It was the Christmas meltdown of all Christmas meltdowns.
That December I was going to make it the most magical Christmas ever for my family. Like a general going into battle, I laid out a list of decorating goals that would make Joanna Gaines dizzy. My repertoire of holiday dishes I wanted to cook would make the Pioneer Woman curl up in a corner and eat peanut butter straight from the jar.
But we were a new family. Roger and I had each brought two kids into the marriage and let’s just say we were all out of chill at this point. Everyone was grumpy and dreading the holidays. It was all up to me to make sure that we had the best Christmas ever so that this family could finally start getting along. (I know, you are already shaking your head. But as the newly minted mom of this blended family of six, I was desperate to make something, anything, work.)
So while I revved up all my best elf skills and practically killed myself to provide the Christmas I thought everyone wanted, the only person’s attitude that changed was mine. I started to resent everything the holiday stood for. Instead of joy and peace I was into full-blown bitter and anxiety. Not exactly the Christmas look I was going for.
I’m sure you’ve been smarter than I have in Yuletide past, but it may be a year of financial, time, or relational stress, and I want you to be realistic about what you can — and should — do during the season.
One of the best ways to get out from the overwhelm of Christmas is to decide early exactly what you are — and are not — going to do. (And can I just tell you, deciding what not to do is the most freeing thing you can do to enjoy your Christmas.)
Think through all the things that you would like to do, and then figure out exactly how much time, energy, and money it will take to make those happen. And then you can decide which ones are actually going to contribute to you and your people’s joy this season.
And here’s the trick: the earlier you decide on all of this, the less strain it will be on your calendar, pocketbook and psyche.
When you plan ahead, you get to do the things you’ve always wanted to do, not just the things you’re expected to do.
If I wait to give my leftover time, money and energy to the places that are important to me (church, charities I care about, friends and family and neighbors in need) it will never happen. But if all of that can be part of my Christmas planning stage, I’m so much more likely to make it happen and have a holiday that actually represents my values.
Make a list of your priorities.
Some decisions can be made by you and you alone. If your family leaves Christmas up to you, then you get the most say in what happens or doesn’t happen. Some things to consider — will you:
- Take a family photo (Do you need to buy new clothes or hire a photographer?)
- Send Christmas cards (Will you have them printed? Do you have all the mailing addresses you need?)
- Visit family and friends (What will be the cost of flights and hotels or Airbnbs?)
- Exchange gifts with extended family (Be sure to include mailing costs, etc.)
- Bake cookies
- Go out with friends (Or could you host a “no-host” dinner at your house and have everyone bring something?)
- Buy gifts for coworkers (Or, could you suggest everyone just go out to dinner together instead?)
Think through the activities that you actually want to do, and then think through the cost (time, money, energy) and decide which ones are worth it to you.
Talk to the stakeholders in your holiday.
What if you’ve decided you don’t get enough joy from making Christmas cookies, so you want to mark that off your list, but your 14-year-old son says it’s not Christmas without peppermint meringue cookies?
Then this is the year to start teaching your son how to make those cookies. Start to pass down the traditions that are important to each of your family members so they can fully participate in the holidays.
Want more tips for planning a peaceful Christmas?
With the Christmas Project Planner, we ask all of these questions and more, so you can have the intentional holiday that celebrates the things that are important to you. Each of the 21 projects is designed to help you create a meaningful, peaceful Christmas for you and your loved ones.
Today is the perfect time to order your planner and get started planning to avoid those Christmastime meltdowns and disappointments.