I feel the need to make a disclaimer right away: I am not advocating that you do as I do or suggesting that this is the best or only way to approach the holidays. This is what works for me, and I’m only speaking for myself. If you’re the type of person who loves big families and large gatherings and chaos and noise, great. And I’m not being facetious. That is great, for you. I am most definitely NOT that type of person, so I prefer to focus on how to get through the holidays with the least amount of stress and the most peace and happiness. I’ve been working on this and perfecting it over the years and this year will be the most lean and mean holiday yet. So in that spirit, onward!
Since I am not religious, for me the holiday season has always been about friends and family, food and love. The way I approach it as an adult is to focus on saying “yes” to the things I love about it, and “no” to the things I hate about it. The things I love are the music, the food, finding the perfect gifts for our niece and nephew, and spending time with friends and family. I say “no” to pressure to find the perfect gift, spending more money than I can afford, malls, commercialism, consumerism, fake trees, dead trees by the side of the road after Christmas, Christmas music before Thanksgiving, expectations, stress, wasteful wrapping paper, overeating (well, maybe I’m ambivalent on that one), and family drama. That’s not a comprehensive list, but that covers most of the biggies.
One of the best ways to avoid many of the things I hate about the holidays is to stay out of the mall. Since I’m a Compacter, that part is easy. No one really expects an expensive department store gift from me at this point. I’ve managed to lower everyone’s expectations over the years, and I have no expectations of my own about receiving gifts either. If I do exchange gifts, I prefer to make consumables, handmade gifts, or give an experience like a concert or event.
This year, I will…
…have whittled down my gift-giving list to my parents, my husband, a few good friends and a few of their kids, and our niece and nephew. It’s quite easy to manage and I usually try to have it done or at least planned by Thanksgiving. Most people are getting either a book I loved this year, or granola, cookies, pumpkin bread, or boozy homemade egg nog. My brothers and I agreed not to exchange anything at all, and instead to just spend time together.
… send holiday cards when I have time and I’m in the mood. I don’t do it out of habit, guilt, or expectation. I will write a few hand-written cards over the Thanksgiving weekend to people I feel the urge to communicate with, and leave it at that.
…borrow the same holiday tree from our neighbor that we’ve enjoyed for the past several years. It takes less than an hour to set up but makes the house look beautiful.
…bake cookies and bread for the friends who love and appreciate it and mail and distribute them and receive smiles and thanks.
…make at least three delicious desserts for our annual holiday dessert party, where I will have set everything out and done all the work BEFORE the party so that I can enjoy my friends while they’re in our home.
…invite new friends we’ve met this year to the party.
…attend as many holiday parties as we’re invited to, enjoy good conversation and good food, and maybe make some new friends.
…take part in a couple of charity events. In the past, I have participated in Adopt-A-Family (google to find your local chapter), bought outfits and gifts for needy kids, and organized book drives to donate to children, just to name a few. My husband has a beautiful voice, I think we will try to either go sing at a hospital or retirement home, or distribute toys to needy children.
…listen to my favorite holiday CDs: A Charlie Brown Christmas by Vince Guaraldi, and a mix CD I made for friends a few years ago.
…eat plenty of pumpkin pie and drink as much egg nog as I can while still being able to button my pants.
…hang out with my husband and watch movies on DVD.
…attend a performance of Handel’s Messiah at the fabulous Walt Disney Concert Hall with my husband and my parents. This is our big holiday event and I’m really excited about it.
…exchange simple gifts with my husband on Christmas Eve, generally books, DVDs, liqueur, and chocolate.
…see a just-released film and go out for Chinese food on Christmas Day.
…keep doing what I’d be doing if it wasn’t the holidays. For me, this essentially means that I’ll keep to a work and writing schedule and not postpone all my projects until after January 1st. I crave normalcy this year, and I want the holiday to take place with the least amount of fuss.
What are your holiday plans? What do you love best about the season? What do you dislike? Please share in the Comments section.
Wishing you a happy holiday season, in whatever way you choose to celebrate it.