The holidays are almost here. If like me, you find the months of November and December simultaneously overwhelming and exciting, then I am here to offer some advice on how to have the best holiday available to you. The ladies at Pantsuit Politics love to say to “have the best day available to you”. This year I am committing to take that concept and apply it to the holidays. My goal for this year is to have the best holiday available to me.
Moms often feel this overwhelming responsibility to ensure the holidays are special and memorable. We want to do All. The. Things. As my children are getting older, I find myself often feeling even more pressured to have an unforgettable holiday. There is often tension in my own home as we try to navigate our social calendar during the holiday season. (I’ll let you take a guess on who is trying to cram in as much holiday fun as we can!)
To (hopefully) employ the concept of having the best holiday available to me, I am here to share my planned strategy. Below are my three tips to ensure that you have the best holiday available to you.
To have the best holiday available to you: Do what brings you joy and forget the rest.
There are so many activities, events, and family functions calling for our time, attention, and energy that it can very quickly spiral into a chaotic mess of hurrying from one commitment to another. One benefit from the pandemic has been that I have become more immune to FOMO. While we will likely still be busier than ideal, we are not going to do events that don’t fit our family. For us, that means we will go to Merry Prairie at Conner Prairie but skip the Nutcracker. While extended family commitments can be harder and more nuanced to navigate, I hope we all can be more comfortable with being more transparent about what does (and doesn’t) work for our own families.
Consider bringing in your holiday meal or ordering in some of it to give yourself more time to be present during the holidays. I actually love to cook but when I get such precious little time with extended family, bringing in the meal brings me joy! And, if turkey isn’t your thing then eat whatever will bring you joy! The same can be said for crafts and any number of traditional holiday “requirements”.
Ask your family what they love most about the holidays. If time and budget are really limited, consider allowing each person to choose one event or activity they are really looking forward to. I was recently informed by my children that one of their favorite fall traditions is to light a fall scented candle when the calendar turns to September 1st. We had started doing this when we lived in Phoenix to pretend fall’s arrival was imminent. It literally took two minutes to put a smile on their face and make a memory. A reminder that sometimes the best memories are simple and easy to make.
To have the best holiday available to you: Remember to serve.
Research shows that when we participate in acts of service, we feel more satisfied. That means we will spend some time as a family participating in acts of service.
Some easy ideas include: volunteering at a food pantry, shopping for an organization to provide gifts, making cards for a nursing home, delivering baked goods to an elderly neighbor, allowing your children to choose a gift to randomly give to another child while out and about, etc.
One act of service that is a family favorite in our home is the brainchild of my oldest. A few years ago, she started a gift exchange for the neighborhood kids. (Kids fill out a Google Form with their name, address, and 3 small gift ideas they’d like to receive). Each year she chooses a philanthropic donation and when the neighborhood kids come to pick up their Secret Santa assignment they drop off their donation. Every year we look forward to the spreading of Christmas cheer both in and out of our neighborhood.
To have the best holiday available to you: Extend Grace to yourself and to others.
I can appreciate a good centerpiece and well-coordinated party as much as anyone. I do, however, think there is something to keeping it simple. Inviting others in without the expectation of an elaborately planned party can be very liberating. I personally appreciate when a friend says, “our house is a mess, but you’re welcome to come hang” because it provides an element of realness and authenticity. But, if a show-stopping tablescape brings you joy (remember tip 1!), then table scape away!
Social media will soon be filled with posts celebrating homemade cookies and sweet treats. Some years I have done a lot of homemade baking with my children. Some years though, I just don’t have it in me and I have bought readymade cookie dough and frosting. I’ve learned my kids are content whether I’ve spent hours prepping the ingredients or not. So, if homemade baking doesn’t enhance your holiday, skip it or do a Target pickup instead!
We have a tendency in our culture to promote toxic positivity. This can be particularly true, as we’ve navigated a global pandemic. By engaging in comparative suffering (I can’t be sad because my pain isn’t as bad as someone else’s pain) we don’t do ourselves any favors. Similarly, we need to make sure we are not minimizing the pain someone else may be experiencing. In short, the last two years have been hard. We can demonstrate some much-needed empathy to our friends and family by meeting them where they are and not expecting everyone to feel 100% joyous this holiday season.
While I am sure I will not be perfect in my implementation, I am prepared to do my best to have the best holiday available to me. I wish you, fellow mamas, the best holiday available to you!