For many people, Christmas often ends up being a bit of a let-down. The snow doesn’t quite fall thick enough, the eggnog curdles, and the relatives end up snoring on the sofa after lunch instead of playing family games. It didn’t quite turn out the way you had dreamed. More ho-hum than ho-ho.
The problem lies in having a false picture. We’ve bought into an unrealistic Currier and Ives Christmas scene that has never actually been and never will. But just because it doesn’t turn out to be a white Christmas, it doesn’t have to be a blue one: give yourself and your anxiety, a break by adjusting your expectations.
Want to set the stage for an awesome, stress-free Christmas? Here’s how:
1. Set the budget.
Enjoy all the sappy television ads, but don’t get seduced into thinking you can buy your way to a happy Christmas. Set a realistic budget for what you want to spend and stick to it. That way you avoid post-Christmas debt that can weigh you down long into the New Year.
Enjoy all the sappy television ads, but don’t get seduced into thinking you can buy your way to a happy Christmas.
Study personal finance expert Dave Ramsey’s Top 10 Christmas Shopping Mistakes before you start. This downloadable Christmas gift planner can help you keep track of your purchases. And why not include in your budget an amount to give away to a charity of some kind, as a deliberate act of generosity? Finally, remember that gifts don’t need to cost a lot of money. You could bake or make something, or give personal coupons to be redeemed for your time or skills.
2. Set the schedule.
Special school events, community programs, church gatherings, parties, shopping trips, reruns of your favorite Christmas movies on the television…December simply isn’t long enough. Remember that Busyness is Not a Badge of Honor: acknowledge that you are simply not going to be able to do everything. So don’t get stressed out by spreading yourself too thin and trying to do too much and not enjoying any of it. Sit down with your family and decide who’s going to do what and when. Be sure to schedule in some downtime together, and also some time to go and help someone else.
3. Set the temperature.
With visiting relatives and days off from school and work, there’s more family time, which is fun but can also lead to tension. All those people in the same house with different expectations, moods, and wishes. Don’t be surprised if someone gets irritated, frustrated, or upset. But you can be the thermostat for your home, controlling the temperature by modeling kindness and grace. Be patient, be kind, be forgiving.
While many of our hopes for Christmas are tied into memories of years gone by, recognize that we can’t really recreate what has passed. Times change and kids grow up. With that in mind, consider these 3 Things to Remember When Young Adult Kids are Home for the Holidays. Take a moment to think about some of the different guests you may have in your home over Christmas, and their personalities and any peculiarities. That way you will be better prepared to deal with any potentially awkward situations with Judgmental Judy or Profane Paul. You can read more about them and other colorful characters in this How to Handle Rambunctious Relatives During the Holidays guide.
4. Set the scene.
Remember that the first Christmas was far from easy time. Joseph and Mary faced outsider demands from the census makers, limited income, cramped quarters, and unexpected visitors. Yet, in the midst of it all, they experienced and shared with profound joy the great gift of God’s love through His son, Jesus Christ.
For my family, while all the trimmings of Christmas are fun, it’s the centrality of faith in our amazing God that is all-important. That means we make time for reflection on the true meaning of Christmas. Doing this is one of six pledges I have made in committing to Be a Better Elf this Christmas. From attending church to talking about the meaning of some of the favorite carols we sing, we want to be intentional about anchoring all the seasonal festivities in the truth of the incarnation—God sending His Son to earth to show us a new way of living and to give us new life. Here are 5 Ways to Keep the Meaning in Christmas.
What other ways do you capture the Christmas spirit in your home? Share your ideas here.