If there is anything that can make your Christmas a holiday to dread, it is expectations.
Expectations of how things should be.
Your expectations of yourself.
A year is a long time between celebrations. In that time, you may have forgotten certain things. Like, how no one in the family ate any of your cranberry cheese mold (the one that took up an entire shelf in your fridge for five hours). Or how everyone loved it when you showed the JibJab video of your family with “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree.” And they can’t wait to see what video you are showing this year.
So I say, deal with those expectations right up front.
1. Find out what’s important to the family or close friends you celebrate Christmas with.
One year, after being exhausted by all the demands for different types of food each of my kids had told me we had to have, I finally asked them, “Tell me what’s truly important to you.”
Their answer? Pumpkin cheesecake.
So this time, I didn’t make a huge selection of every food we’ve ever enjoyed. We made the meal, had some family favorites, and made the cheesecake.
It was simple, and everyone was happy.
2. Figure out what’s important to you
When we’re in charge of making Christmas miracles, we are so busy creating the Christmas that everyone else wants, we forget to step back and look at what’s important and meaningful to us.
I want you to imagine for a moment not the perfect Christmas, but what you want Christmas to feel like. Peaceful? Joyous? Comfortable? Figure out what’s important to you, and then plan toward that.
3. Gather your Christmas stash
Gather all your Christmas supplies, such as your wrapping paper, gift bags, ribbon, tape, tissue, and so on. This will keep you from constantly being surprised about what you have, and more important, what you don’t. Make a list of everything you need to buy.
4. Make a list of how others can help
You probably have a natural instinct about what needs to be done for Christmas. Others in your family? Not so much.
Every year we have people over for our celebration, and the most common question is, “How can I help?” (I invite only nice people over.) In the heat of the moment (and in the heat of the kitchen), I’m almost always at a loss for how to direct people on how to assist.
So this year, I did something different. As I made my checklists of Christmas prep (for the season) and meal and party prep (for the day), I highlighted anything that someone else could do.
So when guests asked in advance, “What can I bring?” or “Is there any way I can help?,” I was able to look at my list and say, “Yep—could you pick up ice on your way here?” Or, “We’re short on appetizers. I would love for you to bring your famous cheese puffs!”
And on the day of the event, when people wandered into the kitchen and asked, “How can I help?” I was able to look at my list and say, “You can chop the celery for the stuffing,” or “I would love for you to put out the cheese-and-cracker plate. Here’s everything you’ll need.”
By spending fifteen extra minutes thinking through what others can do, you’re going to save yourself not only time but also wear and tear.
A stress-free Christmas says you are doing only those things that are truly important. You are not getting weighed down by unnecessary expenditures, obligations, or craziness.
And maybe for the first time this December, you will truly experience a little Peace on Earth.
Kathi Lipp is an author, speaker, and proud mom of four young adults.