Christmas is a wonderful time of year, steeped in traditions and memories, it’s a time to reflect, enjoy people around us and appreciate what we have.
If you’ve been working to simplify your home, rid your life of excess and want to have a special Christmas with still avoiding all the commercialism and frazzled feelings that can prevent a truly joy-filled holiday season, here are 6 actionable things you can do:
If you are connected to the community in any way, you know how easy it is to fill up the calendar in the months of November and December. There’s the church crafts, potlucks, choir dinners, progressive dinners, youth parties, project angel tree, filling shoe boxes, then the community gatherings – school, neighborhood, clubs you are involved in, etc. And also company parties, extended family gatherings, friends that you’ve celebrated Christmas with for the last 13 years… The evening and weekends can fill up so quickly!!
Sit down with your family and talk about which parties and obligations they enjoy and want to participate in. Set a realistic amount: 1-2 things a week tops.
Then decline the invites to the rest. Don’t feel bad, “no” is the only tool you have in keeping your calendar parred down to the point where you can enjoy this season.
Focus on the special relationships in your life
When you are deciding what things are important to include and what things you should let go this year, keep the focus on the people. If you have the choice between spending the day with great-grandma at an ice cream social or making costumes for the Christmas pageant: look ahead 10 years and ask yourself what you be glad you focused on more.
Intentionally spend time with your children. Go to the library and pick out some Christmas books, read books that relate to your family’s heritage. Bake cookies together or look up a simple paper craft. Keep it simple: no need to make cookie dough from scratch or commit to reading one book every day for the month. None of the activities have to be monumental, just leave margin in your week to be with your children.
Take time to spend some romantic time with your spouse. Slow down and sit at a coffee shop for an hour together, just the 2 of you, or plan a home date night after the kids are in bed, where you can slow down and enjoy each other.
Give beyond your comfort zone
We are taught to give out of our excess, but there is so much joy received when giving beyond your comfort zone. “Give until it hurts” or “give sacrificially.”
This doesn’t have to be limited to financial donations, though it does feel good to make a large donation to an organization that you believe in.
This may also be reaching out to a lonely neighbor, inviting people who don’t have family nearby to participate in one of your family Christmas traditions, or keeping warm clothing items in the car to give to anyone less fortunate that is out in the weather.
Set realistic expectations
Life’s great disappointments follow unmet expectations.
If you have an ideal of what kind of parent you have to be during the holidays, how many homemade gifts you need to give or what kind of Christmas dinner “qualifies” then it’s time to have a sit-down with yourself and be realistic with what you can accomplish, what you are likely to accomplish and let go of the perfectionism you are holding yourself too.
Likewise, let the rest of the family know what to expect: if you are cutting back on the number of gifts given to the children, tell them. If you want them to give more to others, help them accomplish that.
If you want your teens to be involved in the holidays, let them know what you expect of them, if you will be keeping phones turned off during certain activities, or leaving the phones on the table. Sometimes kids aren’t happy about having to participate, that’s ok, do it anyway. As long as they are there, don’t worry about their attitude. (Often times they long for the connection and traditions, but they are struggling with how they perceive them as young adults.)
Keep the important traditions
Talk to your family, find out what they love and makes Christmas feel like Christmas to them. Don’t worry about following tradition for tradition’s sake. If no one likes prime rib, have something else for Christmas dinner.
But if everyone wants to make Grandma’s popcorn balls, then plan out an evening to get them done.
Spend some time talking about Christmases over the years and see what was special in the eyes of each person. Don’t forget to have the parents participate! What was special in your childhood Christmases? Share those memories with your children and if your family wants to let go of a tradition that has lost its specialness, and embrace a new tradition, then make it a point to do that and put it on the calendar so it gets done.
When you’re there, be present
During the activities you have planned, make it a point to turn your phone off, leave it in your purse or in the other room.
Look into other’s eyes when they are talking to you. Watch the movie all the way through. Play the game and drink hot cocoa without posting it to Instagram.
When you bake the cookies with your children, make sure that is the only activity you are doing. Don’t check your email, or have a kid’s show on TV in the background. Sit and wait for the cookies to bake and talk to each other.
With our technology-infused culture, this can be difficult. We are so used to turning on the phone when there is a lull in the conversation. But resist the urge and commit to leaving technology untouched a length of time.