The night before a holiday dinner I usually have a nightmare along the lines of forgetting to turn on the oven, and discovering it five hours later when the turkey is still raw. My family shows grace and laughs with me because I love to host holiday dinners, but I get, ahem, a little tense before an event involving 20 guests.
I love parties so much that last year in November and December I hosted 6 gatherings, large and small, in our home, not counting a few dinner and breakfast guests. By the time January 1st rolled around, I was exhausted. This year I’m thinking about how to embrace a “less is more” philosophy to slow down to enjoy the holidays.
Here’s my hopeful plan for less stress and more peace and joy during the holidays:
1. Let go of Martha Stewart perfection and enjoy whatever happens.
The first year I hosted Thanksgiving at my house, I was mortified because the turkey fell in dry shreds off of the bones, and my dinner rolls turned out like hockey pucks. Eight years later, I FINALLY realize that a holiday gathering always has one or two mini-fiascos, so I might as well relax and enjoy myself. I don’t have to live up to any “hostess with the mostest” standards.
I don’t have to live up picture perfect holiday décor I see on Pinterest either. I’ll be content to drag out the same tree we’ve used for 10 years. I get out my nativity sets, plunk down a few candles, and presto, the house is decorated.
2. Celebrate advent the whole month long.
My way of emphasizing the spiritual nature of Christmas is to celebrate advent; most nights during December, my family lights our advent wreath. Last year I made a Jesse tree with printable ornaments, and I wrote the corresponding scripture passages on the back of each ornament, so we read God’s story, from creation to Christ. No matter how hectic December gets, lighting candles and reading together brings peace to the soul.
3. Plan what you can and break down tasks.
I have delightful memories of my mom organizing a little family party with snacks, Christmas music, and drinks when we decorated the tree together. When I tried this with my own family, by the time my husband and I fluffed the tree and hung lights on it with super-excited kids trying to “help,” I was a basket case waiting to explode while we hung the ornaments. Now, we get out the tree, and fluff it and hang the lights the day BEFORE we do our decorating party.
4. Choose one (and ONLY ONE!) holiday activity a week that you can do as a family.
I got this idea and the next from Mary Carver’s wonderful blog, Giving Up on Perfect. Here are some ideas:
- Decorate the Christmas tree.
- Go to Starbucks for peppermint mocha lattes.
- Drive around and look at Christmas lights.
- Watch a holiday movie together.
- Go to the church Christmas party.
5. Eliminate stress by streamlining where you can:
- Give the same gift to several people on your list.
- Choose 5 easy meals you like and cook them for your family each week in December.
- For holiday dinners, cook the same tried and true recipes year after year.
6. Embrace Simplicity:
- Rather than hosting a big holiday party, invite one family over for a weekend breakfast or a hearty soup.
- Downsize gift giving by sticking to one or two gifts per family member.
This is my hopeful plan for a peaceful holiday season, I say hopeful because I hope I’ll stick with it! What ideas do you have?