Alright, it’s hard for me to write about this subject this early, because it means I have to REMEMBER how I do the holidays, and memory is not my strong point right now. Also, please know that THIS year will not be like most others for our family. Though the addition of a new family member just makes destressing the holidays that much more important!
So, I always chuckle a bit to myself when I hear others talk about Holiday Stress, because I don’t personally think I have any. (well, much.) Here’s how I do it:
– I have a strict rule that all gift making/shopping be completed before Thanksgiving. The exception to this is things that require my husband’s help. For those, he has the option of helping me before Thanksgiving (as in, helping me come up with an idea), or doing it all by himself after Thanksgiving. I refuse to participate in anything involving gifts after Thanksgiving. (OK, the other exception is baked goods. I’ll be baking banana bread for a few folks this year, and that will be completed obviously AFTER Thanksgiving. We have no freezer space for banana bread.)
– This includes charitable crafting that I want to do for the holiday season. After Thanksgiving, crafting and sewing is usually for business only, so that I don’t have the stress of having to do both inventory sewing AND extra sewing.
– I do not go shopping during the “holiday” season, other than groceries. The exception to this is Black Friday, and I know that seems strange, but if there are good deals to be had on things that we need, I’m all about that. We make a list all year of things we want to look for on Black Friday. (this year, I am looking for a printer for the HS room, and of course I always hit JoAnn’s.)
– We do not attend holiday parties. We do not host holiday parties. Why? I do not enjoy social gatherings. If you do, then great! Go for it! If you enjoy it, it should not be stressful. If you don’t enjoy it, make an excuse.
– We eliminate things from our schedule as the holidays approach. Kung Fu usually takes a break for several weeks, we take a few weeks off from school, I usually close Wallypop. It opens up a lot of time for us to spend on things like baking cookies or doing crafts.
– We keep our decorating low-key. We make decorating fun. I don’t have high standards for how our house should look. (Yeah, the kids do most of our decorating.) We decorate on one day, while we eat junk food and watch Christmas movies.
– We don’t travel. We’re lucky to have some family close by, and we see other family when we can.
– We limit time with extended family. As I said, they’re close, so this is actually oddly easier than it would be if they/we had to travel. (We can always leave and go home.)
– We keep Christmas as a day just for our family. (At least, I try. For the last several years, my strong statements about this have gone unheeded and my IL’s usually stop by for a while.) This largely works out because my husband’s family tradition is to have their big gathering on Christmas Eve. My family has no tradition since my parents divorced shortly after I got married, then they both died. My sister and I are happy to celebrate whenever we have a chance, even if that’s in February.
– We wrap up Christmas day with a drive around town looking at lights. Not only does this help chill out the kids in preparation for bed, but it’s relaxing for us parents, too.
I will admit, there were a few years when my Christmas zen didn’t quite work out. The year my dad died on Dec 13 was, strangely, the year everything turned around for me. We didn’t go anywhere. We didn’t have anyone over. Christmas Day was just my husband and I. I was exhausted and just drained, and I didn’t have it in me to visit extended family or spend more time with the IL’s. We made it clear to everyone that we intended to spend the day alone, and though there were some criticisms, everyone had to respect it because I kind of played the Dead Dad card. Starting the next year and until my mom died, we had her over for dinner on Christmas evening – celebrating on the actual day was always important to her, and she made it passively-aggressively clear that she would not go visit her own parents/siblings at Christmas and if we didn’t have her over, she’d just sit alone in her house with her dog. (for real) But I still did not let her intrude on my own peace that day. We had dinner, we talked, we exchanged gifts, she went home. I don’t mean to sound callous, but I spent several days a week with her, so it’s not like she didn’t get to see me/my family. I wanted to respect that getting together was important to her, while having her respect that alone time with just our family was important to me (and relatively rare).
So that’s what we do. That doesn’t mean that’s what will work for you. It’s what works for us. The basic idea, though, remains the same. If something is causing you stress during the holidays, do whatever you can to cut it out. If something will contribute to your peace during the holidays, do whatever you can to fit that in. If something causes you stress and you can’t cut it out, figure out what will help you get your peace back afterwards. (Like treating yourself to a few hours alone at a coffee shop after a weekend with family.)
Don’t just sigh and resign yourself to having to live with holiday stress!!