The most stressful time of the year
When I was little, I remember starting the countdown to the holidays at Halloween. I could not wait for the festivities, dinners, decorations, and presents. I eagerly sprinted from one activity to the next, not giving much thought to the work behind the magic. I was filled with the Christmas spirit.
As an adult, we have hit the time of year I have almost come to dread. Between parties, responsibilities, extra bills, longer days, and more cooking, my Christmas cheer is drained before November first. I suspect a lot of adults feel the same. I can remember dreading the start of the season for many years, of wondering how I could find the extra energy, time, and money that was needed. In an effort to keep up with everything, I was exhausted and often felt like I missed key family moments.
After we lost my grandfather, something in me shifted. With his passing, I learned the finite value of time. As I processed this lesson, a few years later we almost lost my dad at the holidays. That moment, the moment I realized I wanted nothing more than to be a daughter for the holidays, was the moment I chose to stop chasing what everyone else declared to be Christmas cheer. In that moment, I realized moments and memories were far more important than personifying the perfect Christmas.
Leaning on that lesson, the past two Christmases have been much simpler, much more focused on family and memories than parties, presents, and feasts. The simpler Christmases have felt so much more magical, and fewer responsibilities have allowed us to experience more things, such as walking our lab Raffy through Christmas light displays and listening to him sing his joy. I will never forget the pure joy in each howl as he pranced through the park. Or exploring an interactive Christmas Carol with my child. Life has a funny way of showing you the moments of true value and what will matter in the end.
Preparing for a Simple Christmas
For me, the first step is to remind myself why a simple holiday season is important. This Christmas is Selina’s first Christmas with us, and in our eagerness to shower her with love, we could go overboard. Rather than driving ourselves crazy trying to keep an overactive puppy out of the Christmas tree, my child and I have decided a much smaller tree will be much nicer. We can enjoy the tree and not stress over the impending death of a favorite ornament.
Knowing we will be decorating less, we actively choose to also spend less. Rather than buying each other as many presents as possible, we are choosing to give each other a few carefully selected presents. With a smaller gift budget, the stress is much lower, and we can focus on celebrating the cheer of the season, creating memories, and even baking together.
As you start to think about the holidays, ask yourself what is important. In five years, what would you regret not doing? Trust me, your children will not regret fewer gifts if it means less stress and more present parents. How many holiday parties do you really need to attend? Where will your presence be most valuable? Rather than compare yourself to others, what unique traditions can you start? What can you implement to make the holidays joyful and unique?
The final step is setting a budget and agreeing to stick to it. There is nothing worse than stressing over money at the holidays or knowing January brings financial burdens. Choosing to spend less means being able to spend time and be carefree. More memories and fewer bills are always a win.
Choosing to be more present, to celebrate the holidays your way, in your budget is freeing. Don’t expect others to understand, but also don’t bother to explain your decision to others. If someone is truly interested in your newfound Christmas Cheer, share your wisdom. Focusing on the moments and memories will never be a decision you will regret.