How to simplify the holiday season

Photo: Geber86/iStock

Let me just start by admitting: I’m writing this to help all of us, myself included. The holiday season – Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s – can get a bit out of hand and out of budget sometimes. It can be tempting to get caught up in the “secularness” of it all, at least for me.

We want to invite over all the people, cook all the meals, do all the traditions, and watch our children’s faces light up over the gifts they so desperately wanted. And then just like that, we’re left with piles of crumpled up wrapping paper, dirty dishes, and bills we’d like to throw in the trash. And our little slices of fun family vacation time are over, yet we’re more exhausted than ever.

We can freely enjoy the holiday season if we just let go and focus on the true meaning of the holidays. Each of these holidays has a Catholic aspect and a lesson to be learned.

Thanksgiving wouldn’t have been possible without the Fransican friars who allowed Squanto to live with them after he escaped captivity in Spain. Squanto evenutally returned to the New World and the rest is history.

Christmas, well it’s all really about the gift of Jesus, right?

New Year’s: Kick it off with confession and Mass and an attempt to do better in the new year. New Year’s Day is the Solemnity of Mary, the Holy Mother of God, a holy day of obligation. Follow her mothering lead and ask for her help in the new year.

Use these tips to get you through with more joy and less stress.

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Give the gift of time

We accumulate so much stuff in our lives, even when we don’t mean to. Instead of giving toys to all the nieces and nephews, plan a big family day of fun. If that won’t work because of distance, maybe you could plan to watch the same holiday movie at the same time and Skype together. If gifts are a must among your family, you could ask what they would like that isn’t a toy or an item. Maybe a membership to a local aquarium or museum would be fun for your nieces and nephews. The trick is to think outside the box.

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Don’t sweat the cookies

When you’re baking those holiday treats for the neighbors, schedule it for a time and day when you don’t have anything else to do. Having to keep an eye on the clock is stressful! If the kids are helping to bake, don’t sweat it. Everyone will prefer the creativity of those messy but beautiful sugar cookies over the ones that are so perfect it looks like you bought them at the store.


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Make your party a potluck

Inviting your entire extended family over for the holidays sounds like a lot of fun – and it is. It’s also a lot of work. No one will mind pitching in and bringing a dish or dessert to share. It will ease the load for you and allow everyone to prepare their favorite holiday dish to share.



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Make a list and decipher it twice

I admire people who get their Christmas shopping done early. I tried that once and just ended up buying twice as many gifts for my children. Don’t grab random items just because you know your children will love them. Have them make their Santa list, then narrow it down to three bigger items and anything you can fit in their stockings. Then double check that there isn’t anything else you wanted to buy them or that they wanted and forgot to list. After you purchase what’s on the list, don’t even look at another store flyer.

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Skip the Christmas letter

If you take the time to write a lengthy family update letter each Christmas but you dread it every year, just skip it. Send a picture card. It’s simple. It’s easy. And everyone will love to hang up the pictures of your adorable kiddos or grandkiddos.



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Cut down on the decorating

Unless you love it, don’t get overwhelmed by decorating. Those bundles of Christmas lights can cause couples to fight, and that’s not in the spirit of Christmas. You don’t have to have the brightest house on the block if it creates a stressful family life.



The holidays shouldn’t make you want to cry tears of agony. Do what you can and what makes your family feel the true joy of the holiday season.



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