I don’t know about everyone else, but for me, the holidays this year are rolling through faster than the Polar Express goes down that massive ice-covered hill on the way to the North Pole. This time of year can be so stressful for everyone. Between so many parties to attend, relatives to entertain, gifts to buy, and things to do, I have to personally make sure that I keep my holiday plans intentional in order to keep myself from derailing like an out of control train.
It sometimes means saying no to some things to make time for others, especially the ones that uplift me mentally and spiritually, and allow me to focus on the most meaningful relationships I have. Here are some of my favourite holiday traditions that help keep me intentional during the most wonderful and most stressful season of all.
Try “Experiential “Gifting
When our daughter turned ten, we started moving away from toys. They clutter, they cost a ton, and they don’t last long. In just a few weeks (and sometimes, even in a few days) those toys will be neglected on the bedroom floor, and become yet another thing to be picked up.
The same can be said for adult gifts, too. If we take a serious, conscience look at what we own, we will quickly realize we need so very little of the massive amount of stuff we accumulate over the holidays. So, we decided instead to focus on experiential gifts.
Sometimes we will give to special charities or causes that matter to those we love. Tickets to a concert or theatre production, trips to nearby cities, visits to interesting places, cooking classes, workshops, and other events are all examples of gifts we give now. We wrap up those tickets or a brochure or and put them under the tree. Our daughter is now fourteen and she still gets so excited to open up a gift to find out where we are going and what memories she’ll be making. Experiential gifting one of the greatest traditions we have in our family.
Make Getting Together Fun and Easy
Each year, we set aside a day to host a Gingerbread Competition, when we have our parents, in-laws, and immediate family over for a night of just being together. I wish I could say I slave away in the kitchen and make homemade gingerbread and icing, but instead we usually just pick up ready-made tubs of icing and a box of graham crackers, along with various candies and items from our kitchen. Everyone brings a little something. We put it all on the table and begin constructing our masterpieces.
No one needs to make dessert because there’s enough icing and candy consumed to take care of any sweet tooth. It’s a mess afterward, but is the definition of time well spent. It shows that the best holiday get-togethers are all about simply having fun with those you love. For me, it’s the one party of the year when we can just be together without much fuss.
While this party isn’t worthy of some lavish magazine cover or “pretty” enough for Instagram, it’s the one that matters most. Sometimes, it’s as simple as bringing take-out and watching Christmas movies together to keep yourself grounded and focused on the important things.
Make a List and Check it Twice
My husband and I are both mega-nerds, and we fully embrace it. We’re list-making, colour-coding, automating fools. This year, we got our Christmas card list into a easy-to-read spreadsheet, synced our schedules using Google Calendar, and shared our list of parties to attend, food to prepare, and shopping lists. We even created a gift giving guide to know what to take to each event.
Getting organized and on the same page has helped us stick to a budget (so we don’t buy what we don’t need) and has helped keep the stress down as we juggle so many events with our kids, jobs, church, friends, and families.
Do Something Good
One of the most fulfilling and refreshing things you can do for yourself during the holidays is to do for others. While schedules might be jam-packed, making time to serve someone else is so good for your own mental health and emotional well-being.
Nursing homes, hospitals, soup kitchens, and hospice centres are almost always in need of help during the holidays, and there are so many simple ways to get involved. Usually, it just takes a phone call to find out how you can make an impact. It’s worth it. Make it a tradition to spend an afternoon this way. Being a blessing to someone else will warm your heart with legitimate holiday cheer.
This time of year is tough for so many reasons, and there’s no list of tips or tricks to eliminate all the stress that we deal with, but choosing to stay intentional this Christmas can certainly help.