Does your Christmas spirit get lost in the frenzy this time of year? Is your household so hectic during December that it could drive even Bob Cratchit to tear out his hair? Well, you might as well face the fact that not even the Grinch can stop Christmas from coming; so we must learn strategies for surviving the holidays with our sanity (and our hair) intact. It is possible to go from stressed to blessed. Create a simpler, more joyful Christmas this year. Follow these ten Grinch-busting tips and you’ll slide from overwhelmed to overjoyed faster than you can shout “God bless us all, everyone!”
1. Lower expectations: Don’t fall for the hype and myth-takes that can ruin your holiday. You’ll make yourself crazy comparing your home, your holiday, your family, with anyone or anything that makes you feel less than perfect. Remember, you are not Martha Stewart! Stop trying to win the perfect holiday award for the best cookies, the most elaborate decorations, or the biggest gifts. Remember these four important words throughout the holiday season: Do less, enjoy more.
2. Change routines: Why do we feel that we must continue forever to do things just as we’ve always done them? Don’t be bound by past traditions. Think outside the box and consider new ways of doing things to make it easier on yourself.
Instead of exchanging gifts with co-workers or extended family, how about choosing a charity to help? Who says you HAVE to cook a huge meal for 30 people every year? Could you, have a simple gathering instead? Better yet, let another relative take a turn at hosting this year’s celebration. When did we decide we needed 37 different varieties of Christmas cookies each year? If you MUST have a variety of cookies, go to or host a cookie exchange where everybody bakes one type but takes home several of all the other varieties.
3. Don’t do it all yourself: Involve every member of the family right down to the toddlers. If you can’t do it together, then maybe it’s not something you need to do at all. Turn decorating, shopping, gift-wrapping, baking, and even house cleaning into family-time activities.
4. Plan ahead: Work smarter, not harder. Do as much as you can in the months before Christmas to leave December open for spontaneous joy. Get the car serviced in the Fall so it will be ready for holiday travel, bake and freeze cookies throughout November, start addressing Christmas card envelopes during the summer while you’re sitting in the sun sipping lemonade.
5. Spend less money: Nothing adds stress to the season like worrying about how you’ll pay the credit card bill come January. Remember that it’s the thought that counts. Think of creative gifts you can give that cost less but express your love. Keep a journal of all your expenditures. Know each day how much you’ve spent so far. Shop fast. The more time you spend in the store, the more money it will cost you.
6. Simplify gift shopping: Plan ahead, make a list, and stick to it. Shop throughout the year rather than doing it all at the last minute.Instead of individual gifts, buy one item for an entire family such as a board game.
7. Celebrate family and community: Schedule time for fun and relaxing together. Put it on your calendar and make it top priority. Don’t let anything get in your way. If you’re too busy to drive through the neighborhood with the kids looking at the lights and listening to Christmas music, re-arrange your schedule. Whatever you’re planning to do, share it with someone and make it quality time.
8. Create lasting, loving memories: Be selective. Don’t fill every moment of the season with frantic activity. Think quality, not quantity. Reading stories together, a relaxed tree-trimming, singing carols, making snow angels, or just enjoying the evening stars and sharing a cup of hot cocoa can be more enjoyable than attending every play, concert, and party of the season. Volunteer as a family to sort food at a food bank, organize a toy or coat drive, deliver meals on wheels, or serve Christmas dinner at a shelter. These are memories you’ll cherish forever.
9. Tame the greedies: Steer the family’s focus toward the needs of others and how your family can render service. Help everyone to develop an attitude of gratitude instead of always wanting something more. Talk about ways to share the season’s joy with others. Instead of wish lists, make a list of ways to practice generosity. These might include helping someone with shoveling, shopping, decorating, or baking. Or choose a volunteer project you can work on together as a family. Keep the TV turned off as much as possible to avoid commercials.
10. Create fun new traditions: Buy a new cookie cutter each year to add to a collection, or shop as a family to buy an early Christmas present for yourselves like a board game you can play throughout December.
It’s the little things that make life more meaningful. I like the idea of starting a Christmas tradition of practicing not-so-random acts of kindness each holiday season and maybe even extending this kindness throughout the year.
Volunteering is a great way to teach children compassion. It develops character, leadership, self esteem and a sense of community. Volunteering also helps offset the materialism of our culture. The key is finding a cause the whole family can identify with.Find some children who need cheery mail and work as a family making cards for them. There are hundreds of such children in need of smiles featured on the HUGS and HOPE Club’s web site at hugsandhope.com. Your family can also sponsor a child for Christmas through the Hugs and Hope Elf Program. It’s fun to shop for and wrap items from your sponsored child’s wish list.
Then . . . you can RELAX.
Now that you’ve learned how to tame your inner Grinch . . . take a deep breath, turn on the tree lights, gather your loved ones around you, relax in your favorite chair, and watch angel Clarence earn his wings for the forty-third time. Only this year, you’ll be able to affirm with George Bailey that it really is “A Wonderful Life.”
If the holidays are hard for you this year and you need a listening ear, we’d love to hear from you. Send us an email and one of our online mentors will personally respond to your concerns.
Copyright © 2005 Marsha Jordan,Used by Permission
Marsha Jordan is founder of a nonprofit charity helping critically ill children (The HUGS and HOPE Foundation ). She is known as the “Peanut Butter Queen” because she believes hope and love are sticky like peanut butter. “When you spread them around,” she says, “you can’t help but get some on yourself too.” Jordan is the author of Hugs, Hope and Peanut Butter and lives in Wisconsin with her husband of 30 years and their badly behaved toy poodle, King Louie.