“Christmas is the perfect time to celebrate the love of God and family and to create memories that will last forever’ Joel Osteen
‘Christmas is joy, religious joy, an inner joy of light and peace’. Pope Francis
I often find that the reality of Christmas is so different to the idealised picture I have in my mind. I fantasize about putting my feet up and enjoying a glass of mulled wine and mince pies with friends. Or I see myself listening to Christmas music while reflecting on the true meaning of Christmas with the children playing happily in the background. In the real world however I’m falling to pieces as I have a last minute panic over food, presents and piles of unwritten cards.
Here are some ideas that we’ve found to help relieve the pressure:
- Think about what makes Christmas special for you
There seem to be so many “must haves” to create that perfect Christmas. Take time to identify what traditions make Christmas special for you and what trimmings are nice but not necessary. We often fall into doing the same things each year without consciously asking ourselves ‘why do we do this?’. Some of the best moments are those that do not require lots of forward planning and expense e.g. a crib service on Christmas Eve or a walk in the countryside on Boxing Day
- Identify your stress points
What is it that really stresses you at Christmas? Is it the cooking or writing 100 Christmas cards? Or perhaps the tight travel schedules to fit in seeing different family members across the country? Or the feeling that you have to give your children a perfect “magical” Christmas. Once identified it may be possible to plan around them.
- Discuss what is really important with your loved ones
It can be difficult to broach the subject when we are not sure how our family or friends will respond but you may be surprised to find that they feel the same. It was quite refreshing to receive a text from a friend last week letting me know that she had decided to only give presents to family this year as it was just too expensive to give them to all her friends children as well.
Based on your answers to the first questions, you can now decide on a plan to simplify. For example I used to have an extensive Christmas card list and always ran out of time so last year I decided just to focus on immediate family, especially my elderly relatives. I also realised that I spent a lot of time cooking when actually everyone liked the chipolata sausages far more than the turkey! I also realised that I didn’t have to join in every Christmas social thus leaving me too exhausted to enjoy them all.
- Invest in quality re-usable Christmas “gems”
The statistics on Christmas food waste are shocking, as are those for how much other waste we generate. We have found that investing in a few items that can be reused each year not only cuts waste but also relieves stress as you don’t have to keep buying them. They also can become Christmas traditions in their own right. For example we have a musical advent tree with 24 decorations in little numbered boxes which the kids love. We are celebrating the 9th year of our Christmas tree and I’m sure it will be going strong in another 9 years time. Rather than using wrapping paper we now have gorgeous stockings (bought from our local charity shop) and re-useable gift bags.
- Re-think Presents
Gift giving is an area to tactfully talk about with friends and family. A group of my friends and I decided to stop sending presents to each other as we are all trying to declutter and simplify our lives. We can consider giving gifts that cost time instead of money. Perhaps a homemade gift or a gift of a delicious meal with a friend in January. Last year I bought some fantastic pre-loved gifts for my husband and vintage Lego and Fisher Price toys for the children.