In spite of the unseasonably warm weather we’re experiencing here in Winnipeg this fall a quick perusal of the upcoming forecast points to the cold reality that winter is really going to come. We’ve been a bit spoiled this year, with the above average temperatures giving us a legitimate fall season – we’ve been able to neglect thinking about boots, parkas, toques and mittens at least for a little bit.
But not for long.
And as the weather turns cool and flakes start to fall what inevitably happens is that the rush towards Christmas begins. In many ways it’s already started, with department stores decking the halls, and Santa displays mid-construction in the malls. Some neighbours may be rushing to put up the lights before the roofs get too frosty, and if where you live is anything like us, we’ve already got some eager community members who have set the timers and are lighting up the dark evenings with their festive luminaries.
Christmas (or the holidays, should you prefer) is coming. Gulp.
For a lot of us Christmas can be a happy time of connecting and slowing and celebrating time off with family and friends. But what I often hear is that in reality, it is a time of frenzy and chaos and over-extension and fatigue.
Can this holiday season be different? Can we walk into December prepped and ready in different way than years past – so that the crazy of Christmas doesn’t leave you depleted and exhausted?
With six weeks to go we have time to prepare. Here are a few ideas that might help you sort out what you hope for this season, so the gifts and the gatherings don’t leave you feeling like you need a holiday from your holiday.
1. Prioritize what you (and your family) want this season to be about. Maybe it’s about reconnecting with friends or family, or reestablishing closeness as a smaller family unit, or about unplugging, or resting, or giving of yourselves to worthy causes. Put the most important goals or ideas at the top of the list, and work your way down. Weigh commitments and opportunities against this list to see if what is presented to you matches up with what you want the season to be about.
If your goal is to rest and slow down, then maybe it makes sense to pass on that last gathering, or you give yourselves permission not to host the boxing day party this year.
2. Challenge the status quo. Just because Christmas has always gone a certain way doesn’t mean it still has to. As families change and situations shift, is there room to renegotiate the way you do holidays with loved ones? Recently my sister-in-laws and I decided we were going to stop buying each other birthday gifts, and instead elected to go for pedicures every other year when we were all in the same location. Being able to ask, “Is this still working for us?” can be an uncomfortable, but important question. Sometimes the way it’s always been done isn’t always the best way anymore.
If nobody loves making a turkey dinner, who says your family can’t order in pizza? Do you really need to make 36 different types of Christmas cookies, or could you cut the selection in half and have it still ‘taste’ like Christmas?
3. Clarify your stance on commercialism. Folks have lots of feelings about the “stuff” of holidays. The commercialism is appealing for some of us. There are many people who are incredible gift givers, and the generosity of the holidays is a much anticipated delight. All the power to you, power shoppers! But if you’re anything like me, I find the toys and lists overwhelming and at times, anxiety provoking. In all reality there are few toys my kids really play a lot with – and they don’t need more of them. So having to think of gifts ideas can be a bit stressful. In many respects the commercialism stands in odds with the simplicity and intentionality that we seek to have guide our living.
In light of that we have made it clear with loved ones and among our own little family that presents aren’t our primary focus of Christmas. We do exchange presents, yes, but we are choosy and purposeful – opting to spend more on a few quality items that will actually be enjoyed, rather than stuff the tree with toys that won’t be touched in the new year.
And as much as it may pain my children, they have learned (and will continue to learn) that I am pretty uninterested in how many or what types of gifts their friends get. We won’t cave to pressure to keep up with other families, but rather give gifts in a way that is congruent with our own values and priorities.
4. Plan ahead for less pressure later.
Unless you’re someone who enjoys the hustle and pressure of last minute shopping (again, hats off to you, folks!) perhaps already thinking now about what is coming down the pipe can help make December less stressful. My favourite parts of the holidays are snuggling up and watching Christmas shows with my kids, drinking coffee on cold nights while watching Christmas lights, and having two weeks without a rushed schedule while the kids are off from school. If I’m going to be able to enjoy my favourite things about the season it means being on top of all that needs to happen in the Christmas window before it’s come and gone.
Shopping has started (with a personal goal of being completed by December 1st), Christmas baking will be simple and soon begun, and family days are already slated into the schedule so I know which days to safeguard. Gifts will be wrapped and stored before the parties and get-togethers begin so that when the holiday season comes, I can be fully present enjoying the parts of it that are most special to me.
So folks, are you ready? We can do this. As the flurries get ready to fly in Winnipeg by week’s end, let’s get ourselves ready for December and prepare in such a way that we can truly enjoy the magic of the season.