Frazzle-Free Holidays

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Well, just as soon as the Halloween candy went on sale 50% off, the shelves were completely filled with all things Christmas. Everywhere you look you’ll see decorations, cards and holiday treats. Yep, the Christmas clock is ticking…..making moms everywhere begin to stress.

Time for another tip from my workshop The Holidays; A Time to Bless, Not Stress.

Re-evaluating  the holidays.

About 10 years ago, I was one frazzled mom when it came to the holidays. The baking, decorating, Christmas cards, shopping, stocking stuffing and such had me in a complete tizzy. I was exhausted trying to create the perfect Christmas. And I wanted to include activities that I thought my kids expected. I also tried frantically to recreate some of my own holiday memories through baking and cooking things my mother had fixed when I was growing up. And, of course, I had to shop for the perfect gifts and stocking stuffers that would draw oohs and ahhs from my family on Christmas morn.

Face it. Moms often fall into this hectic, horrible holiday trap. And it leaves us feeling tired mentally and physically.

Well, that Christmas I had had it!

So, one wintry day, I called a meeting.

I gathered my family and decided to solicit their honest opinions about how we celebrate the holidays.

It was the best thing I ever did.

It also was a little scary.

Yes, I wanted to de-stress our celebrations and focus on the real meaning of Christmas. However, I also did not want to have my feelings hurt if someone piped up and declared that they didn’t like my famous dark-chocolate-peppermint fantasy fudge!

But ladies, I’m telling you, it REALLY helped me to zero in on what Christmas should look like at our house.

Not at your house.

Not at my neighbor’s house and certainly not at one of those perfect houses staring at me from within the pages of a decorating magazine or dancing across the TV screen of an HGTV show.

You see, each family is unique.

Our friend Kevin can’t imagine a Christmas without homemade fruitcake. He loves it. His father loves to get a loaf on Christmas Eve. In fact, Kevin pays me big bucks each year to make him two loaves of my famous, moist, fruity fruit cake.

My family?

They could do without said fruitcake. Only my hubby really likes it.

Well, that fateful year I rounded up the troops and asked them some pointed questions. When I asked my family to shoot striaght with me,  I realized a few things that could go from our holiday routine. Now, each year we have another meeting. (We did it last week by Skyping in Mackenzie on the computer from Charlotte, NC!) Over the years, here are a some conclusions we have come to:

  • There were traditions we were doing that my family could live without. Like rolling out homemade sugar cookie dough (one of my favorite memories from growing up) They only liked the frosting and decorating part ( “putting the sprinkles and silver “bb’s” on” said one of my boys) So I adjusted. I found already cut-out, baked and frozen cookies in the shapes of trees, bells and stars at Sam’s Club. They are yummy, the kids can decorate them and no big mess is made on our counters because they come pre-cooked. They also used to like attending a live nativity when they were little. Now, they’d prefer an evening at home watching a favorite movie like The Christmas Box, The Grinch or Christmas with the Kranks.
  • Stocking stuffers they love and look forward to every year. They do not want me to forgo the fruit in the toe of their stocking, a carry-over from my husband’s days growing up. When he was little, he always got an orange. My three kids prefer a grapefruit, a mango and an Asian pear, respectively. They also do not want me to stop the practice of small, cellophane holiday treat bags with their favorite flavor of Jelly Bellies in them. They like fun flavors like strawberry cheesecake, pear, creme soda and Dr. Pepper.
  • Traditions they want to continue. Having barbecue pizza at Grandma’s on Christmas Eve and then driving around to look at the Christmas lights; looking for the glass pickle ornament hidden in the tree on Christmas morning; adopting a needy family and then shopping for them; surprising bell ringers and grocery baggers by taking them hot cocoa or another holiday treat randomly one afternoon.
  • Expected holiday activities  they couldn’t care less about. One of these was a biggy. Are you ready? We stopped participating in the Christmas pageant at church (YIKES!) because it meant extra stress, lines to remember, Saturday morning practices and interference with family times with cousins. So about four years ago we stopped. The world did not end. Maybe a church lady or two thinks we are awful. We don’t miss it at all.

When we got honest about what spoke “Christmas” to our family, my stress level went waaaay down. If you too are frazzled, encourage your family to have a meeting too. Here’s how:

images-2Holiday Re-evaluation Survey

Gather everyone in your home. Answer the following questions. Encourage one and all to be honest in their responses. The goal is to discover your unique way of celebrating the holidays and help alleviate some of the Yuletide “Yikes!”

  • What has been your favorite tradition that we have done over the years and why?
  • What has been your least favorite holiday tradition and why?
  • Have any adults share their favorite memory of their holidays growing up. Did it have to do more with money or with people, with getting or with doing?
  • Can you think of any new tradition you would like to start celebrating and why?
  • What holiday foods do you really love and most look forward to?
  • What holiday foods could you do without?
  • How can we divide up tasks during the holidays so all of the responsibilities don’t fall on already over-stressed mom?

Now sweet cyber sisters, do not get defensive if your clan tells you they don’t like your Kris Kringle Krispies or some other treat you make. Your goal is to lighten your stress load. That will mean less cooking if they don’t like those treats, right?

Trust me, mom. You’ll be glad you did this. And you’ll have a more stress-free holiday with more time to focus on Christ.

Let me know how it goes!

Stress-free Blessings,

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  • So many things to post–

    First, I’m signing up for the weight loss wed group! I just heart about it at hearts this weekend in rochester! Thank you for being faithful enough to share your story–how much more real that is and inspiring. I will get on the scale tomorrow (after I find it) but I’m pretty sure the needed loss amount is 70#. Which sadly has all been gained in the last year. Two years ago I lost 50# and then suffered much turmoil in life–an undiagnosed issue that lasted 9 months until they figured out what was wrong,deaths of two friends babies, my gpa passing away, a job that was stressful, etc and a moderate situational depression set in. Anti depressants were prescribed and I have madeit thorugh thelast year with the meds help. A true blessing. However, the meds were not a blessing to my body and caused my metabolism to shut down. So even when I made good choices the weight crept up. So I stopped making good choices! Doh! Anyway, I’m here now, ready to get back to a self that doesn’t have aches, who likes to try on clothes and who really is me.

    On the Thankfulness part–we just did the operation christmas child shoeboxes–each of my boys had to decided who they were making the box for (what age) and then find the items to put in on a budget. :) They did great. We packed and wrote our letters and got them sent off. They wanted to squeeze as much in as possible since the “friends around the world” may not have toys.

    thanks Karen.

  • Karen,

    These are great ideas. I want to teach my grandchildren the true meaning of Christmas. Every year I say “I’m not going to do all of this next year”. But what do I do? (the same thing if not more). My daddy died at Christmas time in 1971 when I was 13 needless to say it was the most horrible Christmas and I have to really keep myself in check because I go overboard to compensate. Does that make sense? We live in a very, very small community (pop. 98!!) I don’t have access to alot of agencies to volunteer at. I’m going to try to come up with some small ways to minister to my community. I have been praying for ways to serve God more your devotion today is confirmation that I need to do this. Thanks Karen, I pray your family has a Happy Holiday season.

    Love in Christ,
    Dana

  • What a great reminder! Thank you! I have two little ones and sometimes I think I just have to do it all and it is just so overwhelming. Our church does Christmas Eve service at 9pm and that is too late for our little ones but I thought we “had” to do it. It was too much and too late. My kids screamed the whole time because they were tired. Well, maybe we will try again when they are older. Thanks!

  • I’m sitting my family down this weekend and going over these questions. I did this a few years back, but now my kids are older and have a more specific opinion. It’s worth revisiting! Finding your website this morning has been the biggest blessing in my life this week! Thanks!