Whatever holidays you celebrate during November and December, pressure often permeates. For months we are bombarded with images and advertisements that tell us how we should decorate, what we should cook and drink, what we should give, and more. It’s not that I hate this time of year, I just hate the consumerism that has taken over.
Here are my tips for keeping your holidays authentic and stress free.
- Start with your values: What is it that is important to you about the holidays? Begin with those values in mind and plan the parts that are most important to you first. For me, the holidays are about gratitude for all of the good that has happened over the past year, celebrating the gift of winter in the cycle of the year, and reflecting on accomplishments and lessons learned. Because of that, I focus on Thanksgiving (sometimes alone, sometimes with family or friends), a Winter Solstice gathering, a quiet, reflective New Year’s Eve, and spending New Year’s Day outdoors.
- Prioritize the most important facets of the holiday: Depending on your life circumstances of the moment, different facets of celebrations may be more or less important this year. Instead of replicating the way you have always celebrated, choose what matters most this year. Think back to past years. What typically causes stress? Perhaps you can eliminate that for this year, or find a way to make it easier. Maybe you begin a rotation where you travel one year and spend holidays at home the next.
- Intentionally choose to do less: Using your list of priorities, limit your to-do list to what really matters and fits with your values. Then take those items that make the list and try to simplify each one so that the value outweighs the stress it produces.
- Get back to the basics: You are not obligated to attend every event you are invited to. Setting boundaries is essential to protect your energy and leave enough down time to enjoy the rest and renewal that winter is meant to provide. A simple evening home enjoying hot chocolate as a family can serve the holidays just as well as racing from party to party.
- Simple decorations: Getting back to the basics can apply to decorating, too. A few well-chosen decorations can provide a festive feeling without being visually overstimulating or requiring a week of clean-up. Think quality versus quantity. My favorite winter decorations include greenery and white lights. I primarily decorate outdoors. It makes me happy when I turn into the driveway. That’s enough for me.
- Make the holidays less about “stuff”: Avoid the post-holiday clutter of too many gifts or gifts of random stuff. Well-thought-out purchases that fill a need or special, meaningful items make great gifts. Outside of those items, give experiences. A visit to a special place or to do a fun activity will create more memories than any Christmas stocking filled with candy and useless tchotchkes.
- Set a budget and stick to it: Nothing brings down the festive mood faster than receiving the January credit card bill. Limit the number of people you purchase gifts for and set a budget for each person. Keep track of what you have already bought, so you don’t end up picking up another gift for someone you already bought for. I remember years where I bought several more gifts for family members than I planned to because I saw something someone would love and bought it even though I had already bought them something. Then I would have to “even it out” by buying everyone else something else. Before I knew it, I had spent triple my budget!
- Make a feastiss with the leastest: Or at least don’t go for hostess with the mostest. Just because you are having people over to your house, it doesn’t mean you have to do everything. Make it a pot luck. Or make your meal what you want to cook – maybe something simple you can prepare ahead of time – versus the traditional meal Grandma always made.
- Forget what others will think: Holidays are not about impressing others. They are deeply personal days that create memories for you and those you wish to share them with. Don’t feel like putting up lights this year? Don’t. Don’t have the cash for the usual number of gifts? Have a conversation about doing a name draw gift exchange versus buying everyone a gift. Don’t want to celebrate at all? That’s ok.
The main point is do YOUR thing. There is enough stress in the world on a regular basis. Let’s take back our special times and do what makes us and our closest ones happy. Part of living an authentic life is owning your part in the creation and continuation of unpleasant situations and taking the steps needed to make a change.
Enjoy your holidays at the Corner of Wild and Free!