National Stress-Free Holiday Month - is there such a thing as a stress-free December? Many families have begun to simplify the whole process in several ways, some of which might work for your own family.
An introduction to my first article might be in order here. This is an article I wrote in response to what I see as the often hectic, even manic, process of getting ready for Christmas - here politically correctly referred to as 'the holidays'. It really shouldn't be so stressful that once the big day arrives you are ready to collapse. Over the years I've managed to streamline things for myself, and I offer a hint or two to help make the season easier, if not brighter for Seniors - for everybody.
First category on our lists: Gifts! I’m sure that if you are at the base of a very large family tree you are having a hard time just thinking of suitable gifts for everyone on those branches and twigs, much less going out to buy, and then wrap and, perhaps, mail the gifts. It’s no longer fun when it becomes a chore or when the monetary end of it gets out of hand. Some families stop giving gifts to those married or over twenty-one, those no longer children. In some families they do a grab bag swap, in others the adult exchange gifts under a certain dollar amount. Many families have eliminated gifts for all but those in their own households - after all, is it great fun to open them - and they make instead a nice charitable contribution in the name of the family.
Next: Holiday Cards. Many folks streamline the card process by having them printed with their names, and then use printed labels for the addresses. Good for them! Good for me! I then can streamline my own list by eliminating them from it. When you care to send the very least, without even a hand-written “Hi, how are you?”, it says to me that we must not mean too much to each other. Cards are one of my favorite parts of the holidays. I make, write and address them all by hand, so I am less than appreciative of the shortcuts.
Then there are those almost ubiquitous holiday letters. I read this recently: “Holiday letters are a lot like fruitcake. People either love them or hate them.” Too true! I can love ‘em or hate ‘em, depending on how well they’re done. I’ve retired friends who are great travelers and who send letters filled with wonderful pictures and highlights of their experiences. I’ve other retired friends who regale their readers with pages of the minutiae of their own, their children’s, and grandchildren’s daily lives - boring, to be truthful. Can you guess which ones I keep and which I toss right out?
Cards or letters, you can make life easier for yourself by tackling the job early - everything begins in January. Update your card list early in the new year (be ruthless!), then save money by buying your cards at the January sales. Begin working on your holiday letter as the newsworthy events occur. Start writing the cards and wrapping up the holiday letter just after Thanksgiving. Sounds easy and, when you start early and stick to it, it is.
Here’s a good topic: Decorations. To do or over-do, that is up to you. When we moved to Sun City, though our house here is bigger, it was the perfect opportunity to cut down on the ornamentation. I passed on their favorite ornaments to our children, and gave away a lot of the extraneous décor. What I kept, for indoors and out, now fits in three 14-gallon totes. This year I may decide to pare down even further, using more fresh flowers because they don’t require future storage! It can be counterproductive to use all your decorative pieces just because you always have. Pass most of them down, cull out a lot, and cherish the very best of the rest. It’s always fun to pull out the decorations, saying hello to old favorites. It’s less fun to have to take everything down, dust it all off, find the right boxes, and pack it up again. Revel in the simplicity of minimal décor and less to store! Oh - that rhymes!
Last, but not least in our hearts: Food!! Are you still cooking the whole meal from soup to nuts? You are either a glutton for punishment or a control freak. Let some of the younger generation start to hone their culinary skills. Pass the torch, and then promise to bring along your specialty - the family favorite appetizer, zesty carrots, or praline pumpkin pie. How’s that for stress-free!?
Many families are choosing to have their major holiday feast cooked by others. Some have it catered and brought to the house - a great idea, but there is still the clean-up to be done. Others go all out and go out. Many like to have a festive restaurant meal on the night before, then rest and recuperate and open some presents the next day. Many must have the main meal on the main day. Either way, you can use Google to search for restaurants in our area that will be open on the various holidays. This is the least work, the least worry all ‘round.
December is a month for all - enjoy all thirty-one days! You can do it!
(originally entered December 5, 2010)