While the holidays are generally happy times, many feel pressure to make the holidays “perfect.” The emphasis on fashioning a flawless holiday causes these usually happy times to be laced with stress and anxiety.
Much of our pressure is self-imposed. We stress over buying the perfect gift, ensuring that everyone gets exactly what they want (and that they are surprised), preparing the perfect dinner, and decorating our homes inside and out. Often the busyness of the season leaves little time to reflect on its meaning.
The commercialization of the holidays can be a source of frustration for families and individuals alike. So what’s the answer? You can enjoy the holiday season with your checkbook and sanity intact by keeping in mind a few guidelines.
- Set your own standards. You can take control of the holidays by deciding what does and does not fit your lifestyle. The holidays portrayed in the media most often do not reflect the reality of holiday celebration in most American homes. Seek to make the holidays real for your family and yourself.
- Make a plan. Sit your family down and ask what they think the holidays should be like. You may find out that the outdoor light display is more trouble than its worth, and your husband and kids would rather help bake cookies than untangle strings of lights. This way the entire family has buy-in, and you don’t bear the burden of making decisions for everyone.
- Set a budget and stick to it. It’s great to want to buy the perfect gift for your kids, spouse, in-laws and friends, but it can be too much to take on and too much to spend. The value of a gift can’t be judged by its price tag. The best gifts come from a sincere desire to make a person happy. If you give from the heart, your gift will never be too small.
- Talk to your extended family and determine a small amount to spend on each niece, nephew or cousin. Or, you can draw names and purchase only one gift for that child. Odds are if you can’t afford either the time or money, neither can your relatives. By making the suggestion, you take the pressure off everyone.
- If you can’t be with the one you love because of divorce, military commitments, or finances find creative ways to make the holiday special. For example, send a special videotaped greeting to a far away relative, or arrange to spend another day together as “Christmas.”
Enjoy the holidays for what they are, not what they should be. Remember that you have a real family, not a TV family. There may still be arguments and rivalries among siblings – even grown ones. You may not be in control of other people’s actions, but you can control your reaction to them.
The fun of traditions is creating them for you and your family, not taking on someone else’s ideal and working to make it fit. There’s no rule that says you must spend the holidays by the fireplace roasting chestnuts, drinking eggnog and singing carols. Paint your own picture of the ideal holiday, imperfections and all.
- Kari Henley: The Splendor And The Struggle Of Holiday Gatherings (huffingtonpost.com)