Dear Caring Parent,
Finding Christmas and New Years joy can be challenging. If you and your family celebrate Christmas and New Years, you likely experience additional irritability, full blown emotional outbursts, and trips down memory lane (pleasant and not pleasant), ambivalence about family obligations along with shopping frenzies and schedule overloads. Your children probably look like this image – angelic with a twist!
I know we were full of angelic with a twist. When the twist became too much, I decided to change things up. It struck me how much I was missing out on the peacefulness and pleasure of Christmas. The twist was no longer fun. If you are needing inspiration to switch up how you are doing the holidays, I hope that my changes stimulate your thoughts on what will work for you and your family. Here’s what I adjusted.
Let Go of Family
Gosh that sounds so strange. Family visiting, though, can become obligatory at this time of year. Especially if it’s all clustered into Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. One of the first things I did was put the joy back into it by spreading out visit times with my family.
For instance, one year I let one of my sister’s know that she didn’t have to come to our place on Christmas Eve when she and her husband were already driving two hours (in the opposite direction) to see his mom. She was relieved. My other sister was upset, but I kept that ‘peaceful season’ in front of us. The next afternoon worked out much more calmly and energetically for everyone.
Some people don’t want to see family because family is unpleasant. It’s not usually worth confronting anyone about the unpleasantness. If this is your situation, just don’t go! Use the fact that you are your own family now and want to establish some different traditions. Others won’t necessarily like it. If that matters, make other arrangements to celebrate with them or do something special during the preparatory phase of the holiday.
When it feels too tricky to totally opt out, go and leave early. Let them know in advance that you’ll be leaving early, and leave as planned even if things are going okay. All you have to say is that you want to get home in time to enjoy your place. It’s now a big part of your Christmas and New Years joy.
The hardest part of doing this is anticipating everyone’s reactions. Find your simple statements for what you are anticipating. And repeat them. Keep the statements in the “I” and “we” zone. Meaning, it’s not about “you are unruly and no fun”. It’s about “I/We want ___(whatever your priority is)”.
Set Gift Giving Parameters
Christmas shopping got me in the financial red zone every year – all these things I never thought of during the year were so enticing when I saw them in the stores! Finally I did three adjustments with gift giving:
- Talked with the children about what they were imagining Santa would bring.
- Made decisions about what I was getting before I entered the stores.
- Set a date after which no more shopping occurred.
Talks with the children are always interesting. They can imagine wild things! I wove into the conversation that the spirit of giving that is Christmas can last all year, even a whole lifetime! Talks with them did sometimes influence the direction I took with gift giving though.
There were also times I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to get someone, so I’d decide on a theme. It was based on something in the person’s life that I wanted to support like their artistry, movement, or sweater love. Whatever it was, I gained the excitement of finding something that spoke to me of them.
A few years into these adjustments with shopping, I decided to be done with shopping a week prior to Christmas. That made for a home based time (minus work and child-centered activities). We loved it.
Even with these parameters, I still have to rein in my frenzy energy that initially gets stimulated when I go out into all the glitz during this time of year. It is said that our DNA has a hunter drive – and in our times it’s taken care of through shopping. Turns out I have a lot of that DNA! My parameters are a little voice in my head though. I am reminded how helpful this has been towards having Christmas and New Years joy and peace. So I stick with my parameters.
Accentuating the Spirit of Christmas
I love the whimsy, peace, love, celebration of nature’s cycles and new beginnings associated with Christmas and New Years. It’s so easy at this time of year to represent all of these through our actions.
Early on in family life I decided to hone in on Santa as a representation of the spirit of giving; that we made up great stories about this spirit. To honor this spirit and the higher meanings of Christmas has been a creative experience, every year born out of what was happening in our family. We’ve slept by the Christmas tree, read special stories every evening, baked together, attended different events, supported other families or animals in various ways, and reflected on our new beginnings while appreciating where we’re ‘at’ using gratitude jars.
With our children, the excitement and stimulation they experience is at once part of the fun and part of the challenge. To quell this excitement and moodiness, I started a nightly tiny surprise the week before Christmas. Items they’d appreciate that cost $1.00 or less were placed in a little bag I hung on their door knobs. It amazingly helped quell that massive swirl of anticipation that gets going in children.
Last but not least, for me, peace is in the kitchen! I feel so much calmer when I enter a ready kitchen in the morning. Therefore, a part of the season became that the kitchen got cleaned every night before going to bed.
You Do You for Christmas and New Years Joy
These are the decisions I made to make Christmas and New Years align with my values and priorities. Your decisions about how to do the holidays may be different. The point is, be intentional.
If you are complaining about this time of year, what can you switch up? We tend to accept that which we do out of intention. There’s no doubt that things get busier and emotions are heightened. Your kids friends birthday parties that happen in December, their special performance schedules, your work. . . It’s amazing! Think about:
- What’s the feeling driving your gift giving? Is it compensating from something in your early years? Notice, is that compensation satisfying your early years? Do you feel it is deepening your engagement with your partners and children/work colleagues/ parenting team members? Is it still fun?
- Ask yourself, ‘what are my priorities?’
- Discuss with your immediate family what’s important to them at this time of year, aside from gifts.
- Decide what budgetary parameters you have and stick with them if that is your priority.
- Label the spirit you want to reinforce and have fun making it happen.
If there really is nothing that you can adjust, move into acceptance. Rather than resisting what is, lean into it. Acceptance and it’s opposite, resistance, are sneaky little buggers. Acceptance brings peace in ways we couldn’t imagine when in resistance. If you want, read more here.
Whatever you decide, remember what author Rachel Jonat says, “We don’t have to continue holiday traditions that leave us broke, overwhelmed and tired.” Go for the Christmas and New Years Joy.
Take care now, Natasha