What is supposed to be the most wonderful time of the year can quickly turn into the craziest. We live in a time when Thanksgiving gets skipped over in favor of Black Friday, consumerism peaks to an all time high and our schedules fill up with school Christmas programs, office holiday parties and family get togethers. It can reach a frenzy where one begins to wonder if anyone actually enjoys all of this or if the true meaning of Christmas is completely lost. Aside from the obvious religious meanings of the holidays, I find the true spirit of Christmas to be family and friends. A time for togetherness, traditions and to be thankful. Like anyone I can easily find myself caught up in the craziness of the season. Over the years, I have worked hard to bring things back to the simplest basics to make the holidays the magical time they are supposed to be.
DECIDE WHICH TRADITIONS ARE NON-NEGOTIABLE
Think about what is most important to you and your family for the holidays. Which activities you would be sad to miss out on. Decide on these and then say no to any other invitations. It’s easy to be tempted to say yes to everything you see that has to do with Christmas, but then you end up overstretched and stressed, not to mention it can get expensive. For my family going out to the mountains to cut down a tree is a must. We bring along hot cocoa and sleds to make a day of it. Decorating the tree is another tradition I won’t compromise on. We turn on Christmas music, spend the day making the house look like the North Pole and finish the evening with pizza dinner. Taking my daughters to one Christmas performance such as the Nutrcracker, but saying no to the rest. Baking cookies with cousins. Christmas morning with just our small family...all non-negotiables. I can say no to work parties, Christmas shopping sales, eggnog, holiday cards and even the downtown stroll (although I do enjoy that!) but I know before the season begins which traditions are closest to my heart.
SHOP EARLY, LOCAL AND ONLINE
It is so easy to get caught up in the consumerism of this holiday. This is the hardest for me because I want to spoil our children this one day because we rarely do the other 364 of the year. I want to buy things for all the nieces and nephews, friends, neighbors... everyone. This simply doesn’t work and the stress of it can make you crazy. I cut our list down and simplify. I try to shop early and shop local. It is so much nicer to take a stroll downtown, popping in small shops along the way to find a treasure rather than fighting in line for the latest toy at the big box store. I also love the idea of shopping from my couch and having it show up at the door a few days later. I try to not forget the value of doing simple things... making cookies for teachers or neighbors. A nice way for people to know you are thinking of them this time of year without going broke trying to buy gifts.
WATCH LOTS OF HOLIDAY MOVIES
When things get hectic just stop. Stop the running around, wrapping gifts, going to events. Nothing slows things down like staying in and curling up on the couch with a cheesy Christmas movie. Hot chocolate and marshmallows included of course.
ONE DAY AT A TIME
We live in a time when Christmas makes its appearance before Halloween gets its turn. This can make it hard to slow down. Remember to finish enjoying the turkey dinner and giving thanks before putting up Santa Clause. Take it one day at time and resist the urge to look at the calendar and realize there are only a few weeks until Christmas day. That way you can focus on what is happening in that moment and you don’t suddenly wake up and it’s all over. Because then we’re just stuck in the middle of a Montana winter.
CREATE MEMORIES OVER GIFTS
Keep the spirit of Christmas alive by making it more about experiences than gifts. Family, friends, conversations, eat, drink and be merry. These are things that will be remembered, not the gifts you gave or received. These are the things that are passed on for generations.
Whatever you believe in, however you celebrate may this holiday season bring you love, happiness and so much cheer.
Angela Jamison is a native Montanan and she grew up in beautiful Bozeman. I'm the mother of two girls and write a blog about our life here and taking in the simple pleasures of family and food.