9 Ways to Simplify the Holiday Season
Are you a list maker?
It might be crunched up in a pocket next to spare change, hiding at the bottom of a bag, buried near keys and Chapstick, stuck to the dashboard, or tucked under a magnet on the kitchen fridge. Regardless of the well-intentioned locations, these lists are daily reminders of what needs accomplishing before the celebratory days near.
This time of year, your list probably includes several tasks, including the sometimes overwhelming task of gift-giving. Just looking at these important notes jotted down can give a person that swirly feeling of angst inside.
Long checklists can easily cause stress and overwhelm. Let’s change that. Here are nine ways to simplify the holiday season.
Photo from Shutterstock
1) Focus on your family's meaning of the holiday.
It is so easy to get caught up in the holiday whirlwind that you can lose sight of what is important to your friends and family circle. Simplifying the holidays sometimes means stepping back and refocusing on traditions that bring warmth and joy. If gift-giving or mandatory event attendance doesn’t make everyone happy, then it's time to let those traditions go and focus on new ideas that fit the crowd’s idea of a happy holiday.
Before the holidays, discuss your family’s unique take on togetherness. Is it a day of festive feasting at grandma’s, a couple of hours reconnecting at a restaurant with the people you love most, or a meet-up at a local volunteer event? There aren’t rules—just an invitation to customize an event that captures what is truly important to your people.
2) Highlight your faith traditions.
This time of year is the best chance to renew your spiritual goals. Slow down the frenetic pace and focus on what this faith-filled season means to you and your family. Each family's faith is unique, so plan to attend events that speak to your way of celebrating. Worship services, concerts, volunteer activities, children's parties, and church social groups are all ideas to bring back into focus the best of what your faith has to offer.
In the spirit of the season, consider attending a holiday event based on a faith not your own. Bringing a community together and ministering to out-of-town guests is usually a central theme for most religions during the holiday season, so you won’t be alone in exploring new faith traditions.
Live near Alexandria, Virginia? Check out these special holiday events.
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3) Reduce gift giving.
Today, more than ever, people have access to whatever they need and want almost instantly, whether shopping in person or online. This can make meaningful gift-giving difficult. Your family and friends may decide to revamp how you share gifts during this time of abundance.
- If you have a lot of people on your shopping list, plan ahead to draw names. With this idea, gift-giving is limited to only the name each person has drawn.
- Another idea is to trim the shopping list to only those who mean the most to you. Then, find one appealing item for each person.
- Sometimes, the best gift is something homemade. Consider swapping homemade goodies if you have a circle of people with artistic, crafty, or food-inspired talents.
These changes may seem difficult, so let go of any guilty feelings for giving fewer gifts. The real joy of the season is in the meaning of the holiday you are celebrating, not in the per-person gift quota.
4) Give the gift of your time.
When you ask many people (often military families) what they wish they had more of, they answer, “time.” Time to hang out with loved ones, time to make more memories, and time to appreciate the moment. This year, buy fewer presents and instead buy experiences to share more time with one another.
A few suggestions for gifts of your time and attention are:
- A gift card to a coffee house is perfect for an epic catch-up session.
- Paid admission to a museum, zoo, or aquarium.
- Purchased tickets to the movies, a play, or a sporting event.
- A scheduled hobby activity like painting pottery or an archery class.
The good thing about your time is that it’s in demand by just about everyone, from nieces and nephews to grandparents and siblings.
5) Donate to a favorite charity.
Write a letter explaining the mission statement of your favorite charities. Describe what the organization does and why you support them. Send this information to your giftees and ask each to choose which organization speaks to them. Then, donate to that charity in their name. This worthwhile gift may be the most valuable item under the tree.
Remember, you can also donate your time to your favorite charity over the holidays; most need extra hands during the busy season.
Photo from Wreaths Across America
6) Give the gift of volunteer service.
There’s a reason volunteer time remains a top holiday gift year after year. It brings family and friends together and serves the greater good, especially if you’re interested in serving the military community. Many organizations on and off military bases would appreciate your support.
Check out military support organizations near you and ask how you can help. Here are a few:
- Wreaths Across America
- Toys for Tots
- Military relief societies
Volunteering in your community is a true gift. Helping hands are always needed at shelters, meal centers, and food pantries. If your schedule is too hectic during the holiday season, plan to help in the new year.
7) Remember, change can be good.
If there are tasks you’ve done year after year that bring an uncomfy vibe, don’t hesitate to change things up. A once-a-year tradition should bring joy, not frustration or resentment. Think of what you enjoy most with your holiday plans and focus on those things.
So, ditch the obligatory homemade fruit cake if no one eats it, and say goodbye to overdone Christmas decorations if you dread schlepping in and out of the attic. The season goes by too quickly to dread any unnecessary tasks.
Photo from Shutterstock
8) Take a time out.
This special season only comes around once a year. When the busy days seem chock full of worry and stress, take a personal time out. Find your happy place and channel inner peace.
- Cuddle up in a plush blanket with fuzzy slippers.
- Sip from a mug of comforting cocoa or tea by the warmth of a crackling fire.
- Dim the lights and admire the twinkle from a decorated tree.
- Recall favorite holiday memories while soothing music plays softly in the background.
9) What happens, happens!
Let go of the idea that every detail has to be perfect to have a happy holiday. As military life often reminds us, the best memories usually happen when nothing goes as planned! Even if your list is incomplete, you can still celebrate. Plus, you’ll have great stories of how things actually went down that you'll later look back and laugh about!
As the holidays near, let’s do things differently. Let’s put down the list, take a deep breath, and collect our thoughts for a moment. Consider these tips to enjoy the simple pleasures that abound this time of year.
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