Don’t get me wrong. I love Christmas, I really do! I love the smells, the anticipation, the get-togethers, the concerts, and the fudge!
It’s just so easy to get sucked into the obligatory stress and, subsequently, frantically trying to survive the holidays.
“Survive the holidays.”
Think about that for a second. Why should this amazing season be something to “survive?”
Because we’ve created expectations for ourselves and others that at times are too much: Too much baking. Too much shopping. Too much cleaning.
Well, enough! Let’s enjoy the holiday season instead of trying to survive it.
Limit Holiday Gift List
Sounds harsh… Won’t people be offended or hurt if you don’t give them a gift? Maybe. But is it worth all the extra stress?
With our limited budget this year and lack of interest in spending too much money on random “stuff,” our family has a very small gift list. We buy gifts for the immediate family and any extended family we will see in person over the holidays (three people). I am also planning to give a very personal (and inexpensive) gift to a few close friends.
Now, if you have the money, and you love shopping, and you have lots of people to buy for, have at it! This is about personalizing the holiday activities to reduce your stress. If the shopping part doesn’t stress you out, go for it!
Clean Just Enough
Confession: I have a cleaning problem. I want my entire house to be spotless for any special occasion (or ideally all the time), and especially for Christmas. This causes a lot of unnecessary stress.
My daughter often reminds me that it doesn’t have to be perfect. Partly to get out of her chores, but part of her is so right. It doesn’t have to be perfect. Jesus was born in a dusty and dirty stable!
This year, we’ve been skimping on cleaning leading up to Christmas to save our energy for a two-hour cleanup the day before Christmas Eve. Setting a time limit on cleaning forces you to be more efficient and helps from a psychological standpoint as well.
Make (Only) the Recipes You Love
I love to bake and make candy during the holiday season. But doing too much of it can turn a fun activity into a meltdown (just ask my husband!).
What I’ve done the past few years is stuck with my three favorite recipes: Traditional Swedish gingerbread cookies, saffron rolls (lussekatter), and marsipan.
No more. No less.
My husband makes one round of fudge.
No more. No less.
My daughter cooks up one batch of toffee.
No more. No less.
Bake what you love! And enjoy every bite of it.
Socialize at Your Own Pace
“Ugh – I have so many parties to go to…” Really? Are you upset because you’ve been invited to too many parties? Isn’t it wonderful that you have so many friends and are so involved in the community!?!
The beauty with invitations is that they are not a subpoena. You can say no. Politely.
Parties can be a lot of fun, but if there’s one every night of the week, it can become overwhelming.
Look at your calendar and select the events that mean a lot to you (and the person who invited you) and make sure not to overbook yourself and your family.
The holidays are about community and being together. So be together! With people who make you happy.
And don’t complain about too many party invitations.
Remember Why We Celebrate
OK. I will be the last person to put a “Jesus is the Reason for the Season” sign in my front yard. But not because I don’t think it’s an important message.
Because it is.
Whatever tradition you adhere to, remembering the reason for the celebration is key to surviving the holidays.
Well, I’ll use the Christian example, because it’s what I know best. We celebrate Christmas in honor of the birth of Jesus. According to the Bible, Jesus was born by refugees in a stable. We also learn that angels sang for joy and shepherds and sages visited him to honor his birth. The sages brought valuable gifts (which I’m sure his parents truly appreciated).
In the New Testament, Jesus speaks highly of the poor and the children. (The kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these…) He teaches us that worldly possessions are not all they’re cracked up to be. Rather, we should sell what we have and give the money to the poor. Jesus personifies voluntary simplicity (but doesn’t mind a bottle of expensive perfume being rubbed onto his body – a thoughtful gift given with love).
Remembering the story can really help us relax and focus on the important aspects of this celebration: Being together and sharing the Christmas story, enjoying meals with friends, singing like the angels, and giving precious, meaningful gifts to loved ones as a symbol of our reverence.
It’s not about buying loads of gifts (just for the sake of buying), or manic cleaning, or baking for days, or even going to dozens of parties.
Don’t “survive” the holidays… Embrace simplicity and be at peace!
P.S. I hope you realize that this blog post is just as much a peptalk to myself as it is sharing these thoughts with you! And as a part of personalizing my holidays, I’ll be taking the rest of the year off from blogging. I will be back in the new year with lots of fresh ideas and musings and look forward to an amazing 2012. Peace to you and yours.
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