December 17, 2014

Have Less Stress and More JOY this Christmas!

By Amy

Holidays...How can one word make us so happy and so stressed at the same time?

Now, I LOVE holidays.  It's so fun to have something to look forward to on the calendar--a time to celebrate the things that matter most to us, the things we don't take time to appreciate in our day-to-day.  Plus, I love reasons to get together and excuses to party.

However, they can take a lot of work.  As kids, we didn't really understand how much time goes into making a magical, memorable holiday.  But, now as moms, WE KNOW.

Here's the thing: I think we experience much more stress during the holidays than we need to.  We've got lots of burnt-out moms overwhelmed by too many holiday traditions; they're simply trying to do too much. We see other's traditions showcased on Instagram and Facebook and think, "Now, SHE is a fun mom. Why don't I do that?"  And we try to up our game.  Or, we had years that we were able to do more, and as time passes--we have more kids, busier schedules, and less energy--it starts to wear on us.  Moms try to keep up till they reach their limit, then in frustration they start quitting stuff.  But that sucks, cause then their kids have expectations from past holidays....They're like, "But moooom, why aren't we doing______(insert over-the-top time consuming tradition)?"  Great.  Add a fat dose of mom guilt to the burn-out.   No wonder some moms start to dread the Holiday season.  (Click Here for a hilarious blog post from Rage against the Minivan about over-the-top holidays.  I bout died!)

Right now I only have a toddler and an infant.  My toddler is getting close to the age where he might actually care about/notice traditions.  As this Christmas approaches, I feel like I am in the perfect position to purposely decide what--and how many--activities and traditions to incorporate into our holidays.  My goal is to prevent the cycle of holiday stress and burn-out.

I decided (this is the teacher in me) to create a tradition evaluation list.  To make the cut, a tradition has to:
1-Be meaningful.
2-Be relatively simple to accomplish.
3-Be fun for my kids.
4-I actually enjoy doing it.  (Or at least it doesn't make me lose my will to live.)

The best traditions will hit all four.  But three out of four--that's good too.  :)  I mean, some things are just for fun--not really packed with deeper meaning, like sledding and hot chocolate.  Some meaningful things aren't necessarily "oh my gosh I'm having so much fun!" like scraping an elderly neighbor's walk, but can bring a lot of joy.  Also, a few things might be less simple to accomplish, like baking for the neighbors or making homemade gifts for loved ones, but if you enjoy doing it, then it's still good!  However, if you aren't into the time and craftiness of homemade, or just can't do it this year (like when you're having health issues or caring for a newborn) let go of that expectation and remember that a thoughtfully bought gift can mean just as much!

Now, please know I'm not out here to pick apart others' traditions.  It's personal to each of us, so you gotta ask yourself: do I feel overwhelmed or bothered by a specific tradition?  If so, it's gotta go.  Some ladies love traditions and packing in the holiday activities, and are naturally inclined to do them.  If this is you, awesome!  Do what you love!  If you're all about nightly secret gifts or Elves on Shelves or hidden Leprechaun gold on St. Patty's morning, elaborate themed holiday breakfasts, and you have a separate box of decor for every holiday, then go for it!  (Just don't tell my kids about it, haha.) But only do it if you enjoy it.  If it's a crappy obligation that causes you to hate life, I say scale back.  If you find a certain tradition is too draining, I think it could be really good to have a real conversation with your kids telling them that a certain tradition is too much; they will see by your example that's it's important to make priorities and to not over-schedule our lives--aka--run faster than we have strength.

Personally, I love holiday parties and get-togethers, but some people find the holidays too busy and decline parties.  That's totally fine!  For me, I am pretty extroverted, so I love going to any kind of shin-dig; however, I feel stressed by hosting them, so I don't very often. :) Again, figure out what's best for you and your family.

I believe cutting back is the way to bring back the joy into holidays and squash the stress.  Holidays don't have to be elaborate to be wonderful.  I think spending time with family and friends, serving others, laughing, eating good food, and having fun makes a wonderful holiday.  And that can be achieved very simply.  

Plus, with the religious holidays, too much extra stuff distracts from the important reason for the holiday. So there's another good reason to cut back. :)

Now, tis the season for Christmas cheer, so I've been pondering how to help my family have the happiest and holiest Christmas possible for the years to come.

Here's what I'm thinking:  I want Christmas to be about serving, giving, fun time with the family, and Christ!  

Here are the Christmas traditions that I want to keep:

-The Christmas tree!!  Some like having a family tree with all the kid ornaments, and another tree that momma gets to decorate by herself....aka, the fancy tree!  This is an awesome idea, but I'm just gonna try to balance between kid ornaments and aesthetics cause I only want to deal with one tree. :)  I like using gold balls, both plain and glitter to be the main color of my tree.  Having a dominant color makes my tree still look cohesive when I add all of the sentimental, mismatched ornaments from my childhood.  I also want my kids to help decorate the a point. (Ha, I mean if I need to fix a few spots, cause there's 7 red balls in one spot, then I will...after they've gone to bed. :)  

-Christmas music out the ying yang.  (Starting the day after Thanksgiving.)  Daily dance party in the living room?  Yes.

-Simple, but beautiful Christmas decor.  I love wide gold and red ribbon and simple garlands. (Click here for the cutest garlands of all time!) I'm probably going to hang garlands and ribbon all around my house, hang some sparkly stars and call it good! :)  It's nice that you can use the same stuff year after year, so it isn't overwhelming.  But, if you LOVE decorating, and like to switch it up every couple years, that's cool too! :)

-Help my kids to make/buy gifts for a sibling.  Some of my favorite Christmas memories are planning and secretly getting a gift for one of my brothers or sisters.  We rotated our assigned sibling every year, since getting gifts for every sibling in a family with six kids is A LOT.  This teaches children the joy of giving, as well as the ability to graciously and gratefully accept a gift.  (Even if it's some weird popsicle stick creation from your 4 year old sister. Haha)

-Secret Santa and service!  Find a family who can't afford Christmas presents (you could ask your bishop, pastor, school counselor, etc) and let your kids help you pick a gift or two for each family member.  Or, grab a little tag off of one of those trees for children in need.  Your kids will be so excited to help pick the gifts! :)  I get overwhelmed to do the 12 days of Christmas (that's almost two weeks to commit to!) cause some nights are super busy for fams and other nights the weather is crappy, so it makes it simpler for you to just drop off the gifts on their doorstep in one happy dump of joy! :)  My sisters will both share awesome traditions in their posts that help kids get excited to serve. 

-An evening of singing carols to older couples, widows, widowers, nursing home, anyone lonely, friends, neighbors, etc.  You don't have to be the Von Trapp Family Singers--it's having visitors when you are lonely that means so much!

-Seeing Christmas lights.  This is super easy, cause you can do it on your way home from the grocery store for heaven sake!  Just slow down or pull over by an awesomely lit up house and let the kids oooh and ahh.  Those people can go to the trouble of hanging over-the-top christmas lights, and you can enjoy their efforts from your warm mini-van. :)

At Temple Square in Salt Lake City to see the lights with my bro and sis-in-law.  Cold, but fun!
-Papa Murphy's pizza on Christmas Eve.  (I made this tradition up.  Can you tell?  Ha!)  This one makes life easier for mommas: Cause who wants to have a fancy meal to prepare when you've got to make a big ol' turkey dinner the next day?  I'm gonna do the same thing for Thanksgiving Eve.  (Actually, I think I'm gonna try to incorporate take-and-bake pizza into every holiday...)

-Decorating Christmas Sugar Cookies (or some kind of variation).  If baking is your thing, awesome!  (Invite me over! Ha!)  Problem for me is, I despise baking.  And...I binge out on cookies, (and the dough) then I feel ashamed.  So, unless my hub wants to get ambitious...I probably won't make trays of sugar cookies.  This might be a special "at Grandma's house!" tradition.  I could modify this one...either store-bought cookies to frost or just skip it and make hot chocolate and orange rolls (from the pillsbury cans) instead.

-Gifts: I want to use my sister Laura's genius method for my kids' gifts (Which she will be sharing on the blog soon, so stay tuned! :)  As of now, I don't worry about getting gifts for my kids, cause they're so little.  I just let the Grandmas spoil them. :)  My husband and I make a list for each other to chose from and we give a gift to each of our parents and the assigned sibling from each family.

Last year, at my in-laws house for Christmas, Hayden's favorite gift of the day was little box of Goldfish crackers from his stocking! Ha, see simple really is best. :)
-As for taking goodies to neighbors, I think I'll start doing what my mom does...she buys some pretty ornaments in the day after Christmas sales, and hands them out the next year with a happy Christmas note to friends and neighbors.  Or, like my neighbor did this year, put a cute Christmas tag on a Mason jar and fill it with Christmas Candy!  Genius.  Then I don't have to bake.

-Christmas movies! This is a really easy, fun, and nostalgic tradition for the whole family.  A few of my favs: "Muppets Christmas Carol!" The old "How the Grinch Stole Christmas." "It's a Wonderful Life." and "Elf".  Also, for Sunday evenings, there are some beautiful movies depicting the Nativity.  

-Christmas Stories.  I already read a couple books a day to my toddler, so why not swap out "Hop on Pop" for "How the Grinch Stole Christmas."?  Everybody needs to own that book.  I love it!!!  Check out a few more that I love: "The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey" and "The Gift of the Magi."  They are both gorgeously illustrated, and both make me cry--in a good way! :)

My little dude and I reading a Christmas book....cozy!  
-Remembering the Savior.  There are some really great, simple ways to remember Christ at Christmas.  (Two of which my sisters will share in the next two posts!) For Sunday evenings in December, as well as Family Home Evenings, I want to share true stories about Christmas giving.  (If you're like, "What is Family Home Evening?" Let me explain: Mormons are encouraged to gather as a family one evening a week, usually monday nights.  Often a lesson, activity, and treat happen, but anything as a family goes!)

I love to reserve Christmas Eve as a reverent time to spend as a family focusing on the Savior's birth. After all, that is the good news of Christmas!  Growing up, every Christmas Eve my family sang Christmas hymns and brought down the nativity one piece at a time, while reading about the Savior's birth from Luke and finishing with John 3:16.  We'd talk about how He gave His life as the ultimate gift to each of us, then we'd go around the room and each share how we personally felt the Savior's love and blessings that past year.  After that, my family wrote notes to every person in the family and left them in each other's stockings.  I love reading those little notes of love from my parents and siblings.  Our Christmas Eve traditions still mean so much to me.  I'd feel so close to my Savior and my family those nights.  I think it's good to take the time to celebrate the Savior on Christmas Eve, then enjoy a day of fun, gifts, and partying on Christmas day!  You make sure to get in the most important part before all the crazy fun. :)

I'm still not sure on Christmas Cards (Thinking about addressing and mailing all of those envelopes makes me wanta vomit.)

Well, that's my list!  I will have to see if it's too much as the years go by and cut if needed.  But, for now I like this list!  This Christmas, and Christmases to come, I don't want to do things out of obligation--I want to do them because they enrich the holiday season for the whole family, mom included.

After all, Mom shouldn't have to become a frazzled slave every December.  She deserves to enjoy the holiday too! 

That's why I chose to make/keep traditions that bring joy, not stress! :)

Well, thanks for reading, friends!  I'd love to hear your input...what simple/awesome traditions do you love to do with your fam?  Have you ever experienced holiday burn-out or cut any traditions? Do you send out Christmas cards?  (I totally wanted to this year, but my hub just informed me it's too late; they won't get there in time! :(  Phooey, I am such a procrastinator.)

If you appreciated this post, please Like/Share it!  And if you're new here, Welcome!  We'd love to have you hang out with us, so be sure to Like Swag On, Momma on Facebook or follow through Bloglovin or Google Friend Connect.  We have a lot of fun around here! :)

Also, be sure to tune in tomorrow for a guest post with a couple genius/simple Christmas traditions from Laura and Sherie, two mommas who got it all figured out. ;)  (They'll roll their eyes when they read that. Ha!)

Ps. This post will be linked up to the Be.You.Tiful link party...there are TONS of great posts there every week, so check it out! :)



  1. I love your Christmas Eve tradition of writing letters to each member of your family and putting them in each other's stocking! That is something I want to start doing! And yes, I feel the most joy when we make things simple around here.

    1. Yeah, I have kept many of the notes through the years! It's fun to read what my siblings said to me when I was little and obnoxious. :) You are an awesome momma, Carrie!

  2. I'm either very early or very late to this party . . .

    When I was 19 I moved from the US to Australia. A weird thing happened . . . Around this time every year I'd start to get excited about Christmas. The weather's turning, the days are getting shorter, it can only mean one thing, right? Christmas is coming! So I'd run around getting everything ready, and then I'd look at the calendar and it'd be May. Hmmmmm . . . . I've lived here for years now, and I still have to fight the urge to put up the Christmas tree in June, because it feels like it should be Christmas.

    Then, a few years ago, an even weirder thing started happening - when the weather warmed up, my body would sing out, It's Christmas! And I'd run around getting everything ready to go - but of course since everything was already ready to go (because I did that in May, duh, doesn't everyone?) I'd find myself prepping for Christmases still to come. Yup. As in, "Hey, my mother in law would love this for Christmas! Whoops, I've already got her a present for this year, well, what about 2017?" I swear it's a good thing we've got a big shed, which by this stage is more like one giant gift cupboard . . .

    There are downsides, don't get me wrong. But one major upside is that, come December, I have nothing on my to-do list except "have fun with the family." The presents are all bought and wrapped; the Christmas cards are all addressed and ready to go; homemade ornaments and Christmas décor is finished; the freezer is full of sugar cookie dough; I can focus on my kids. December becomes a very fun month for me - no stress, nada. I highly recommend a Christmas obsession. Okay, things are a bit crazy for 11 months of the year, but December's a breeze.

    My family's favourite Christmas tradition - Everyone chooses a favourite food and that's what we eat for Christmas dinner. It came about out of sheer desperation (there was a horrible holiday involving way too much crazy - it's a good story, so e-mail me if you want to hear it) and now we wouldn't go back to a traditional dinner for anything. My husband and I also have a very weird Christmas tradition of watching a funny horror movie every year after the kids go to bed. Nothing too gruesome, nothing hard-core, just comedy horrors. It's a great way to see off the season.


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