Christmas is absolutely my favorite holiday. To be honest, Christmas is probably my favorite time of the entire year, and if I had my way, Thanksgiving through New Years would be a season all its own called “Awesomeness in Season Form.”
What? You don’t believe me? Let me illustrate.
Last year on a crisp snowy morning in early December, I walked out my front door to go to class and screamed bloody murder. Both of my roommates came running from their respective rooms to see who had shot at me, but were befuddled to find me jumping up and down and squealing something like “ChristmaslightslookChristmaslights!” They were not very pleased with me.
Because of my intense holiday spirit, it always baffles me that magazines and television have all these specials on how to “survive” the holidays. I mean I sort of float through the hot chocolate and cookies and lights, so the idea that it could actually be a hassle for some people just makes me crazy sad.
But I understand. There is a lot to do this time of the year. Shopping, budgeting, decorating, traveling, eggnogging, party-going, baking, wrapping presents, sending Christmas cards, working… I get it. The holidays can be a time-suck.
But here’s the thing, it doesn’t have to be. And I alone hold the keys to unlocking a stress-free Christmas. Just read along and you’ll have a key-ring full of wisdom.
The first secret is: just say no.
Let’s practice. No, I will not buy your teacher a gift. No, I can’t attend your Christmas party. No, I can’t bring a covered dish to dinner. No, I’m not baking chocolate chip cookies. No, I am not sending a Christmas card to everyone in my address book. See how easy it is?
But I will admit, saying no is a hard art to master. Sometimes you really want to say yes. When I am swimming in the I-don’t-know-what-to-say sea, I ask myself one simple little question: Will baking these ridiculously complicated oatmeal-cinnamon-raisin cookies or donating to this charity or sending Aunt Kiki a Christmas card make me happy? If the answer is yes, then do it.
The second key on your ring of success is to utilize your shopping skills.
Let me illustrate what I mean. Instant mashed potatoes. Frozen pies. Gift-wrapping services. Gift bags. Gift cards. Pre-lit trees. Dollar-store decorations. And that’s just the beginning. Pick two or three things you really like to make during the holidays and get the rest from the store. No one can tell the difference between your Grandma’s hundred-year-old gravy recipe and a jar from Heinz. Just buy pre-made and your stress-o-meter will instantly go down five notches.
The third key to enjoying the season: appreciate the little things.
Hot chocolate. Snow flakes. Smiling rosy-cheeked children. The feel of a fire’s blaze against cold fingers. Sparkling lights. Christmas carols. Family. Friends. And yes, even presents, especially those of the home made variety.
Feasting upon the plethora of small happiness-inducing morsels we are provided with on a day-to-day basis is more satisfying than waiting until Christmas day to stuff our senses. Take time to appreciate what makes the season so special!
The final key to achieving holiday greatness is the hardest to implement but the most efficient in taking the stress-o-meter down to nilch. Just let it go.
So you didn’t get a present for your daughter’s best friend? Remember her birthday. You didn’t get all of the presents wrapped? You are saving the environment. You gained 15 pounds from a binge-night of turkey and chocolate-covered pretzels? Good thing New Years is around the corner! The world isn’t going to end because you missed your boss’s dinner, and it certainly isn’t going to end because you only put out 35 decorations instead of your normal 40.
The point is, you’re only stressed because you let the stress get to you. So just find the silver lining, turn it to gold, and let the problems slide.
If you use the three keys I’ve just handed, you will unlock the door to a relaxed and enjoyable holiday season. Just remember to practice your newfound skills of saying no, utilizing your shopping skills, enjoying the little things, and letting it go.