By Sarah Wilson
Will you be having a happy Christmas this year, or a hectic, hurried one? I love Christmas. I love everything about it. That is, apart from the rush. Last Christmas I was madly crafting and baking……and blogging about it too. And in years before that I’ve been known to attempt to make truffle towers and gingerbread houses from scratch with a toddler under my feet. But this year, with house renovations going on and family staying, I’m trying to take it easy.
Do we in our society make the Christmas season a little crazy? If we are not careful this busy season can just fly by in a blur. By all means elf on the shelf if you want to, please don’t let me stop you. But for many of us perhaps the key is to find a way to enjoy Christmas without running oneself ragged. Many psychological studies that have demonstrated that people do often experience more stress in the lead up to Christmas. I wonder whether this may be especially so in the southern hemisphere, where Christmas, and the end of the academic year coincide. Prize givings, end of year school productions, shared lunches, and gifts for teachers is an equation that often equals frazzled parents and grumpy kids. In addition, it is summer so instead of the quieter advent season that you may have in the northern hemisphere due to the colder weather before Christmas, many families also go away on their main holiday of the year on boxing day or soon after. So not only are you winding down from school, getting ready for Christmas, but you are also having to organise and pack for your holiday which may be camping or the like. No simple feat especially if you have smallies (aka children).
A Slow, Simple Christmas is not about doing away with Christmas. Instead, it’s about taking the crazy out of Christmas and figuring out how to have a simple joyous celebration in the midst of a hurried life. Perhaps we can learn from the slow food movement, cultivating a Christmas celebration that is sustainable, nourishing, and deeply delicious.
There are many factors that are beyond our control, however here are a my top ten tips to ensure that it‟s a time of year that refreshes you, rather than one that raises your blood pressure.
1. Plan ahead
Dont keep Christmas in your head. Get it down on paper (or download a Christmas planning app!). I devised a Christmas planner that is one page, as I am aiming to keep my Christmas Plan to one sheet of A4 this year.
Write out your list of things to do, then strike through the tasks that are neither urgent nor essential. Look at what‟s left and see what you could delegate, e.g. give someone responsibility for buying and putting up decorations. Your ‘to do‟ list will instantly shrink.
3. Presence or Presents?
Is Christmas about spending time in the presence of family and friends or is it about presents? Taking the consumerism out of Christmas can be a way to simplify this season. If you are buying presents, shopping online or through catalogues can minimize stress. Another option is to do all your Christmas shopping in one day as this helps focus you. Last week I went into town and had a Christmas shopping blitz. I often joke that now that I am a mother of three I shop like a man. I write a list, I go to the shop and get what is on the list, and then I get out quick! Gift for Life and other catalogues can be ideal gifts for the person who has everything. (http://www.giftforlife.co.nz/). And I have often wondered whether our children today acquire too many gifts. We have decided in our family to give our children one gift plus a stocking. After all, they are thoroughly spoiled by other relatives!
Gift Labels for Kids
4. To write Christmas cards or not to write Christmas cards?
This year we have decided not to send christmas cards in the post. Not to mention the cost of sending cards overseas, but I also find that sending christmas cards is rather labour intensive for me. So this year we are sending a card and brief newsletter by email instead.
5. Learn to Say No. Limit obligations (such as Christmas cards for example) and just do what you can.
6. Practise self-care. As women we are always giving to others. But like a car, we can’t keep going and going without refuelling. Find something that nourishes and refreshes you during this busy season.
7. Practice giving this Christmas season. If you have the time and resources, find a way to bless others, whether it is someone in financial need, someone recently widowed or someone who is ill. There is heartache everywhere we look.
8. Cultivate Christmas traditions that won’t cause undue stress to maintain each year. Instead of making a gingerbread house from scratch as I tried to one year, this year we are going to simply turn ice cream cones upside down to make Christmas trees and decorate them with icing and sweets. My husband makes a birthday cake for Jesus and on Christmas Day we sing Happy Birthday to Jesus. Don’t compare your efforts to others. It doesn’t have to be Pinterest perfect. Celebrate Christmas your way.
9. And on Christmas Day – create a calming atmosphere. If cooking stresses you out, opt for a simple BBQ, a pot luck lunch or eat out at a restaurant or hotel. Not only does this omit the menu planning and food preparation, it also means that you don’t have to wash up.
10. Most importantly, have fun. Find out what is important to you at Christmas. For us it is about ‘unwrapping the greatest gift’ – the baby in the manger.