Recently posse author, Ashley Farley, got to brooding about the True Meaning of Christmas on her website.
Doesn’t it seem like we just had Christmas? and Wouldn’t it be more special if we celebrated every other year? are questions I frequently ask myself. I’m all for making every day Thanksgiving. What’s not to like about a holiday where our friends and family share a meal together to celebrate our love for one another and be thankful for our blessings. Shouldn’t Christmas be the same? I understand the gift giving is part of the religious celebration of Christmas, but it complicates the holiday. Throw in Santa Claus and you have a whole different level of chaos.
How many times have I asked myself the same questions and not just silently. No doubt my children think I am the Grinch incarnate, but what is a mother (to whom the vast majority of Christmas chores fall) to do?
We love this comment from long-time TGP reader, sKr, to Ashley’s post:
I love this post Ashley and I feel exactly the same every year. Thanksgiving is my all time favorite holiday because of its focus on gratitude and it’s relaxed nature….good food with whoever can be around, minimal decor and no presents. We dress in jeans and enjoy the smells in the house and a walk and the football. Night brings on board games and wine. What could be better?
We need a cultural shift to occur for Christmas. In years past I have found my Christmas peace very late on Christmas Eve, sometimes in the back of the sanctuary during a midnight candlelight service. Sometimes I find a moment of focus as I move through the daily chores during the month of December….being kind to a harried store clerk or nurse…finding a moment to spend with a girlfriend…enjoying my dogs on a walk in the woods.
Long ago I became aware that Christmas was not really a holiday for women or moms. (After all, Mary was pretty busy!) The never ending list of tasks required to make merry can do in anyone. Christmas has always left me spent and celebrating during the cold, peaceful quiet of January. The gifts are one of the major stressors. How to give each family member that special item that will light up their Christmas day? And how to make the stockings full of pop and humor? It is fun once it is all wrapped up and presented but so often I feel like the amount of time and energy expended to accomplish this Herculean task is never fully appreciated. Each year I swear that I will scale back and build in more relaxed time and each year I fall short of this goal. It is as if the winds of commercial Christmas blow so intensely that an individual has a diminished chance of being peaceful.
So I write in support of your feelings! Maybe as wives, moms and women we can all find some Christmas comfort in knowing that we are all swimming upstream in our quest to re-center and find meaning. Never give up!!
We agree, sKr: we can’t give up. As a gracious posse, let’s join together to offer each other support this Christmas season. To get things started, here is a list of ten Sanity Savers that may make your Christmas chores a bit less frustrating. While you can employ some right away, it will take a few years of Christmas-ing to take advantage of a few others.
1. Just Say No
to those Holiday Traditions that no one will miss. When I was first married, I got it in my head that our Christmas tree had to have a very traditional hand-strung popcorn and cranberry garland. I would spend precious non-working hours trying to force my needle through thick popcorn centers. I wasn’t sure if my stained fingers were from blood or cranberry juice. Finally, the second Christmas after our daughter was born, I asked myself whom I was stringing this popcorn for and if anyone really cared? When I realized the answer was no one, I crossed it off the to-do list and felt the weight of the world lift from my shoulders.
Take a look at your own traditional Christmas chores. Then ask yourself if you didn’t do them, would they truly be missed? If the answer is no, cross them off your to-do list and give yourself a well-deserved break. Trust us, no one will judge you if you don’t wrap every single railing on your home with evergreens and twinkle lights.
2. You Don’t Have to Use All Those Decorations
Decorating can be quite the undertaking, be it the tree or the interior and exterior of your home. Unless decorating is your thing, then just say no to using all of your wreaths, balls, garlands, ribbons and other glittery thingamabobs. After all, what goes up must come down.Take a cue from Richmond’s own Janie Molster, who designed this home in the area for a very stylish lady we know using fewer but finer/larger impact decorations. Featured in Traditional Home, the eye-catching decor is Christmas-clutter-free yet inviting and festive. Just walking into this living room would calm me down during a stressful holiday season.
Changing up decor can be fun for the creative elf. If you discover you don’t use some ornaments from year to year, then practice the Christmas version of Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up: if they don’t bring you joy, it’s time to sell, donate or give them to your children. One mama’s cast off becomes the next generation’s heirloom.
This year Ellen shed a number of unwanted items in our April yard sale. She even parted with some beloved treasures over Thanksgiving weekend, passing them on to her daughters who are decking the halls of their new apartments
and were grateful for the swag. Now she has breathing room for the greenery and poinsettia that bring her joy.
3. Take Advantage of Technology
For years, I have been tracking names and addresses of those with whom we exchange Christmas cards on an Excel spreadsheet. It has become my go-to address list throughout the year and helps me decide how many cards I need to purchase each year. One session spent sitting in front of the computer entering your addresses spread throughout your home will save you oodles of time, not to mention your sanity, over the years.
A spreadsheet can also help you keep track of Christmas gifts. It’s 2015: time to embrace technology if you haven’t yet. Need help getting starting? Contact our technology expert, Lisa Burlee. She taught me how to use Excel years ago for another project, and while I may not be a pro, this skill has definitely changed my life.
4. Give the Same Consumable Gift
Ellen’s gift of choice for her far-flung family are evergreen wreaths from L.L.Bean. I love to share Virginia Diner’s Double-Dipped Chocolate Peanuts with my own out-of-state loved ones. Ellen’s nearest and dearest locals are blessed with her annual rum cake.
One year, she threatened to stop the tradition, and my son was heart-broken. It has become the traditional dessert for our Christmas dinner, and fortunately Ellen rethought her plans. When you hit on one consumable gift that your people love, don’t try to reinvent the wheel. Embrace the gift as a beloved tradition and stop fretting.
5. Fasten Your Tape
Sometimes it’s the little things that make the biggest difference.
Does losing the end of the tape roll make you crazy? Try this simple trick I first saw on Pinterest: attach a paper clip to the new end of the roll each time you make a cut.
6. Recycle Those Christmas Gift Bags
I grew up in a house where every gift was wrapped. We would spend hours going around unwrapping gifts one at a time and telling stories along the way. I do treasure this tradition and love a beautifully wrapped gift, but I cheat when it comes to the Christmas morning gifts. While friends get the prettily wrapped ones, most of those Christmas morning gifts get placed in recycled Christmas gift bags.
Over the years, I have accumulated a ginormous bin of Christmas bags saved from Christmases past. If a gift tag is stuck to it, I’ll just stick a larger one over it. When I am packaging the gifts a few days before Christmas, I get a kick out of finding a bag whose gift tag will work for the current gift.
Some of our bags have been reused so many times that they are recognized. But my family doesn’t care. In fact, these old bags become part of past Christmas remembrances and have become a tradition of their own.
7. Corral The Ornaments
Plan to save all those egg cartons you use for your Christmas baking and ease your post-Christmas chores.
8. Employ a Christmas Concierge
Remember Jane Campbell, whose Gotcha Covered Errands business we featured in A Serendipitous House-Warming Gift: Time with Gotcha Covered Errands? This time of year, she is ready to save you some serious stress. Her company will
- Stand in line at post office
- Help decorate inside
- Gift shop – great for those husbands that don’t have the time or like to
- Wrap presents
- Holiday cards- addressing and mailing
- Return items after Christmas
- Assist with home parties (help plan, coordinate, pick up items, serve)
- Help pack up Christmas decorations
- Anything that takes up time and people can use an extra hand….and that is
different for everyone!
Her prices are reasonable, and really can you put a price on reducing stress? Find her contact information here.
9. Stock Up on Casseroles and Soups
A number of churches and non-profits hold annual bake sales. Ellen’s own St. James’s Episcopal Church holds one in November. She counts on stocking her freezer with dinner entrees, breakfast casseroles and soups for the busy days when cooking a healthy meal falls to the bottom of the do-list.
10. Play Music
Music soothes the savage beast, even the most Christmas-crazed gal. If you need inspiration, check out our Merry Mix.
We know our clever posse has a lot more Sanity Savers to share. Please comment below, and we will round them up for our gracious readers in a near future post.
December 3, 2015