I have a little confession to make: I used to dread the holidays. The rush, the stress, the purchasing of gifts we couldn’t really afford, trying to figure out how to merge old traditions with new ones… Thanksgiving and Christmas were one big busy expensive blur.
Since I have a sneaking suspicion I’m not the only person who has ever felt like that, I want to share a few of the ways I’ve learned to savor the holidays. Hopefully this will help to inspire you to find ways your own family can slow down throughout the coming months.
1. Serve first.
I can’t think of a better way to help ourselves understand just how blessed we are than to serve others in need. Think of projects your whole family can do together.
For example, you could volunteer at a soup kitchen or visit a nursing home. You could bake cookies to deliver to a single, working mom.
Or, maybe you’d rather host a canned food drive at Thanksgiving by asking relatives to bring a non-perishable food item with them. Afterwards, you can donate the items to your church pantry or anonymously leave the food on the doorstep of a family in need.
I recommend starting out by choosing one simple project that your entire family can participate in on some level. This will help your family to focus their minds without being overwhelmed. When you prayerfully discuss service project ideas with your family, be sure to also discuss what the following verses mean:
“Take heed that you do not do your charitable deeds before men, to be seen by them. Otherwise you have no reward from your Father in heaven. 2 Therefore, when you do a charitable deed, do not sound a trumpet before you as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory from men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. 3 But when you do a charitable deed, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4 that your charitable deed may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will Himself reward you openly” (Matthew 6:1-4 NKJV, emphasis mine).
Note: if you are a stay-at-home mom, like me, it might fit your family’s schedule better for you to do a service project with your children while your husband is at work. That is perfectly okay. Which brings me to my next point.
Nothing is going to be 100% perfect on earth.
The kids will have bad attitudes (sometimes the grown-ups will too). At least one dish won’t turn out just the way you’d envisioned. Your perfect service project may go horribly wrong. There will definitely be at least one conflict of scheduling. It’s okay.
3. Determine what’s actually important to your family.
I heard somewhere that if a tradition is really important, the family will carry it out even if the mom doesn’t. I’ve accidentally tested this and found that it really did ring true in our home.
One year, my kids and I had been sick so I just hadn’t had the energy to set up our tree. After my husband came home from work one evening, he turned on Christmas music and started cheerfully hauling decorations down the steps.
Another year, I forgot all about putting our cinnamon rolls in the oven on Christmas morning (we’ve always used the refrigerated, ready to bake stuff). My oldest daughter, Lily, paused the gift-opening and made her way to the kitchen to take care of that.
Other times, I either forgot to do something or was just too busy. Nobody even noticed.
Remember: More than your family needs you to rush around trying to fit in dozens of traditions, they need you to simply be there with them, savoring each precious moment.
So, take the stress off yourself and let a few things just happen this year. It’ll help you see what’s really important to your family and what you can officially drop in the future.
4. Schedule early.
Now is a great time to finalize holiday plans, if you haven’t already done so.
Know where you’ll be on Thanksgiving and Christmas, as well as any holiday parties, projects, plays, church events, and travel plans. Make sure to have everything on the calendar. This way, if you receive an invitation to yet another get-together, you’ll know if it’s doable to go or if you need to politely decline.
Plus, if you already have a scheduling conflict, you can take care of that by either cancelling or rescheduling an activity now instead running around completely frazzled at the last minute.
In the meantime, what about you? What ideas do you have for savoring the holidays?