How to Tweak Your Holiday Traditions for Less Stress and More Fun


Are your holiday traditions stressing you out? Maybe it’s time to tweak your seasonal activities for less stress and more fun!

I’ve followed the regular rituals of the season for several decades, but this year I intend to change the frantic schedule and reduce or eliminate some traditional activities. I already feel a wee bit guilty, but here are some stress-reducing actions I’ve planned for this year.

Downsize the Decorations

When my children were small and we lived in a two-story house, I spent hours winding garlands and lights up the bannister on the staircase. Delightful Santas, reindeer, nutcrackers, and snowmen were strategically placed in every room. Artwork was replaced with cheerful Christmas scenes and wreaths adorned several inside and outside doors.

The seven-foot tree was the center of attention and required at least six large boxes of ornaments that were lovingly unpacked, tucked into the branches, and then repacked for storage. This year, I’m planning a small tabletop tree and a few sparkly decorations. I think guests will still come to sit around the fire to sip adult beverages, play carols, and exchange small gifts.

Dim the Outside Lights

Outdoor lighting has become a spectator sport in some neighborhoods. A few people plan all year to create elaborate scenes that cover the entire house and produce dazzling displays choreographed to music.

Hundreds of cars full of festive families clog the streets and irritate the surrounding neighbors as they file past to view the show. This year, I’ve cancelled the lighting project and will hang a glowing wreath on the door. That way, my power bill won’t be so shocking in January.

Keep the Baking Simple

We’ll retain a few traditions; making candy trains with the grandkids and concocting my mother’s sinfully decadent fudge, but I won’t bake a carrot cake with cream cheese frosting or work for hours on fruitcakes that no one wants. Guests and family usually appreciate a cheese plate and a basket of crackers. I’ll keep it simple.

Schedule Time for Myself

It’s easier for me to plan and prepare a dinner for 20 people if I’m rested. I schedule a massage a few days before the event, and I enjoy every second of it.

Find Fun in Giving Simple Gifts

Large families solve the gift-giving dilemma by drawing names so everyone receives a gift and no one needs to take out a second mortgage to buy presents for everyone. My children are grown and have kids of their own, so the families come together for one large feast on Christmas Eve.

We bring small gifts for the children and the adults open humorous “white elephant” gifts that always cause laughter. We’re delighted that our stockings hold an aunt’s jam, a daughter’s framed photos of the kids and a granddaughter’s homemade soap.

Eat the Fudge

I enjoyed the holiday feasts so much last year that I’m still carrying them around on my belly. I try to exercise regularly and be careful about eating too much sugar, but I can’t ignore the fudge. I intend to work out more to justify the calories. My dear departed mom would be so disappointed if I didn’t make and consume her fudge. I do it for her.

Invite New Guests to the Holiday Table

It’s okay if some family members arrive for dinner and include guests with different customs. If Uncle Bob brings visitors from another country, embrace their holiday traditions and share yours. Respect others’ religious beliefs, and don’t give a Santa Claus music box to a Jewish person. The best parties involve a diverse assortment of people who come together to eat, drink, and be merry.

The best way to avoid too much holiday stress is to make detailed lists during early November and stick to your schedule. The lists can include categories for budget, meals, gifts, activities, and accountabilities. Anticipate disruptions, but go with the flow. Reducing expectations and tweaking traditions can result in a delightful moment of peace on earth.

Do you have any holiday traditions that have continued over the decades? Have you planned new activities for this year? Do your adult children have their own holiday activities that are different from yours? Please share in the comments.

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