One week into November and the Christmas itch kicked in. Now, I do love me some holiday merriment and a good wreath. But I don’t feel the need to deck the halls minutes after Halloween or even the day after the turkey has become leftovers. Rather, I love to spend December relishing the moments—the hot chocolate and snuggles, hanging ornaments in just the right spot, watching Christmas Vacation, decorating our family’s favorite sugar cookies….
However, I can’t do these things in peace or at the (slow!) pace I like if I get swept up in the Christmas frenzy. So, to stay in the holiday spirit and truly enjoy the meaningful moments of the season I have to plan ahead and spread out my to-do list. In years past, this meant I would begin Christmas shopping in August and create handmade holiday cards in October.
No surprise, this is no longer the case. I just don’t have the time to get a jump on anything. And there’s nothing like last minute everything to make me feel stressed out during the holidays.
That “itch”? It's an early sign of this stress, which is why I spent every night this weekend bookmarking gifts for family and friends. Still, it did little to make me feel that I’m approaching December with a completed checklist and an organized state of mind. So, when stuck in traffic I hatched a plan to restore my Christmas calm (yes, traffic is useful for meditative self-reflection, problem solving, and learning enough news from NPR to make witty cocktail talk).
The plan? This year, I’m going tell myself “No.”
No, I don’t have to prepare everything from scratch. I can cheat and use Trader Joe’s frozen mashed potatoes for Thanksgiving (just add extra salt and pepper…no one will know). I can order Christmas cards online instead of printing them myself. And I can bring a store-bought dessert or make it from a box without it reading that I don’t care.
No, I don’t have to buy presents (or that many). I can stop worrying that everyone get a present—a personalized, heartfelt letter enclosed with my holiday card is enough. My toddler will equally love four or forty gifts, so I plan to simplify and follow the smart advice of giving something he wants, something he needs, something to wear, and something to read. I also can let go of finding THE perfect gift—it’s okay that I didn’t locate the vintage locket I imagined giving my best friend. And, while the idea of gift cards previously bothered me because they don’t feel personal, I realize that no one is judging me for my originality. Heck, I could get everyone a gift card to their fave store. Or, better yet, make a donation to a charity in another’s name!
No, I don’t have to say “yes” to every party or volunteer request. True, tis’ the season to be giving. But not to the extent I'm burning the candle from both ends. Give to yourself and your loved ones by being present the rest of this year.
Saying "no" to my old notions of the holidays and to myself is worth the extra time for more important memories that can't wait.
~ The Other Sarah