For years I made fun of my husband’s curmudgeonly complaining about Christmas. Our family joke is that it isn’t really Christmas until daddy says “I hate Christmas.” While he gradually opted out of holiday duties like a man backing away from a hostage situation, I ran around like a hamster on speed baking cookies, wrapping presents, volunteering at the food bank, volunteering in the kids’ schools, whipping up clam chowder and cookies on the same day we got our tree. My husband, clever man that he is, avoids everything except the holiday traditions he truly enjoys. I can just hear all the men across America waking up — What? Is that even possible? Is it really Christmas if I don’t drag out the ladder and risk paralysis for holiday decor?
Now that my kids are older, I’m taking a page from my husband’s playbook and chilling the heck out. I’ve started new traditions. All of them are based on me getting some time to write, enjoy time with my kids and avoid becoming a stressed out basket case.
Here are my top ten hacks:
1) Will planet earth stop revolving if you don’t send out a Christmas card? I might do one for New Years. I might not.
2) God invented Costco to hack Christmas. You don’t have to bake. Buy a huge tin of holiday cookies, open it and light a cinnamon scented candle. Nobody will care. Also, there is another word for dinner: appetizers.
3) Plan meals ahead. We have guests coming to stay at our house. A few weeks before I’ll make a soup and a stew to pop in the freezer. Also I’ll take a trip to that holiday paradise known at Trader Joe’s for food that sits at the front of the fridge so nobody can stand at the fridge and whine that there’s nothing to eat. That was a joke. I have teenagers.
4) I have planned a night out with one of my best girlfriends ahead of the holidays to have some much-needed girl talk before I’m overloaded with people in my home and my dishwasher runs 24/7. Of course after the holidays we’ll need another one to share drunk uncle/catty friend/horrific present stories.
5) My mother gave me some fabulous advise about entertaining: put out flowers (in winter go cut some of your neighbor’s holly — I did) and candles. No one cares how clean your house is or even if the food is fabulous. They just like gatherings and you. Yes, to paraphrase Sally Fields, they like you, they really, really like you.
6) Nix Christmas shopping except for those you truly enjoy buying for. Try online shopping and also, make a day of it somewhere with a friend, have lunch and tackle the whole thing in one afternoon. Tell your kids to have their wish lists on the fridge by a certain date. Now we just hit Black Friday — not for the deals but to see downtown Seattle, get all our shopping done in 3 hours and have lunch. Start a tradition of buying the adults on your list books. Preferably my books.
7) Write down a gratitude journal and detail the things you enjoy every day. This helps so much with stress. Also, notice that you’re sitting down for this one.
8) Take a walk and notice everything you’re enjoying. Yes, it’s called mindfulness and it’s really important this time of year. This weekend I shut off the lights and watched the Christmas tree for a solid hour with the cat on my lap. By myself. Solid heaven.
9) Learn this word and use it: No. You don’t have to be superwoman or man. Because honestly everyone loves you more when you’re relaxed.
10) Recently when I was depressed, a dear friend said (and you have to imagine this in a really adorable Argentinian accent) “Darling, give yourself permission to do what you feel like. If you feel like having a glass of wine during the day — do it. If you want to eat cheese and crackers for dinner and take a bath, give yourself permission to be kind to yourself.”
Happy Holidays and enjoy the season.
Ellyn Oaksmith is the USA Today bestselling author of 50 Acts of Kindness and other books. Visit her at EllynOaksmith.com and join her newsletter for free books, new releases and great reading suggestions.