The Thanksgiving and Christmas season is here! I’m so excited!
- Turkey & Stuffing
- Pumpkin & Mincemeat Pie
- Cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg
- Hot mulled cider
- Sweet breads and cookies
- Sparkling lights
- Twinkling snow
My childhood memories of the holidays are magical. It was a time of great food, fun with family (both immediate and extended), celebrations with neighbors, and laughter. Delightful.
Once Halloween was over, my anticipation built. The seasonal smells of clove, nutmeg, cinnamon, pumpkin, sage, parsley, and thyme. The sweet sunshine of citrus fruit – new arrivals in the store. Savory meats. Tasty treats. The craft projects covering the dining room table. Mom baking delights only indulged in once a year. All signs that the holidays had arrived.
While I love this time of year, I also place unrealistic expectations on myself and the season.
Several years ago, while lamenting the destruction of my expectations, my mom remarked, “The only one who will know what didn’t get done is you. No one else will know or even care.”
Reality check: The only one who put these unrealistic expectations on me was me.
My desire to recreate the magic of my childhood, by now largely distorted in my memory, resulted in anxiety, stress, and frustration. I was the Grinch. My unrealistic expectations created unnecessary stress reducing the magical joy my family and I could experience.
My wake up call came one Christmas when I was horribly sick. There was no way I could make my traditional Christmas dinner of standing rib roast and all the trimmings. My family needed to eat and dinner was up to my husband. Dessert and salad was already made, but nothing else. When my sweet husband asked me what he could make for them, we settled on sloppy joes. Easy. I could talk him through it while staying prone on the couch. Oh, and there was a bag of potato chips. He made it. The kids ate it. I slept through dinner.
The next year, as I was preparing to order the standing rib roast for our traditional dinner and planning the rest of the meal, my sweet husband and my children asked if we could just have sloppy joes. I was shocked.
Reality check: I was the only one who wanted the traditional standing rib roast dinner. It didn’t matter to the rest of my family.
What my family preferred, was a lazy, relaxed day together. The fancy food, accompanied by my stress, wasn’t important. Spending time together was.
So, our traditional Christmas dinner consists of Sloppy Joes, carrot sticks, and potato chips whenever we want to eat it. No fuss. Just fun.
Here’s how I learned to move from stress and dread to joy and delight in the holidays:
- Shop all year long. Since I don’t like to shop unless there are five people or less in the store – anyone who knows me is laughing right now – I prefer to pick up items when I find them. In my mind, the price reductions during Black Friday don’t adequately compensate for the insanity of the crowds.
- Make a list and check it twice. Santa isn’t the only one who needs a list! Make a list early of what is important to get done for the holidays. This could include block parties, gift making, cookie baking, gift giving guide, cookie exchange, Christmas tea, a Nutcracker performance, anything that you want to include in your holiday season.
- Now erase. That’s right. Now that you’ve made your dream list, look at it realistically and reduce the list. Often the things that bring me the most stress have nothing to do with building relationships. Remember, you are the only one who will know what you removed from your dream list.
- Calendar the important items first. Starting as early as possible, block off time to accomplish the important holiday items. For instance, we happen to have a number of birthdays in December, so those get calendared first.
- Remove all the rest. If looking at your calendar turns you into a Grinch, remove everything but the things that truly bring you joy in the season. It really is okay to say “no” to most requests that flood in during the holiday season.
- Give yourself permission to be imperfect. Often our expectations are based on the fear of failing to be perfect. We are inundated with commercials and advertising that show perfect people in perfect homes with perfectly set tables displaying perfect centerpieces and perfectly presented food. Reality check: no one is that perfect! Make a conscious decision to be real, not perfect. Delight in wonderful, magical imperfection and enjoy.
Lysa TerKeurst, in her book The Best Yes, says, “A woman who lives with the stress of an overwhelmed schedule will often ache with the sadness of an underwhelmed soul.” Thanksgiving and Christmas are special times each year to focus on what really matters. People matter. People are eternal.
While the trimmings, trappings, and tasty treats are fun, they should never take the place of building strong relationships and enriching your soul. Searching for the wonderful, extraordinary moments hidden in each day requires reducing the schedule and focusing on those things that are most important.
How will you de-Grinch your schedule in the next six weeks? Leave a comment so we can learn together.
Here’s wishing all of us a magical, extraordinary stress-free holiday season!