By Christy Swift
The past couple of years have been a keen reminder of what is important in life. That said, when the holidays roll around, it’s easy to get caught up in the demands of the season. If you are craving a quieter Christmas or a humbler Hanukkah, here are a few ways to embrace mindfulness and simplicity this season.
FOCUS ON THE MEANINGFUL TRADITIONS
What we call “tradition” may actually be something we got trapped by rather than something we chose. Some traditions can’t be avoided if they are important to someone else. Others may be something you wanted to try once, but somehow ended up doing year after year. You can reduce stress and demands on your time (and wallet) by doing the following:
❆ Choose wisely. Ask family members what their favorite holiday traditions are. Many times a child’s favorite activity is something that doesn’t take a lot of effort at all, like having popcorn and hot chocolate while watching a Christmas movie.
❆ Give yourself permission to let go. If writing the annual holiday letter stresses you out, take a deep breath and let it go this year. A long drive to a certain shopping center can be replaced with online or local shopping. As you look at your to-do list, if anything makes you feel anxious, consider adjusting or eliminating it. This time of year is supposed to be joyful.
❆ Limit the number of traditions you practice to one or two per week. By spreading activities out over time, you leave room for the magical, unplanned moments to take place.
Bins in the garage, the attic, the closets. They are full of festive things that are meant to make you feel happy, but can have the opposite effect when they take hours to set up and put away. You can reduce decorating stress with these tips:
❆ Limit the number of containers of holiday decor you will store. Revisit each item and ask yourself if it brings you joy equal to the effort it takes to display it. If the answer is no, thank it for its service and let it go.
❆ Delegate! If your children or grandchildren are old enough, let them decorate the tree and the house. It may not be perfect, but you may be surprised how those small imperfections wrought by little hands make you feel just as warm inside.
❆ Donate. The decor that was stressing you out may bring joy to someone who picks it up in a secondhand store. Isn’t that what the season is all about?
LESS IS MORE WHEN IT COMES TO GIFTS
Giving gifts is a hallmark of this time of year, but the expense can add up. And how many times have you given someone a gift you know they didn’t really need or want just because you felt you had to? Do you feel like your children don’t really appreciate the gifts they are given? If gift-giving feels like it’s lost some of its meaning, consider these ideas:
❆ Limit the number. Children often appreciate things more when they receive less. Some families give their children only four presents: something they want, something they need, something to wear, and something to read. At the same time, there is an opportunity to focus on what gifts the children will give this year, rather than what they’ll receive.
❆ Skip homemade. It doesn’t have to be homemade to be thoughtful. If the idea of producing Pinterest-worthy handmade gifts for teachers, friends and family is stressful to you, let yourself off the hook and buy something instead.
❆ Buy in bulk. Maybe you’ve discovered a great deal, a lovely Etsy shop, or a T-shirt outlet with something for everyone. There’s no shame in getting several people a version of the same thing to save time and sanity.
❆ Use reusable gift wrap. Gift giving also includes a lot of waste in the form of wrapping paper, tape, labels, and bows. You can have a “greener” Christmas by wrapping gifts in cloth and decorating them with burlap or lace ribbons.
❆ Gift cards or money. It may lack romance, but everyone loves cash, and you can personalize the gift with a heartfelt message.
❆ Donate in their name. For the adults who already have everything, making a donation to a charity close to their heart is a lovely way to honor them.
❆ Give the gift of your time. A lunch date, trip to the museum, surprise visit with a bouquet of flowers… for many people, spending time with you will be more valuable than a candle, fruit basket, or trinket.
SIMPLIFY COOKING AND BAKING
Some people love cooking for the holidays. For others it’s a chore. If cooking or baking is stressing you out, it’s okay to cut a few corners or skip it altogether. Remember, less time spent in the kitchen leaves more room for baby cuddles, chats with a teen over hot cocoa, and fireside dives into a good book. Not to mention Hallmark movies…
❆ Reduce your kitchen burden. For many, this time of year involves recipes that reflect religion and cultural heritage, which are so, so meaningful. But they can take hours, even days, to prepare. It’s okay to take advantage of modern conveniences and creativity to make that delicious meal in less time. Use a blender to grate the potato for your latkes rather than hand-grating them (or buy frozen). Deconstruct recipes like cabbage rolls for a quicker, easier result with the same flavor.
❆ Participate in a cookie exchange. Show up with two types of cookies, come home with eight! Not to mention you get to try something new.
❆ Use no-bake options. Many “cookies” don’t involve any baking at all. Dipping pretzels in melted chocolate and non-pareils is one easy favorite. Cream-cheese-based cookies are another.
❆ Buy pre-made. You may not be able to get away with this all season long, but there is nothing wrong with bringing a pre-made side dish or dessert to your boss’s holiday party.
The bottom line to simplifying the holidays is to be intentional. Ask yourself what you value, what you want the focus to be, and what you can handle. And don’t forget to enjoy the little moments in between all that hustle and bustle. That’s where you’ll find the real value in SIMPLICITY.