Take a moment to picture your childhood memories of the holidays. They were so carefree and cheery, filled with gifts, guests, and laughs galore. Family members would come and go, always smiling and well-fed, spending hours at the dinner table while trays of delicious food and baked goods would continuously appear throughout the day.
Fast forward to present day. Now, it’s your turn. Somewhere along the line, you became the grown-up and thus the provider of all those gifts, meals, and assorted laughs. Doesn’t it seem so easy and carefree now, does it?
And whether it’s the Elf, the Mensch, or your collection of Instagram and Facebook followers (many of which you may or may not actually know in real life), everyone seems to be watching and judging. Like it or not, the pressure is ON to have a picture-perfect holiday season and, of course, post tons of proof.
Take a deep breath (and maybe a few sips of wine). Then take a step back and realize it CAN be done. It really is possible to have an enjoyable holiday season without losing your mind in the process. Here’s how.
Get organized. This should be your first order of business. A good friend of mine uses her insane excel skills to map out a master to-do spreadsheet, complete with gift lists, holiday menus, shopping lists, total budget, etc. But you don’t need Microsoft to know how to make lists – and stick to them.
Speaking of budgets, don’t forget that your gift budget is only part of the total spend for holiday season.
Holiday cards. If you’re planning to send out a fancy card featuring the whole family, pets and all, donning matching outfits and professionally photographed outdoors, well, good luck with that. Um, it’s the middle of December? But no worries. Just prop the kids in front of the tree, hit up an online photo site like Snapfish or Shutterfly, and print at Walgreens or Costco within the hour. You know your kids will look adorable no matter what!
Gifts. If your family is small, exchanging gifts with a few relatives should be simple. But how many small families do you know in Staten Island? This year, get creative to save yourself money and time. Try a Secret Santa, a single gift exchange, or stick to just buying gifts for the kids. This is an area where Pinterest shines!
For co-workers, neighbors, and neighborhood helpers, a little baking goes a long way. Fill festive holiday tins from the dollar store with homemade pizzelles or rainbow cookies. Or go store bought; it’s the thought that counts! Be sure to make extra for the holiday dessert table.
Food. I’ve got two words for you: Pot Luck. Don’t be afraid to ask for as much help as your guests are willing to offer. Seven different kinds of fish sounds like seven different ways to have a nervous breakdown if no one is lending a hand. Plan your menu as far in advance as possible and shop around for local deals or coupons. If everyone is too busy (or just really bad at cooking), each family could chip in and order catering.
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Entertainment. Most families stay entertained just catching up at the holiday table. But if you aim to take the fun a step further, give the kids a reason to look up from their screens and make eye contact with actual people— some of whom they may finally learn they’re related to – by taking to the internet for some family-friendly holiday party ideas.
Décor. Keep it simple. It doesn’t have to look like Santa’s workshop exploded in your living room. Going overboard on decorations takes up valuable time and space in your home. On the big day, keep the fine china in the closet and opt for disposable dishes and silverware to make cleanup a breeze.
The week before. The week before a holiday is a frenzied one, so don’t go in to holiday overdrive by doing everything at the last minute. Gift wrap as you go, instead of waiting to do it all at once. Assemble toys ahead of time if you have a good hiding spot for them. Make and freeze extra batches of meals in the weeks leading up the big one so that your weeknights are free from cooking. Plan or purchase everyone’s outfits in advance. Do whatever you can to keep yourself from losing it that week.
The important stuff. The holiday memories you make today are your kids’ childhood memories of tomorrow. Try to scale back the stress and just live in the moment. Then, when it’s their turn to be the gown-ups, all you’ll have to do is sit back with the Elf and take in the joy of the season.
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