I like the Christmas season, and I realize not everyone does. I enjoy the decorating, shopping, and gift wrapping. This wasn’t always the case, but now that I’ve cut down on what I do, it’s something I look forward to. I recall feeling guilt in years past because I was not ho-ho-ho-ing during the requisite preparation for the holiday season. Fortunately, I’ve given up or outgrown what I didn’t enjoy, namely:
•Shopping for yet another gift when I thought my standing in line had been complete. The extra trip was usually for a coworker or someone who had given me an unexpected gift. Solution: throughout the year, pick up items suitable as generic gifts, preferably small, easy to wrap items. Better solution: minimize gift-giving. When an unexpected gift is received, take the giver out for coffee or lunch and attempt to come to agreement that instead of exchanging gifts, you will meet to have coffee or lunch for the holidays. Whether you’re able to schedule the meeting depends on how much you like the person.
•Feeling compelled to visit or attend events. When I lived with my parents, my brother and I were pulled away from our toys to make the rounds to exchange gifts and comment on holiday decor at the homes of my grandmother and a few aunts and uncles. Solution: Send early invitations for your holiday open house for a three-hour period. But if tradition mandates you dine at the home of a relative, suck it up or risk dire consequences.
•Decorating until your back is about to crack. When I had small children, every room screamed Christmas. After putting up the tree together—most years—my husband and I decorated the mantle, changed the linens in bathrooms and on furniture, hung wreaths on every window, put up outside lights, wrapped garland around banisters, and placed a small tree in each room. Solution: Everything doesn’t have to be done in one day. Make decorating fun by including everyone possible with Christmas music playing in the background, have a decorating party with friends who don’t mind a little work, and only start a task when you have the energy for it. As our children got older, we reduced the amount of decor. Better solution: Every few years we go on vacation for Christmas. We decorate the hotel room and leave the decor, with a nice tip for the cleaning staff. Alternatively, hire someone to put up and take down your tree, wreaths on windows, and outside lights.
•Baking Christmas cookies and desserts. Certain smells belong in the house at Christmas. Personally, I’m not a cookie person. That’s what bakeries are for. But when my children were younger, having a bowl to lick was par for the course. I swayed them to the smell I like best: gingerbread. The cookies are not difficult to make, though I prefer gingerbread. And eventually they did as well. Now that my children are young adults, I bake our favorite dessert, Bacardi rum cake. Solution: think of baking cookies as an art project. If you’re not into art, purchase the cookies if you must. Treat yourself to the dessert you like.
•Attending office parties. I appreciated office parties as an opportunity to see the true personalities of my coworkers. Many gatherings were corny and I don’t eat just anyone’s food, so I got to say, “No, thanks, I’m not hungry” often, learned who had eating disorders, was entertained by those who were socially misfit, and got to know a few coworkers better whom I later considered friends. Solution: it’s only once a year and sort of mandatory, so enjoy the show.
•Feeling guilty. Christmas is not the time to have regrets, yet I’ve felt there was someone I should have but didn’t reach out to, or something I should have done but didn’t. Solution: Make the call or be an angel to someone who needs one. There are many opportunities to make someone happy, which should alleviate whatever guilt you feel for Christmas past or present. Donate time, items, or money to local shelters, food banks, homes for children, children’s or general hospitals. Or just drive around, locate a homeless person, and give a wrapped or unwapped gift of socks, a warm hat, or gloves.
The best way to enjoy the holidays is to recreate your traditions to allow yourself to remember what the holiday is about and enjoy it. I now do Christmas-lite, a reduced diet of must-do’s that allows me to bask in the happiness of the season.