Think about the best holiday season you ever had. Was it the year you stenciled your own cards, spatter painted your own wrapping paper, baked a gingerbread castle complete with a drawbridge, garlanded everything in the house that didn't move, ran a booth at the bazaar, stuffed a stocking for the cat and stayed up late Christmas Eve enameling the shutters on your daughter's new dollhouse?
Every year this season seduces us with the notion that if observing one holiday tradition makes us happy, throwing ourselves into three or four additional projects will produce the pure holiday bliss we remember feeling as children. So you string lights, organize the Christmas pageant and bake a fabulous batch of cookies. Everyone applauds...and you're stuck doing encores forever. Suddenly, your calendar is packed with Yuletide tasks and activities.
Stop. Take a deep breath. Make a list of all the things you do each holiday season.
Once you've trimmed your to-do list, focus on the one or two holiday rituals that matter most to you. Give yourself time, space and permission to savor them. Maybe it is spending December up to your elbows in cookie dough. Maybe it's also carving out an afternoon to have tea with your three oldest friends. In O, The Oprah Magazine, you'll find solutions to the season's close calls, our readers' favorite traditions and advice from Thomas Lynch on how to welcome the ghosts of Christmas present. Feel free to borrow—just remember to return whatever doesn't fit.