As Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa and New Year’s Day approach, many people long to simplify the holidays, reduce stress, and have more time to enjoy the season. The key is to plan ahead and thoughtfully consider which aspects of the holidays are truly meaningful to you and your family.
Talk About Traditions
Have a conversation with your loved ones about the holiday memories they really cherish, and ditch the tasks that don’t matter. One mother was be surprised to learn that the big meal she laboriously prepared every Christmas Day wasn’t important at all to her family. What they really wanted was for her to be in the family room as everyone opened presents, not in the kitchen slaving away. She prepared a casserole ahead of time to pop in the oven, and for the first time in decades she was able to truly relax and enjoy Christmas.
Relax Your Standards
Could you serve bakery pies for dessert this Thanksgiving? What would happen if you didn’t send holiday cards this year? What if you wrapped all your presents in reusable gift bags? What if you purchased a pre-cooked turkey or ham? Suppose you only hung half of the ornaments on the tree? What if you hired a cleaning service to come spiff up your house? Give yourself a break from a major task or two this season, and see if anyone cares.
Advance the Cause
Any tasks you do ahead of time will help lessen pressure and stress. Plan the menu and buy all the non-perishables for Thanksgiving early. Order gifts online and have them shipped directly to recipients. Pre-order the Hanukkah brisket. Prepare a simple Christmas breakfast strata ahead of time and freeze it. Book an appointment for a pre-holiday massage or pedicure. Make a reservation now for New Year’s Eve.
Divide and Conquer
Does it ever feel like you’re squeezing too much in a day? One family’s exhausting ritual included partaking in two full celebrations on Christmas Day – one at their home, followed by another at a relative’s house 45 minutes away. Last year they switched it up and celebrated with the extended family the day after Christmas. Changing the tradition felt a little strange at first, but the family members loved sleeping in on Christmas morning, relaxing in their pajamas, enjoying a leisurely meal, taking a walk that afternoon and just being together. They were refreshed and ready to enjoy another celebration the next day, and a new tradition was borne.
Savor the Season
Despite the commercial pressures, spending time together is what really creates lasting holiday memories. Talk to your loved ones and plan an unforgettable outing. See a holiday performance at your local theater. Attend a community menorah lighting. Go ice skating. Take blankets and coats to a homeless shelter. Dance at a Kwanzaa celebration. Snuggle on the couch with your family and watch a holiday movie. Be good to yourself, do fewer chores, have more fun, and make time for what really matters this holiday season.
Do you hope to simplify the holidays this year? We’d love to hear your thoughts and ideas.
P.S. I recently started writing the Simple Living column for Out of Denver magazine, where this article originally appeared. I am grateful to the publishers for giving me permission to share it with you here.