I’m writing this on the eve of Thanksgiving and I’m feeling completely peaceful about the upcoming holidays. Over the past 5-10 years, I’ve been working on becoming more intentional with my holiday traditions and expectations.
There are some specific things I’ve been doing that have allowed me to be more present during the holidays, and for sure, less stressed. I hope you will discover inspiration to have a more peaceful holiday season through the following six tips.
1 | Take it easy on saying “yes”
There is an abundance of commitments, traditions, expectations, parties and opportunities to serve during the holidays. It can be tempting to say “yes” to all of them. Here are a couple of questions I ask myself in order to avoid burnout during the holidays:
Is this the best choice for my… Family? Budget? Energy? Time?
If I choose __________, I will give up__________. Know your limits. One party/event a week could be plenty or you might be more of a one party a month kind of person, you do you.
What will this do to my budget? Even saying yes to a holiday party could mean a new dress, sweater or food contribution. Think it through and steward your money well.
2 | Simple Gifting
About 8 years ago, we adapted the Four Gift Christmas tradition. We give each of our kids four gifts:
Something they want
Something they need
Something to wear
Something to read
By sticking to this very simple approach, we have kept expectations balanced, our spending low, and each gift is received with appreciation. We fill the kids stockings with little extras and the necessities every kid needs… soap, deodorant, socks, toothbrush and maybe a few fun gift cards.
I’ve also simplified my gift wrapping. I no longer have an entire section of my closet dedicated to various wrapping paper rolls. I purchased a big roll of kraft paper and use it all year long. Kraft paper goes with everything! Finish it off with a pretty ribbon, twine, a sprig of holly, or color on the paper itself.
3 | Memories Not Materials
During the holidays, being together is what’s really important. I don’t remember all the gifts my parents gave me as a kid. What I do remember is the smell of french toast for breakfast, the excitement and anticipation of being around the Christmas tree, playing our new games and toys, visiting Papa and Mimi, and Aunts and Uncles. I don’t remember things, I remember togetherness.
I prepare for the holidays by creating opportunities to make memories with my family. Here are some things we’ve done in the past:
Serve as a family at a local shelter.
Designate a “no screen” night and play board games.
Set-up a Hot Chocolate station in your home.
Bake and decorate cookies.
Go for a walk around the neighborhood to see lights on display.
4 | Decorating
Simplify the decorating. Most of us love decking the halls with fa la la, but it can be expensive, overwhelming, time-consuming and stressful. I have had years where I’ve gone all Clark Griswold and other years I’ve been more understated. The years of taking a less is more approach left me more time and energy to focus on being present.
Here are some alternative ways to decorate and still provide that warm and inviting environment for your home this holiday season:
You can never go wrong with these nature-featured ideas:
A bowl of pinecones
Greenery swag on your mantle, dining room table, staircase or entryway.
Wreaths on windows and doors.
Bundle twigs from your yard or neighborhood with twine or ribbon and lean in a corner.
Decorate using the things you know will be used during the holidays:
Stack board games and puzzles on your coffee table to encourage togetherness.
Create a hot chocolate bar that is ready to go whenever guests arrive or the family needs a cozy treat by the fire.
Gather books with a Christmas theme and stack together.
Candles. Candles are always lovely at Christmas time… votives, pillars, taper… candles create a feeling of cozy.
5 | Check Your Pulse
If something stresses you out, don’t do it or delegate it. There is not much more I can say on this, but it’s extremely important to pay attention to your body and mindset. Make time to rest when you can.
6 | Check Your Heart
Comedian John Crist has made this phrase famous ya’ll and it couldn’t be more true. The reason this holiday exists is because of the birth of our King. We are celebrating His arrival to earth! When you find yourself caught up in the hustle of the holidays, try to remember we are throwing a birthday party for Jesus. December 25th is HIS day. All the decorations, food, celebrations, traditions, and gifts are because of Him. Its a good practice to #checkyourheart when you encounter anxiety, stress, overwhelm or fear… that isn’t from Jesus.
Just to recap six ways that have helped me have a more intentional holiday season…
Say “yes” less.
Gift with simplicity.
People remember togetherness, not things..
Be intentional with your decorations.
Check yourself before you wreck yourself.