So, I started to write this post last December, when we weren’t in the midst of a global pandemic. I couldn’t have predicted that the current circumstances would be forcing us into a slower holiday season all on their own.
But while the holiday parties and get-togethers might not be happening in quite the same fashion this year, I’m hopeful we’ll be back to “normal” by Christmas 2021. And some of this advice applies either way.
So here we go … six little nuggets for you to consider when planning your holiday season. Take what you want and leave the rest.
**Disclaimer – I fully recognize that not everyone celebrates Christmas and this post is not meant to exclude anyone categorically. Please feel free to replace “Christmas” with whatever holiday you partake in. The concepts generally still apply.
Let me be the first to say … you don’t have to do what you’ve always done, just because you’ve always done it!
Last year after finishing decorating my tree I moved to tackle my banister. In years past I’ve wrapped it with garland and ribbon. For those of you who’ve tackled similar decorating projects, you know it’s actually kind of difficult to do on your own. Much more of a two-person job. And my husband wasn’t home at the time.
After wrangling with the wiry garland for a few minutes, and getting more tangled than trimmed, I decided to kibosh the whole thing. The banister would stay bare this year. And guess what? Christmas would go on without it! And it did. And no one noticed. Or cared.
This is a somewhat frivolous example but the concept can be applied much more broadly. Sometimes we continue with traditions for the sole reason that it’s what we’ve always done. We don’t necessarily give much thought to whether they’re adding joy and value to our holiday or not. And perhaps they once did, but you’re now in a different season of life, and something else might work better.
For instance, my extended family on my mom’s side have always gathered at my Grandma’s house on Christmas day for a turkey meal and gift exchange. I’m the youngest of nine grandchildren on that side, so suffice it to say that over the last decade or so, as my cousins and I all started partnering off and having kids of our own, our numbers have grown exponentially.
It was becoming impossible to fit everyone around tables to eat, let alone there being room for the kiddos to run around and play with their new Christmas toys. Add to that that several of us were doing two Christmas meals in one day, on top of also wanting to have our own special time with our immediate family. It was busy.
So a few years ago we collectively decided, after thirty some years, to stop doing Christmas at my Grandma’s. We still do the big get-together at Easter and Thanksgiving, for which we now rent a community hall. And at Christmas we usually do three separate gatherings (my mom has two sisters) and we bring Grandma to us. It works just fine, and feels a tad less harried!
2) Opt out of gifts exchanges
My office crew often does some sort of secret Santa / gift exchange. This year I’m on maternity leave, but last year I graciously opted out. I cited not wanting or needing any more random stuff (which let’s be honest is typically what these types of exchanges entail, especially when there is a dollar limit). I still participated in the merriment in other ways. And my colleagues still like me. I think.
3) Combine get-togethers
Instead of spending every Friday and Saturday night running here and there to see different people, why not offer to host! I know some folks that do a casual Christmas drop-in for any and all of the important people in their lives – work colleagues, friends, family. It’s like one stop shopping!
Or, if space allows, why not try bringing two sides of the family together. We did this a couple of years ago once the Christmas meal at Grandma’s was no longer. We invited both my family and my husband’s family to do turkey dinner and celebrate at our place. Sure it made for a bit more cleanup after but I think it was actually nice for our parents not to have to host for a change. We also had loads of leftovers, and neither of us had to be the designated driver 🙂
4) Say no with grace
Again, perhaps not as applicable in 2020, but often there are more invites than there are weekends in December am I right? And if you’re the people-pleasing type, you might feel obligated to attend them all.
But you don’t owe anyone an explanation for politely declining. Nor do you have to have another engagement on the same date in order to skip this one. You don’t have to lie, just simply state something like, “We’re focusing on our family time this year”. In my experience, most people are accepting and understanding of this.
5) Skip Christmas cards
This may be controversial as far as etiquette goes, but I don’t send Christmas cards. Sure, they may be a nice family memento, and I even like receiving them! But to me, the added value just isn’t worth the time or effort involved.
It feels like another thing on my to-do list, and one with a deadline no less to make sure they get where they’re going on time. I don’t enjoy addressing and stamping. I would rather actually talk to the intended recipients than painstakingly write personalized notes to them all (it’s faster and fosters greater connection in my opinion).
Plus we now have all this great technology that didn’t exist at the advent of the Christmas card tradition. You know, like telephones, and Facetime. One of the positive perks of it being 2020.
Or, if you’re looking for a happy medium, a nice alternative might be to send a digital card to friends and loved ones. Not only does this save time and postage but also some trees while you’re at it. Win-win!
6) Don’t bake if you don’t love it
Last year my sister and I gathered at my mom’s for a day of Christmas baking leading up to the holiday itself. I spent approximately 45 dollars on ingredients for just a couple of recipes. Frankly, it would have been cheaper just to buy them!
Now, this day was more about spending time together than the actual baked goods, so I wouldn’t opt out on that basis, and in fact, we are planning to do the same this year. But certainly if “bake Christmas cookies” is just another item on your list and doesn’t carry any particular sentiment or joy for you otherwise, feel free to purchase. Fresh-baked from a bakery is still homemade as far as I’m concerned!
Now, none of this is meant to make me sound like Scrooge.
If you love sending out Christmas cards with the perfect family photo in coordinating outfits – do it! If you can’t imagine skipping out on baking Christmas cookies – don’t!
But please know that you don’t have to do it all. This time of year is meant to bring joy, not stress. You don’t have to be Martha Stewart. Keep the traditions that really feel special and add value to your holiday, and let go of what doesn’t.
Happy holidays everyone!