It's official—the holiday season is officially upon us (is it me or did it actually start this year before Halloween?).
Unfortunately, for many people, instead of it being the happiest time of year when we can relax and focus on the things that are truly important, the holidays are instead about deadlines, lists and logistics. So whenever I am asked for holiday tips, instead of forwarding along yet another recipe for sugar cookies, my advice is this:
Reduce stress, simplify and find joy.
Here are a few things that have worked for me:
- Smart Shopping: Holiday shopping has somehow become a fact of life in our country. It seems tinsel, garland and lights are hung earlier and earlier each season and we are meant to feel the pressure of the December holidays before we are even done taking down the skeletons off our doors from Halloween. So, given this reality, can we at least find a way to make shopping easier and actually enjoyable? I find that if I can organize my strategy before I go to the stores, I get more done and I feel calmer in the process. I make lists and also try to shop online as much as possible. What I cannot do online, I do without my kids in tow. Being a kid is stressful enough without all of the choices they are not prepared to make and temptations they are not old enough to resist, so I insist on sparing my kids the anxiety of holiday shopping. To make it fun for them, I do a babysitting co-op with my two sisters. We take turns watching each other's kids while one of us gets to go shopping, take care of errands or get ready for guests. The kids love seeing their cousins, and the babysitting sisters make the most of the occasion by planning a family excursion—ice skating, visiting a museum or looking at holiday lights. The result? I can get much more done in a much shorter time and I get my errands completed knowing that my kids are off having fun (and being wild) with their cousins.
- Personal Gifts: I try to make very personal gifts for my family. This year, for my 94-year-old grandmother I am making a home video of my children and buying a portable DVD player for her to watch it on. For my parents, I am making an electronic photo album. As a family, we always spend some time talking to each other about who deserves special attention and care during the holiday season. I try to remind my children of those who spend the holidays alone or those who are unwell and we bake them healthful treats. While I'm cooking, my kids love to sit at the kitchen table to make everyone fancy cards with lots and lots of glitter (which remains embedded in our carpet until spring). This season, I am smitten with ginger so I am baking Ginger Cookies (with Pumpkin) . I am going to bake these late at night after my children have gone to bed, which seems to be my only free time, especially this time of year. I use tins to store the goodies, because people can always reuse them and it is not as wasteful as paper products. I have found that people truly love a homemade baked gift—and when it is baked with love, has added hidden vegetables, and is low fat, they are especially grateful.