. It makes my entire life meaningful. Everyone, no matter what holiday you celebrate, needs to step back in the quiet and reflect on life now and then.
A really good feeling is when you give of those who struggle. Go to those in need and do a little something, or invite them into your world, on your turf. It makes the rest of your holiday list seem trivial. There is so much sadness on our planet and right next door. If each one of us would reach out to someone, it’d be a better world.
Let’s do it!
- Set YOUR priorities and allow yourself to have limits with no need to apologize. Start by deciding what the holiday means to you, and go from there.
- Keep your focus. Don’t let peers, our culture or traditions rule you.
- Make it a happy time. If it doesn’t bring joy, skip it.
- Know when to say ‘no’. Things will still happen if you don’t do it.
- Ask yourself, what will create the best memories down the road.
- While you can’t control what others expect, you can decide how you’ll react to demands or difficult people. Stay calm.
- Learn to enjoy the simple things. Less really is more.
- Remember the history of the holiday and why you celebrate it. Step back.
- Mix it up. You don’t have to do the same things every year. Ask yourself, what is important this year?
- Take control where you can. There may be traditions but there are no rules, only yours. When you give yourself permission to not be the super holiday fairy, you’ll quickly notice how the perfect holiday is the non-perfect one. Do it your way and have a happy one!