Warning: This post DOES NOT contain affiliate links. My holiday essentials aren’t something you can buy in a shop.
Christmas – you’ve probably noticed that it’s approaching fast. Here in New Zealand, we don’t have Thanksgiving and we don’t really have Halloween, so the shops have been waiting for Christmas since Fathers’ Day in September.
Some people love Christmas, some people hate it. I oscillate between the two. Generally, I enjoy Christmas day, but can’t stand all the hoopla of the whole holiday season. I’m not Christian (or religious at all), so it can be a challenge to find meaning in Christmas beyond consumerism – gifts and food, and lots of them. Not to knock gifts and food, but if you’re looking for real joy in Christmas, gifts and food alone isn’t going to do it.
Christmas is a challenge to my more minimalist and anti-consumerism values. But that’s not a bad thing, because preparing for Christmas prompts me to pause, reflect and clarify my intentions. That leads to my must haves for mindful and meaningful Christmas.
Christmas must haves
1. A Plan
When I say a plan, I mean more than a survival strategy or a massive to-do list (although they both could be elements of it). The purpose of the plan is to stop and think, to be deliberate and intentional. I definitely disregard some of my usual personal rules at Christmas. I’m okay with that when I do it deliberately, however, when it’s because Christmas madness overtakes me, I get disappointed.
Start with the big picture. How much energy do you want to put in, how much time, how much are you happy to spend? Set yourself aims, but also set limits. Is your schedule looking a bit crazy already? How are you going to manage that? Your plan is also a chance to talk with your partner, family, friends or other people involved about their expectations for Christmas (good luck!).
If you’re scratching your head about where to start, my three steps to simplify any activity will guide you through a quick and easy process to get your plan sorted.
2. Authentic traditions
Hand-made Advent calendars are optional! Think about the rituals and events that distinguish Christmas for you and yours from any other time of year.
We have a Christmas tree; it has a star on top that I made at kindergarten when I was five. Our tradition is that the tree doesn’t go up until after my birthday in mid-December. I have enforced this like an undeniable law of the universe since I was about seven. We’d drop my friends home after my birthday party and then go and pick up a tree. My son will be shocked when he learns that other families put their trees up before his mother’s birthday!
A more recent tradition is my husband giving my mother a packet fruit mince pies. This tradition evolved out of an awkward moment the first time my (not-yet) husband joined my side of the family for Christmas. Arriving off the plane, my husband was unpacking as my mum told us all how it seemed every sales rep she dealt with had given her a packet of fruit mince pies for Christmas and if she saw another mince pie …… What had my husband brought as a token, hostess gift for my mum? You guessed it – a packet of fruit mince pies. My husband presented them to her with a sheepish grin – to which my mum burst into hysterics. This is now a set piece every Christmas day. My mum looks forward to this tradition so much she’s already texted my husband to let him know she’s seen mince pies out in the shops!
If you’d like to foster a few more Christmas traditions, I’d suggest you skip searching on Pinterest and instead have a good think about what gave you the most laughs last year.
3. Family, friends and fun
Sure there are trees, lights, Santa hats, and presents – but for me this is what it is all about. Christmas is a day for family fun.
One year, I ended up in Salzburg in Austria for Christmas. I say ended up because I missed the last bus to wherever I was meant to be heading. Salzburg is a really Christmas-y place, but I was there with a bunch of people I had never met before, eating pizza. It wasn’t miserable, but for me, it just wasn’t Christmas.
There are people that I only see at Christmas (or funerals) – we have pretty much the same conversation every year, but it keeps the connection alive. Christmas is also a great excuse for reconnecting with friends. It’s weird to send a text out of the blue to someone you haven’t been in touch with for months – except to say Merry Christmas (Happy New Year works too). I know for a lot of people Christmas involves many family dramas that they could do without, and yes, sometimes it can be quite forced, but for me, part of the joy of Christmas is keeping relationships alive.
If you’d like to read some more on this topic, I recommend:
- Simplify the Holidays Calendar – The Center for the New American Dream – a practical, step by step guide to a simpler holiday season.
- Avoiding Christmas craziness: Your best ever December starts in November – Kelly Exeter – Kelly’s proven approach to having a less frantic December.
What are your thoughts on Christmas? What makes Christmas enjoyable for you?