The key to a less manic and happier holiday season is to manage expectations: starting with ourselves and branching out to our loved ones.
If we expect to have a more fulfilling holiday, then we will have it. If you want to say no to gifts, then do it! There is no law against not giving gifts at Christmas.
I’ll be perfectly honest with you: I come from a gift-giving family. Growing up, I loved getting gifts from Santa at Christmastime. I still remember the year my mom completely outdid herself (mom of the century!) with a Barbie themed Christmas that would knock your socks off. I received a Barbie limousine and a bunch of stylish Barbie duds my mom had—get this—HAND-SEWN. Can you imagine trying to sew clothing for a figure as disproportionate as Barbie? I was beyond myself with glee that year.
You see, my fondest Christmas memories are not of the things I was fortunate enough to receive. No, my most treasured Christmas memories are of the times we spent with family and friends, while my dad dressed up as Santa and pretended to feed carrots to the reindeer.
My favorite family Christmas traditions are hanging out in new PJs on Christmas Eve, eating fun appetizers and watching Christmas movies, and then eating a fancy breakfast on Christmas morning. Nothing too fancy.
It just seemed silly and pointless. Why give gifts that aren’t needed or wanted?
Ever since, I’ve been lobbying in my family for time together to replace physical gifts. My ultimate goal is to get our entire family together for a vacation during the Christmas season. It hasn’t happened yet, but I know we’ll get there. And ‘there’ will be somewhere on a beach.
It doesn’t even have to be a vacation. Unfortunately, my husband and I are smack dab in the middle of the country with our parents flanking both coasts, so travel isn’t always possible. When we are together, even if it’s not during Christmas, we aim to make the most of it.
Here are some ideas to replace things with family time and experiences, and maybe even help someone else along the way:
- Make cookies together and distribute them to neighbors, teachers, friends, and/or a local homeless shelter.
- Go to view some holiday lights together. Drive through a well-lit neighborhood or visit a display at a local zoo or botanical garden.
- If you live near mountains, take a day trip to go tubing, sledding, or skiing together.
- Organize a silly gift exchange with a limit of $5 or $10 per person.
- Have a potluck lunch or brunch in someone’s home. Maybe even set up a hot chocolate bar with a variety of toppings.
- If your kids like trains, visit a Polar Express type of event.
- Go see a seasonal production like The Nutcracker ballet.
- Look for Christmas story time opportunities at your local book store or library.
- Find a place where your kids can see real live reindeer.
- Bundle up and go ice skating.
- Write Christmas cards for our men and women serving in the military.
- Go bargain shopping for winter clothing and canned foods, and then deliver them personally to local charities.
- Have a Christmas movie marathon, complete with popcorn and other yummy treats—chosen by the kids.
- Think of a tourist attraction in your town that you have never visited, and make it happen.
- Make paper snowflakes to decorate your home.
Wishing you a joyous holiday season and a very happy 2017!
What are your favorite holiday traditions? Share in the comments!