The holiday seasons are upon us and with all the preparations being made, sometimes we overlook some very important details.
Newspapers and magazines will print articles on the rapid rise of depression and stress during the season, and in an attempt to elevate guilt many families go overboard trying to create the perfect celebration. When all of the presents are unwrapped and the turkey is gone, we look at the mountain of bills that start flowing in. And some will feel the great"letdown" of after the season blues!
In our world today many of us are trying to blend families and still maintain traditions of the old. I have learned some important lessons over the years and would like to share them with you.
1) Stop stressing over the gifts! They do not have to be wrapped in gorgeous paper tied with elegant bows and trimmed with personalized ornaments. Nor do they have to be expensive. I love the idea of making handmade gifts, but with my schedule of work and school it is simple impossible. So I gave up that idea a few years ago. Will your family suffer from permament damage if they do not recieve handmade gifts?No! My teenagers could care less! And the grown children would just as well have cash. My kids want to hit the holiday sales after Christmas and choose what they want. Nothing is more aggravating than standing in a long line to exchange sizes or gifts.
2) I was under the false impression for many years that I had to bake 12 pies, dozens of cookies and cakes. And put on a spread for the actual meal! Wrong! Get those kids involved! I now make a menu ahead of time and each child brings a dish. Of course, if your kids are small you might not want to do that! But really no one will notice if you only serve 4 veggies instead 8. Take a poll of your family's favorite holiday food and plan your menu from those requests. I can think of several salads that I used to make each year simply because MY mother made them. Those are usually the ones that get thrown out a few days later.
3)If you are trying to blend two families it can be very stressful,especially if you feel compelled to include all of the past traditions. I have 2 stepchildren and have been very fortunate that we get along so well. I asked them what they loved most about Christmas and made sure they felt welcome and included in the plans. One year I tried filling everyone a stocking and buying gifts. After it was all over,I decided that while we will hang the stockings each year, that the expense was not worth the reaction we got. All of the candy, fruit and small items were found lying around and no one actually took it home.
4)Make new traditions! I know we all want the ideal Norman Rockwell perfect Christmas. I would work for weeks trying to make that happen. Guess what? I was the one that felt it was not quite right! So the next year,I would try harder. I finally came to realize that I love some of the old,but it was also time to bring in the new . While we may not want to accept it, this is 2011, not 1951. Now, dont get me wrong. I LOVE the idea of it, but in reality we simply do not live that way. I would love to sit around the fire at night singing Christmas carols and drinking eggnog. My kids are sitting around trying to figure out the newest gadget they just got. Last year, we all gathered at the house for sandwiches,chips and dips on Christmas Eve. The older kids got a game of Monopoly going and we stayed up most of the night playing a tournament. Everyone spent the night and we opened gifts the next morning. My husband and I loved it, but the grown kids were on the sofa, the floor and sacked out in the chairs. They made the decision that they loved the activities,but they missed their beds and would not be spending the night again!
5) Scale down some of the decorations! I have the snow villages, the Bedford Falls village, the collection of nutcrackers, angels and vintage toys. I used to put up five trees , decorate the stair banisters, the porch, the yard and anything else that would stand still long enough. A few years ago I moved into a much smaller home and decided that I would alternate my themes. One year I will have the villages out, the next year it might be the vintage old fashioned toys and ornaments. But I do not bring it all out every year. I keep a holiday book and know each year which one I will do next.
Now, I am sure there will be many of you that do not agree with this. Maybe you are a stay at home mom and have the extra time and energy to accomplish all of the above without scaling back a bit. Or maybe you can afford an extra person to come in and trim your trees and deck the halls. There is nothing wrong with that. But for those that cant, make the traditions count. Make the most of the time you are spending with your family. Remember that those are the things that really count. Remember the real reason we celebrate the season is our Saviors birth. He came that we could be free from bondage and enjoy life everlasting! Memories are precious to all of us and if we can make them more memorable by simply having a less stressful holiday. We will all be happy and healthier!
Have a great week!