by Amy Diller
It’s the most wonderful time of the year! Or is it? Each year the holiday whirlwind begins earlier and earlier. Christmas items appear on store shelves before Halloween candy is sold out. Holiday advertising pushes people to start shopping, so they don’t miss the great deals. The calendar fills up quickly with parties, shopping, family photos, Christmas cards, cookie swaps, outdoor lights, and indoor decorating…you get the idea. The task list weighs heavily on many people as the pressure to do it all builds. It’s a prescription for a frazzled season. Instead of feeling overwhelmed and exhausted, what if you decided to focus on doing less so, you could spend more time savoring every moment with your family?
Hit the Pause Button
If your heart desires a less stressful, more meaningful holiday, hit the pause button. We’ve all heard it before – Christmas is not about all the decorations and activities; it’s about celebrating and experiencing the good news and the great joy of the birth of our Savior. But you can’t do that yourself or with your children unless you build in time for it. Pause and look at your to-do list. Ask yourself if it helps you honor the promise of Jesus’ birth well or if it takes away from family time. Be selective. Drop some things that leave you feeling tired and stressed. Instead, plan some fun, doable activities that help you connect as a family and make space for downtime. Creating space to rest and reflect during the holidays is healthy. It allows you room to look back over the past year, remember God’s goodness, and look forward to the new year.
Get Off the Perfection Train
A perfect Christmas only exists in pictures. It’s the social media phenomenon. People only share the good moments when everyone is smiling and the kids are getting along. We see glimpses of cookie-making sessions and lovely decorations galore. What we don’t see is the mess in the kitchen sink and the kids fighting over who gets to use the sprinkles or the piles of laundry just out of the camera’s eye right next to the perfectly decorated tree. This doesn’t mean that those wonderful moments don’t happen; it simply means that surrounding those times is a very real family life that is often opposite that expressed in photos. Striving for the perfect Christmas can leave you feeling tired, cranky, and stressed because no matter what you achieve, there’s always something more that you “could have” or “should have” done. Perfection is an unattainable expectation. What if you set a more realistic and less disappointing measure? Having a good holiday season is much better and more freeing than chasing a perfect one.
Family Traditions First
The benefit of evaluating how you usually spend the Christmas season and paring down your calendar is that you can focus on your family traditions and really enjoy them. When you’re rushing around, those traditions feel more like a have-to than a want-to. Every family already has Christmas traditions; it’s just a matter of bringing them to the forefront. If you’re not sure what they are, ask your kids to name their favorite things you do together around the holidays. Chances are you’ll be surprised how much the small things matter to them and how the grand things don’t. It can be as simple as the whole family piling blankets and pillows on the living room floor to watch a favorite holiday movie or spending the entire Christmas Day in jammies. Perhaps you have a standing hot cocoa date on the day kids start their break from school. Creating time in your calendar makes these things more special because you have the space to enjoy them.
If you’re looking for new traditions, find a way to serve in your community, donate to a toy or winter clothing drive, or go Christmas caroling. Learn about Advent and honor the time by reflecting on Jesus’ birth and awaiting His return. Attend a Christmas Eve service. Ask your kids and other families for ideas.
Alleviating pressure from the rush of the holidays is important. Doing Christmas differently doesn’t make it any less special. In fact, a less stressed and exhausted heart makes it more special. Enjoying a time of rest, relaxation, and reflection with your family is better than anything as you celebrate our Savior’s birth.