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5 Ways to Make Your Holiday Bright


Right now is that magical season when the Christmas spirit can literally take the chill out of the air. But have you ever gotten to Christmas Day, after all the gift exchanges and feasts, when you have a moment to just curl up by the fire, and then you realize you’ve missed so much because of the hustle and bustle? I have. I’ve even looked at my kids and wondered things like, “Why did we get them all this stuff?” and “Did we talk enough about what Christmas is about?”

It can be hard to cut through the excitement of the season and distill it all down to what’s important. But if you can find a way to do just that, you’ll enjoy the season much more. A de-cluttered schedule and reasonable expectations can allow the most wonderful time of the year to silence the noise of the holiday rush. Here are some tips.

Slow Down

Being overscheduled has become the norm. Let’s face it: no matter what time of year it is, even the youngest among us are so busy that they don’t even have time to play in the mud. (Heaven forbid, don’t get dirty or you’ll have to change before piano.) While that is a discussion for a different day, it applies to the holidays because December has a way of taking busy and putting it on crack. Do you have to go to every holiday party? Do you have to throw one? Do you have to provide stocking stuffers for every coworker? Are you really making treats for the whole neighborhood?

Slow down. Open your calendar app, decide what’s most important, and politely decline the stuff that isn’t.

No Competition

Think of the best Christmas you ever had. Does one stand out? For me, there isn’t one, because what I love about this time of year is the feeling. If you gave me a year, say 2009 or 1987 or any year, and asked me what I got or gave, I would not be able to tell you. That’s because, newsflash—it’s not the gifts that matter most.

Focus on connecting with, rather than impressing, the people you love. You don’t have to make the most food or do the best crafts or have Griswold lights for your house. I’m not saying not to do those things, but don’t let them take over. Make time to play some board games, sip some hot cocoa, and call it good. Because it is.

Don’t Stress About Money

Don’t laugh. I’m serious. Remember the part about gifts not being the most important thing? This is not to say not to buy things for people, and it’s not to say it can’t be nice things. But it just doesn’t have to be any nicer than your budget allows. Really. This concept can be hard to embrace when you want to see your kids’ eyes go wide on Christmas morning. So here’s what you do. You manage expectations. Go over their lists for Santa. Talk to them about it. If there’s a big-ticket item on there, let them know that if they were to get that thing, whatever it is, that it will likely be the only thing they get. Or maybe they’ll get a few smaller things. That way, when they get what they get, it will match what they’re expecting. Trust me, there will be smiles.

Manage Your Own Expectations

A perfect holiday doesn’t mean everything will be perfect. Meals burn, kids fight and make messes, some gifts miss the mark. OK. The holidays are still part of life, and life is never perfect. But it is beautiful. Let your holiday be about laughter, love, and making memories.

Make Time for People

It’s the time of year to bring those close to you a little closer and to reach out to those who mean something to you. You’re bound to get a stack of greetings and letters from people who spent hours on end printing and writing and stuffing and stamping and putting stickers on. I would never say not to reach out to those you love during the holidays. You just don’t have to spend hours and hours doing it. I spend about an hour. I do mine online, with a service I absolutely love, that has templates and designs I can pull my own photos into. Then they stuff, stamp, and mail them all for me. And when I have that straggler person I meant to send a card to and finally have their address, I just click to send and it’s done. It’s a true time saver so I can get back to sitting in the warm glow of my lighted tree and chatting with my kids about why we celebrate Christmas in the first place.