12 December 2012

My Guide to an UnStressy Christmas

You may have noticed an absence of Christmas crafting posts here on my blog, a dearth of Christmas  recipes, a lack of Christmas how to's. Well noted, those who did. For the rest of you, where have you been? (No seriously, where have you been? It's been awfully quiet around here. Is it like the end of the year or something???)

So I am figuring since it's been so quiet that you are madly rushing around buying presents/baking gingerbread/mulling wine/decking the halls/recreating endless stuff you've found on Pinterest/getting into the holiday spirit...? Yeah me too. Although I have to admit that this year I have taken a very laid back approach to Christmas Fever which is quite unlike me. In years gone by I would have been Advent Calendar-ing and Elf-on-the-Shelfing with the best of them. 

My teeth would be nearly ground to nubs from the sheer effort of trying to drag my family kicking and screaming into the Spirit of Christmas. Whether they liked it or not. Whether they complained or not. Whether it killed me or not.

And of course I would be madly blogging about it all. Photographing every step of creating my glue-gun bunting, recording in painful detail how to wrap the teachers gifts so nicely with cellophane and ribbon.

Now... well I seem to be just playing my Christmas music and looking forward to Glow on Sunday. I haven't even made a Christmas list yet (but 80% of my Christmas shopping is done (though that's a wild guess not an actual fact)).

And as I occasionally browse through Pinterest aimlessly pinning things I know I will never create, I wonder: How's everyone doing out there? Are you surviving the rush or wishing it was over already? Drowning in things to do... or actually enjoying the season? So for what it's worth I thought I'd share with you a random list of things that are helping me enjoy Christmas. And not Stress. And not be tempted to create everything I see on Pinterest.

Here goes...

Simoney's Guide to Surviving (and Enjoying) Christmas

[Peace is the Most important thing; Candles help too]

1. Figure out What's Most Important to You About Christmas (and then use that to reprioritise everything)
Sounds obvious, but sometimes we can get so caught up in the activity of the season that we forget to stop and think: What is this really all for?
Who are the people we most want to spend time with this season? (make time for them)
What are the things we most enjoy doing as a family at this time of the year? (make time for those)

Take stock, take a breath and ditch everything that doesn't add to the enjoyment of Christmas. By which I mean Peace, Joy and a Mother who isn't coming off like a stressed-out Shrew as she tries to accomplish all her seasonal plans for delightful family traditions. (Speaking from experience here, people).

[A Pine Tree and Twinkle lights plus years of collected decorations = the best kind of Tree for us]

2. Find a Way to Connect with the Reason for the Season
For me, I stopped stressing about to-do lists and began actually enjoying the season when I found a way to reconnect with the meaning of Christmas for me, i.e. the Christmas Story

I initially did it by writing a Christmas book for my Children, but I keep that Christmas meaning close to me now in a number of other ways...
  • Christmas Music: This year I have downloaded songs from the Hillsong Christmas albums via iTunes as my old Christmas music was boring me. On iTunes I can pick just the songs I want and make my own mixes. Bonus.
  • Christmas shows: We look forward to Glow - always a magical event - and our church Nativity Play; this along with a few other local events where we can meet friends and relax without too many crowds helps make it feel like Christmas. We'll avoid the crowds and the rush at the major city wide events and stay local.
  • Christmas Books: One year I wrote An Unexpected Christmas; last year made a photobook of all our Christmas memories on Snapfish, as a family gift we open on Christmas Eve. Keep an eye out for specials - I got mine 50% off. I love to add a new Christmas book to our collection each year.
  • Christmas Movies: Watch old favourites and rediscover new ones. This time of year there are lots of Christmas films showing on TV, so plan to record a bunch, or check out Fatso and the classics they have which are hard to find in video stores (I have a free month's trial offer for my readers with code FAMILY45; this is a great time of year to use it)
  • Christmas Giving: we always try to find a way to bless others at Christmas, whether its gifts for kids through City Mission or dropping a hamper off to bless another family or doing chores to earn money for something from the Tear Fund Gift for Life catalogue for some kids in Africa... Blessing others at this time of the year helps offset greed and commercialism (and always leads to great warm fuzzies).
[Spotted at a Cafe: Rudolf cookies = Gingerbread men upside down]

3. Limit Obligations
Sometimes the stress comes from being pulled in too many directions by various obligations. Some of these we can't avoid, but others we can free ourselves from.
For instance, Christmas Cards.
I am just not a Christmas Card person. Never have been.
We send Christmas cards only to my hubby's English family (because they are Very Big in England) but our friends and acquaintances know that if they don't get a card from us, it's not because we don't like them. It's cos we don't do Christmas Cards.
Same with gift giving. We get Christmas Gifts for our immediate family. The children give thankyou gifts to their teachers. Sometimes (if we get around to it) we take cookies to the neighbours.

But there are no obligations. We won't stress ourselves out doing it, we'll just do what we can.

4. Don't Reinvent the Wheel - Take Shortcuts
You can have the fun without all the stress. Don't tear your hair out over a handmade gingerbread house that won't stick together: get a kit from the store (twenty bucks from Kmart). Use store-bought custard and sponge cake for the trifle, a Cowells pavlova, an Aunt Betty's Christmas Pudd.

Sure, do some baking with the kids, mull the wine yourself, but don't feel like you have to do everything from scratch. Take a deep breath... and find a shortcut.

(Oh and here's one that'll save your Christmas Eve: Wrap the presents as you buy them. Don't wait until Christmas Eve and do them all at once. A Thankless back-breaking exercise which is sure to keep you up late wondering why you bought so much stuff. Wrap-as-you-go lets you just chill and enjoy Christmas Eve, mulled wine, (store-bought) Christmas mince tarts and candlelight...)

5. Don't Compare to Others, but Fill the House with Christmas in your own way
The danger of sites like Pinterest is that we can start to compare our efforts to the awesomeness we see there. Down this road of comparison lies discontent and disatisfaction. Don't go there.
Sure, look for inspiration on the net, on Pinterest, on crafty blogs... but don't let it make you feel like your Christmas efforts are not "enough".

Instead fill your house with a sense of the season, your special memories and things that mean Christmas to you. Whether it's your childrens' old kindy decorations, burning scented candles, stringing up some twinkle lights, decorating a real pine tree (for that Christmas scent) with the decorations you've collected through the years (or some humble glue-gun Christmas bunting). 

But most of all... think PEACE. Think JOY. Think LOVE. If anything on your list hinders these things, it's maybe time to edit your to-do list....? 

So what if we've ticked off doing all the Christmas activities and traditions from our list but we've exhausted ourselves in the process and can't wait til the whole jolly rigmarole is over. Sometimes less is more.

Now go and have a beautiful blessed unstressy Christmas. xx

(This year I have added the joy of spray glue to my Glue-Gun Queen repertoire with my new nifty no-sew Christmas Bunting. I sprayed glue onto felt and then pressed gingham and and a bit of old lavalava onto the felt, to stiffen it and make it double-sided. Then I cut out triangle flags and glue gunned them onto white bias binding, on two sides. You'd never know it wasn't stitched. No fraying or curling. The whole thing took me 30 minutes, while I watched The Grinch with Scrag. I just felt like trying out my idea for spray glue so I dug around in my leftovers box and voila! Cost = ZIP)

Favourite Stories from past Christmases about finding the meaning...

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