“Lighten up” for the Holidays (I’m not talking weight loss here!)


Thanksgiving is coming!

Christmas is coming!

New Year’s is coming!

An ulcer is coming!

Wait, what?

Yep, the holidays. That beautiful, magical, fanciful time of year when creepy elves hide on shelves to play “Big Brother” to unsuspecting children, family dysfunction climbs to its annual high, and parents everywhere announce “Kids, we are scaling back this year in order to keep our focus on what the season is all about,” while simultaneously stretching the limits of the gold card that they had sworn  (back in January) would be paid off by the end of the year.

Don’t get me wrong. I love the holidays.

Christmas is my favorite time of year, and I actually don’t mind decorating early so that I can enjoy the season as long as possible (although my Catholic guilt has me saying, “you know…it really is Advent…it’s not really Christmas until Christmas Day”).  I digress.

Anyhoo…it dawned on me, as we were pulling out the Christmas decorations last week (yes…a week before Thanksgiving) that this would probably be the last time my twin daughters decorated for Christmas with us. Next year, they will be at college. And while I assume they will come home for Christmas, it won’t be early enough for them to be part of decorating.

As I was thinking about this, I asked myself, what do I want my girls to remember about their last Christmas living at home? Stress? Money worries? Arguments?

Of course not. I want them to have some happy memories to carry with them as they embark on adulthood.  But I knew that unless I was intentional about stress management, this year would be a repeat of stressful years gone by.

So I decided to come up with a list of strategies to help simplify my Christmas. These are not profound or earth-shattering. But they are doable, and I really believe they will work for us.

So here are the strategies I plan to use:

1.  Keep cooking simple. I’m not really sure whose idea it was to try new recipes during the holidays. But there seems to be a plethora of blogs, websites, cooking shows, and magazine articles about new holiday recipes or ways to “lighten up that holiday meal.”  PSHAW! I plan to use full-fat, full-sugar, totally yummy recipes to make all of the traditional items that my family loves. Forget trying to be gluten-free, organic, free-range whatever. If a Butterball turkey slathered in real butter and mashed potatoes with real giblet gravy was good enough for my grandmother, it’s good enough for me. And yes, I will be baking my family’s favorite cookies…not trying a bunch of fancy Pinterest stuff.

Baking Christmas Cookies!

2. Keep shopping easy. No Black Friday crowds for this girl. Amazon Prime…I love you.

3. Lay out expectations (early). We have plans to visit family. But we have already explained that we plan to relax. We do not wish to be paraded around to a bunch of different functions. We want to plant our fat, happy rear ends on the couch, watch football, let the cousins play together, sleep in, and play Pinochle until the wee hours of the morning.

4. Allow for some stress. I think mental judo is called for when it comes to the stress of the holiday season. There is bound to be stress. Weather and crowds make travel challenging. People have different ideas of what is “fun.” Financial stress hits. And memories (good and bad) flood our minds and hearts. If we resist all stress, we find ourselves with that ulcer that I mentioned earlier. But if we accept that things may be stressful at times, allow ourselves a good cry (and a wee bit ‘o Papa’s homemade egg nog) then it can wash over us and be placed in proper perspective.

I certainly don’t have all the answers. But after 40 Christmases on earth, 20 as a married woman, and 18 as a mom, I am starting to figure things out.

I’d love to know what strategies you use to keep stress at bay during the holidays. Feel free to comment below.

And have a Happy Thanksgiving and a Merry Christmas!