It’s that time of year…
Time for festivities, family, fun, and feasts. Unfortunately, it also can be a time of overstimulation, overindulgence, and overwhelming stress for us and our children.
As parents, we are gatekeepers; we ultimately determine the climate and culture of our home by what we allow in, both literally and figuratively. This time of year, it’s especially easy to get busy and distracted, meaning we may be compromising the well-being of ourselves and our family in the name of the Christmas Spirit.
So many years, I’ve gotten all wrapped up in the doings of the season, that I’ve neglected the things I love most about it; the wonder, mystery, beauty, and love it represents.
Something I am hoping to practice this this year is simplifying the holidays. My hope it to look ahead to the Christmas season with intentionality. I want to choose planning over procrastinating, resting over rushing, quality over quantity. This will require some attention and restraint, but I think that it will be worth it for our whole family.
You may find it will be worth it for your family, too.
Planning instead of Procrastinating
I’ve been late to a family get-together on December 26th because I had to run my Christmas cards to the post office. I’ve hosted Christmas gatherings in which I was so overwhelmed by the amount of food I chose to prepare that I didn’t even enjoy myself. I’ve been a Scrooge to my children when I’ve tried to accomplish too many things in too little time.
In effort to prevent myself from the stress and negativity that comes with procrastination, I’ve chosen to prioritize planning this year. When I take time to plan, I am so much more relaxed and at peace, and when I’m more relaxed and at peace, my family is, too.
One thing we are doing as a family this year is discussing, ahead of time, what things we hope to do this time of year and making a “Christmas list” of things we would like to do. This way, we can be sure we do the things that are most important to us as a family instead of getting caught up in impromptu events that may be fun, but can be overwhelming.
Another big part of planning during the holiday season looks like keeping an up-to-date calendar and weekly to-do list. The calendar gets the “bigger” items like festive activities and appointments, family get togethers, etc. The weekly to-do list includes things from a daily meal plan (hoping to keep it healthy and limit those I’m-too-tired-let’s-eat-instant-macaroni-and-cheese nights), a weekly shopping list, household chores, daily activities, a date-night or two, and, something I often neglect, self-care.
Planning takes forethought. It requires carving out time before the busy season to discuss that family Christmas bucket list and time each week to think about and plan the week ahead. But I am learning more all the time that a little intentional time spent planning actually saves time, money, missed expectations, and energy later on.
Resting instead of Rushing
There are endless things that can be done during the holiday. Each day could be filled with cookie-making, Christmas movies, shopping, performances, parties, you know, “good stuff.” But just like anything else, too much of a good thing ceases to be good for us. It’s important to prioritize rest, especially with a season characterized with “hustle and bustle.”
One way to do this is to set aside time for rest, a sabbath, for your family. Reserve a night of the week for a family night in. Put it on your calendar and protect it. Then, do whatever it is that is restful or peaceful for your family. Maybe it’s doing a puzzle together, preparing and enjoying a meal, singing songs, reading a book together, telling stories, snuggling. Whatever it is, make time for it, and don’t let other things interfere.
Then, with all of the other days of the week, consider each potential activity critically; is this activity something my family values? Is this something that will bring us closer together? Is it good for us? Will this make a lasting memory? If the answer is yes, go for it! But if it’s going to add to the chaos of the season, consider letting it go. It’s ok to say “no” if it means preserving a sense of calm for your family.
Investing in and resting with my husband is another thing I want to make time for. We often can get so distracted with parenting, work, church, and house-keeping that we neglect time together. I want to enjoy this season with my best friend, not survive it, so that means at least one date night and planning for screen-less, intentional conversation.
Don’t forget to prioritize personal rest as well. I know for myself, the time I can rest best is in the early morning before the kids wake up, or while they are taking their naps. It’s hard for me to choose self-care over being productive, but I often find that I am a kinder, more loving wife and mother when I do.
I’m planning on practicing stillness and awareness through reading, listening to beautiful music, yoga stretches, snuggling with my loved ones, and quiet reflection. I don’t want to miss out on what this beautiful season has to offer because I was rushing through it.
There is a lot to be gained when we slow down, simplify our schedule, and rest.
Quality instead of Quantity
This season, more than any, seems to push the concept of “more.” More decorations, more gifts, more food, more events, more generosity, more fun. Unfortunately, it can also mean more debt, more stress, more guilt, more exhaustion, more disappointment.
Choosing quality over quantity will teach us to be content with less and enjoy what we have more. There are a lot of areas in which we can practice this discipline.
For gifts, it means being intentional about choosing high-quality items that offer something more than a momentary thrill. For me, it means trying to buy more items from small businesses instead of the big stores, even if it means spending a little more money. It means getting our children fewer things, but things that are better-made, more useful, and more beautiful than the stuff I find in the circulars.
Choosing quality over quantity over gifts is more work. It requires intentionality. It means paying attention to my loved one’s actual needs and desires and limiting my gift giving to that. It means admiring, but walking past the dollar bins at Target. But it also means I am spending my money wisely, that I am teaching my children that they don’t need a lot to be happy.
Quality over quantity also goes for our time spent. Choosing quality activities is more important than filling the schedule. A few quality interactions with family and friends is worth a lot, but spending a ton of time together while distracted by our phones or the Hallmark channel is not.
It applies to how we decorate our home for the holidays. It’s not necessarily beneficial to cover every inch of the home with tinsel, to set up a tree in every room. Visual stimulation can affect our well-being as well, and while I love cozy Christmas decorations, a cluttered living environment is not peaceful.
Choosing quality food this time of year is an excellent gift to our family and something I want to prioritize this year. While it requires planning, healthy, delicious meals that nourish our bodies and souls will better prepare our physical selves to enjoy the season. When we are less busy and less exhausted from a full schedule, it’s more enjoyable to make homemade meals. Treats and sweets are part of what makes the season so fun, but too much can take a toll, so I want to encourage savoring sweet treats minimally in order to enjoy them more.
We need to consider, too, the holiday entertainment and media we expose ourselves to. Is the Christmas music we’re listening beautiful, does it move or excite us? If not, perhaps silence would be better. Do the movies we watch reflect our family values or have a sentimental significance? If not, perhaps we ought to use our time in a more life-giving way. Making room for silence and stillness this season will surely provide a much-needed balance to the overstimulation we often give into.
Simplifying the Holidays
The Christmas season is truly wonderful. I want to enjoy every minute of it and wake up on Boxing Day reflecting on what a meaningful time it was for me and my family. It’s my hope that by prioritizing planning, rest, and the quality things in life, we will better be able to embrace the gift of Christ and all the love, joy, peace, beauty, wonder, and grace that comes with it.
It’s my prayer for you too, dear reader.