When my kids were littles, Christmas was my least favorite holiday – or at least the leading-up-to part. Looking back on it, I realize it wasn’t Christmas’ fault. As most mamas can relate, it was the stress of ALL THE THINGS – buying “just the right gift” and trying to hit the sales so you can get the best price and attend all the kids’ school parties PLUS bring the snack – oh, and the TEACHER GIFTS, and work potluck and if you have any energy for friends left at all, then how about an ugly Christmas sweater party or two? And don’t even get me started with wrapping and Christmas lights. It was all hustle and bustle. “What’s so merry about it,” I often wondered when my “tinsel” was tangled.
God, I feel Grinchy just thinking about it. I hated my bah-humbug attitude despite loving parts of the season – the lights! the wreaths! the cute ornaments! Yet I recall the heavy sigh of relief that came with seeing the wrapping paper strewn all over the floor come 8:32 a.m. on December 25th. “It is done,” I would think, and “all that for that?” A Level 3-kid tornado had hit my living room and I was the wicked witch under the four-wheeler box, bunny slippers sticking out, while the Munchkins had all gone their separate ways to play with their favorite toys.
Now that my children are nearly grown (21, 18 and 13), Christmas has morphed into a more relaxed holiday and I can look back with a bit of humor and nostalgia for those Black Friday 5 a.m. wake-up calls and feel so very grateful that buying your college kids’ professors a gift is not a thing. But I’ve also learned how to purposefully slow down the holiday and actually enjoy it. I wished I’d implemented this idea years ago, but it’s never too late to find a better way.
First, don’t hate me if this looks like a To-Do list. I know you already have your list you are checking off twice and I don’t wanna get on your naughty list, either. But hang with me for a sec, and see what sits well with your soul as you read through them…
How to Have a Slow Christmas, and even Savor the Season!
- Pare it down and prioritize. List all the things you do for Christmas and then rank them in order of what you love doing the most to the least. Then see if you can NOT do the bottom ones by either outsourcing or simply choosing to opt out! Yes, you have a choice! If you love a big decorated tree, but not lights outside, it’s NOT a package deal! Pare down also can mean to SPEND LESS. See #5 for more. What about a smaller tree so decorating it takes less time? Teacher gifts? They all get the same small thing – or a hand-written note with a candy bar! – and it’s not a contest! And so on.
- Look at the alternatives. There’s always a plan B. So what if plan A is the one your friends and neighbors and “fast, commercial culture” are doing? For me, a plan B is I prefer using gift bags over wrapping gifts. I have really cute bags and it’s what’s inside that matters, right? Plus, I’m not skilled at wrapping so, um, why do it? Be okay with “not my thing.”
- Say no if it seriously doesn’t jingle your bells. Moms can be especially bad at saying no, so that’s often why we get “suckered” into volunteering or get a guilt trip if we turn down a party. Think of it this way, if you aren’t going to have a genuinely good time and want to be there, your host would probably prefer you stay home, anyway. So, really, you are doing them a FAVOR, love! Don’t be a people-pleasing Claus. Be you. I NEVER regretted attending every single event and party with my kids, though. Those days ZIP BY and the craziest, funniest things can happen at their parties! Doesn’t mean you have to plan the party, though.
- Set your boundaries and stick to them. Often our boundaries get seriously out of shape around the holidays. We fall back into old childhood patterns or somehow think we must be Mrs. Freaking Claus to be loved this month. I say poo-poo to that. Don’t want to travel to Aunt Minnie’s house again this Christmas? DON’T. Don’t want to invite ALL the relatives to your house? Don’t. Best not to wait for the last minute on these decisions, but decide around Thanksgiving what you truly want to do and give and what you don’t and then stick to your guns. And if you change your mind as something approaches, that’s okay, too. Voice it. If “family politics” is a problem, then address it and give your apologies and hopefully, you’ve set the groundwork for the future. Remember that “plan B” such as offer up an alternative to your relatives if that could keep the peace. If your family simply expects you to do all the cooking, tell them in advance you are doing a potluck and have them sign up or suggest you all go out to eat, or offer up the hosting to another relative, or whatever works for you. So many alternatives! See?
- Experiences over things. i.e. who needs a bunch of crap, anyway? While I’m past the mama age of lots of little toys, older kids can ask for pretty expensive gifts due to technology
being such a fixture in our society now. Setting our boundaries means with our budget, too. Think how much nicer it will be to pay off the credit card in January if you didn’t swipe it so many times to please everyone at Christmas. (Or pay with cash!) This year, we’re taking the kids to New York City for as their “main gift”. Whether you go somewhere at Christmas or surprise them with tickets to somewhere in the future, gifting memories is a way to spend more time together than the latest gadget. (Insert shameless plug for my travel agent client Mangata Travel here.) Same could apply for experiencing the events of the holidays together – ice skating, The Nutcracker ballet, touring Christmas lights. My hubby and I took a Saturday afternoon off to do a Santa Crawl with friends and it was relaxing and fun and full of laughter (’til the season for champagne bongs, amiright?) Put your money into memories and your whole family could get some actual face time together for once. I also like the idea of buying “one need, one want, one wear and one read” to set limits on gifts. And stocking stuffers? That’s where the toothbrushes they already needed go. 🙂 Who’s with me, here?
- Set your own timeline. My husband and I are both self-employed and the days and weeks
tend to get away from us. I prioritize time with him and the kids when I’m not working so all this holiday “to do stuff” gets pushed to the bottom of the list. I used to just push through and do it no matter how worn out I was. This year, we opted to simply fit things in as we could. This is the epitome of the slow Christmas, because instead of being stressed out or angry that you have to get such-and-such done by a certain date (like being the first one to post your Christmas tree decorated on Facebook!), you do them when you feel all fa-la-la about it! So we just bought our real tree at Lowe’s when only two of the 8 footers were left. It’s curvy, but because we bought it “late” we got it $20 off! We put the lights on it and tonight we’ll be doing our tradition of drinking really good champagne while we decorate it. We only have minimum decorations up and the only lights outside so far is one tree wrapped instead of last year’s four. That may be the only tree that gets some bling this year, and that’s just fine with me! Since we couldn’t get my “sister Christmas” in before the big day, we are celebrating the Friday after. It’s still the “season” so don’t get hung up on one day or when everyone else is making/baking/decorating/partying. Remember, Christmas is NOT a competition. You do you, slowly. Like, now. Unless now doesn’t work for you, then later.So tell me, what else would you add to this list? Do any of these resonate with you? Share in comments!
Happy holidays and Merry Christmas, friends! Grateful for your readership and support.
Malena, jolly ol’ (not old, y’all) elf
P.S. ‘Tis the season for a holiday read! If you like a humorous holiday romance that doesn’t take a long time to read, this baby’s a novella! Find out more about Sterling & Sloane here.