For many of us, Christmastime is anticipated with both joy and anxiety. Sure, we love the celebrations, the family traditions, and we cherish the memories of holidays gone by; but along with them, we add the stresses of preparation, expectations, and the fear of letdowns or family squabbles that we have experienced in the past. These dynamics can make it challenging to rally up for a new Christmas season. Over the years, I’ve discovered some ways to lessen the anxiety and maximize the joy of the holiday season. Here are my tips for creating a great family Christmas.
1. Set manageable expectations. Spend some time now setting realistic and manageable expectations for your holiday season. Understand that you can’t do everything! Be realistic about what you can do. Make a priority list of your most important events and activities for you and your family. Then, pace yourself. Organize your time. Keep in mind that it’s the holiday “season” (not “day”) and spread out your activities to lessen stress and increase enjoyment.
2. Remember the holiday season does not eliminate sadness or loneliness. Problems and difficulties arise even during Christmastime. And, for some, the holiday season evokes painful memories of events or the loss of loved ones in the past. Give room for yourself and your family to experience these feelings. Try not to let them become a consuming focus. Make an effort to work through present challenges and conflicts.
3. Acknowledge the past, but look toward the future. Life brings changes. Each season of life is different. Determine to enjoy this holiday season for what it is. Acknowledging the past, whether good or bad, is appropriate. But, if you find that this year has been a rough one and you don’t anticipate having the best holiday season ever, try not to set yourself up by comparing today with the “good old days.” Take advantage of the joys the present holiday season has to offer.
4. Develop and encourage a life of gratitude. Gratitude is an attribute that transcends circumstances. Christians have a special reason to adopt the attitude of gratitude at Christmastime, because we know that we celebrate God’s greatest gift to humankind, Jesus Christ. As the Scriptures record, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.” (Luke 2:10-11)
5. Do something for someone else. One of the ways we can demonstrate that we are grateful to God’s gift to us is to help others. To get more out of this Christmas, try getting involved in serving others.
6. Enjoy activities that are cheap or free. There are many good holiday-related activities that will add to your family’s enjoyment, but aren’t expensive, like driving around locally to look at holiday lights, baking Christmas cookies, going window-shopping, and playing in the snow.
7. Enjoy a family holiday tradition. Traditions provide opportunities to keep your family’s legacy going. They create meaningful memories. So, from the silly to the sentimental, if your family has some holiday traditions, if possible, be sure to include them in your holiday activity plans.
8. Try something new. Traditions are great, but sometimes families find themselves in a rut, celebrating the holidays in exactly the same fashion, year after year. And, this can result in your family experiencing a holiday funk. So, think about finding a new way to celebrate the holiday season this year. You may just create a new tradition that will keep going for generations!
9. Spend money responsibly. The following is simple but good advice for every family at Christmastime: Don’t spend beyond your means and avoid piling up credit card debt! While your family may be thrilled by expensive gifts on Christmas Day, don’t forget that come springtime, your kids may well have laid aside or forgotten those gifts, even while you’re struggling to make the payments. Decide now to be financially responsible this holiday season!
10. Carve out some time for yourself! Don’t take on all of the responsibilities of your family’s holiday celebrations by yourself. Share the load. Create some space during the holidays for you to recharge your own batteries.