Taking (some of) the stress out of Christmas Day

By now I’m sure you’ve seen as many articles as I have about creating a stress-free holiday. There are many lovely ideas floating around out there, and I’m always trying to incorporate some of them, but I think having a totally stress-free holiday as The Mother is completely unrealistic. Christmas is the project of all projects that you can’t put off or avoid, and it lands right on top of your regular life that isn’t slowing down one bit.

Some of what happens is truly joyful (seeing the cards from family and friends, watching our children perform in concerts and plays, enjoying the holiday music and lights), other things we may love even though they create a good deal of stress (neighbor gifts, sending cards, making homemade gingerbread or sugar cookies, trying to go to all the fun activities in the community), and then there are other things many of us would like to avoid all together but simply can’t (getting together with confrontational family members, the awkward holiday work party, making and cleaning up an unimaginable amount of food). So even if you had your shopping done in September (I hate you, by the way), and even if you’ve been pacing yourself all month long, there is still going to be a certain amount of stress during the holiday season. Period.

But there is one time that I really, really don’t want to be a basket case, and that’s on Christmas Eve and Day. I get that I am going to be a crazy person leading up to that point, but once I’m there I want more than anything to just enjoy those beautiful moments with my family. I don’t expect perfection, but these are a few of the strategies I’m going to employ over the next few days so that I can experience as little stress as possible on the big day. (And I would love to read your strategies in the comments section below!)

  1. Wrap it. There is nothing like staying up until 3 am on Christmas Eve putting together a Barbie Dream House and wrapping the last of the other presents to put a damper on your Christmas morning–especially if your kids wake up shortly after that! Even if you are like me and can’t get into Christmas shopping until after Thanksgiving (my brain just can’t go there; I have to enjoy one holiday at a time), you can still wrap and put together those big gifts in advance. Assuming you will have most of your presents purchased before Christmas Eve, and assuming you would end up wrapping presents in the late hours of the night anyway, why not stay up tonight or tomorrow night and get it done? That way you’ll have a few days to breath and you may actually score a decent night of sleep on Christmas Eve. (Imagine that!) But what about the Barbie Dream House, you say? I bet you have a neighbor, friend, or family member who would let you put your big gift together at their house so you only have to worry about transportation on Christmas Eve. Who wouldn’t want to be in on a secret like that?
  2. Stop it. Making dinner, that is. I haven’t made a home cooked dinner for probably two weeks now. Yesterday I was working on a photo book for my oldest daughter that I want to arrive in time for Christmas, and I also had to go by Costco to pick up some pictures of my kids that I’m sending to both sets of grandparents today, so you better believe I picked up one of Costco’s delicious pasta dishes and a pre-made salad for dinner. I don’t care what you choose to do–breakfast for dinner, leftovers, frozen pizza, Costco pre-made dinners, drive thru–just stop making time-consuming, messy, from scratch dinners while you’re still in the thick of holiday preparations. (You can thank me later.)
  3. Freeze it. Continuing with the food theme, do you really want to spend all Christmas Eve and Day in the kitchen? Me neither. This last Thanksgiving I got the best sanity saving tip from a good friend who is a whiz in the kitchen: freeze everything. Okay, not everything, but almost. You would be shocked at what freezes well and tastes totally fresh when the time comes to simply pop it in the oven for warming. Slow cook your turkey days in advance (my friend’s blog), take it off the bone, and freeze it. The morning of, throw it in the crock pot with some gravy and prepare to enjoy warm turkey on your plate for once. Potato dishes of all kinds freeze beautifully as well, as do breakfast casseroles and baked goods. My kids pretty much insist I make these Clone of a Cinnabon rolls and our favorite breakfast casserole for  Christmas morning, so this year I’m going to try to make and freeze them both in advance so all I will have to do on Christmas morning is push the ON button.
  4. Frame it. Your perspective and attitude. Especially if you have very young children, you probably won’t get everything done that you would like to, and things probably won’t go exactly as planned. That’s okay. It’s often the crazy mishaps and unexpected surprises in life that make memorable holidays. (Like the year our newly remodeled basement flooded on the 23rd with water from a broken city sewer pipe–very memorable!) As much as we all love the idea of creating a Currier and Ives Christmas, real life in a real family rarely looks like a Pinterest-worthy photo shoot or a well-scripted scene in a movie. Do what you can, let go of the rest, and just try to enjoy Christmas like a child again. I count this as one of the greatest blessings of motherhood–to be able to experience the magic of childhood all over again through my children’s eyes. And from a child’s perspective, the magic of the holidays is much more about the feeling in the home (i.e. a happy mother) than the silly details we are stressing out about. So get your mind set and ready to go on Christmas Eve by framing everything with an eye of gratitude, acceptance, and love. That’s what all this stressing out was for, right? So enjoy it.

QUESTION: What are your strategies for lessening the stress on Christmas Eve and Day?

CHALLENGE: Wrap it, stop it, freeze it, and frame it. Choose at least one and give it a go!

Image courtesy Gualberto107 / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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