Holiday Makeover {Embracing and Enjoying the Season}


With parties, happy hours, open houses, and family get-togethers, December is the perfect time to add a pretty new lipstick or sparkly eye color to your look. But that is not the holiday makeover I’m talking about.

I’m talking about a ditch-the-stress-mess-and-overwhelm-holiday for one that you might actually enjoy.


I know there are plenty of you wondering what the heck I am talking about because you love this time of year. The shopping, decorating, cooking, the gatherings and people, the lights and special events. If that’s you, congratulations! Really. I am super impressed by anyone who has designed a joyful holiday tradition that doesn’t make you feel like a deflated balloon by the time January arrives. Because after more than two decades of holiday-ing as an adult, I can’t say that I have that down.

Every year, I try to curate our plans – reducing the things that stress me out and increasing the things that make my holiday joyful, restorative, and fun. The reality of parenting is that this is always a work in progress. What my family loved as toddlers is different than what they love as teens, which will be different than what they will be available for as young adults. Wherever your stage of parenting is, here are some things to think about if you want to makeover your holidays a little or a lot.

Examine what causes you stress and why.

One of the first changes we made to our holiday was to declare no traveling on Christmas Day. We decided this as we drove four hours through a blizzard on Christmas Eve from my sister’s house in Fort Wayne (three hours from our home) to my in-laws’ house in Cleveland with three children under the age of 5. Seems pretty obvious looking back, don’t you think? What are some other things you might consider eliminating, limiting, or rescheduling to reduce stress?

ALL the parties.

Someone’s workplace (ahem, husband) seems to think that three holiday office parties are a good idea during the month of December. You know, that same month when we also have family parties, friend parties, MY work parties, and so on and so on. Can you eliminate some of these, or maybe just go for an hour? We don’t have to say yes to everything, especially those that are not particularly fun, whether it’s work or a certain family gathering or your rec soccer league party or really anything at all.

ALL the shopping.

Reconsider exchanges. If you are only doing it because someone else expects you to, you can opt out. Also, think about gifts among your immediate family. Does your gift shopping require a spreadsheet to keep track of what you purchased, for whom, and where it is hidden? Do you love all the shopping and wrapping? If yes it does and no you don’t, it is ok to downsize. Gifts do not prove how much you love someone. (FYI – my husband would laugh at this sentence because I totally need to hear it over and over, too. Shopping is a big part of this holiday for me, too, so this is a work in progress.)

ALL the cooking.

With a house full of foodies, this has been tricky for us. We love delicious, homemade food, but I do not want to spend my entire day working in the kitchen. If ordering out works for you, I highly encourage it. What works for us is a plan and spreading out the work. Right after Thanksgiving, we start making cookie dough in the small pockets of time we have and then freeze it. All the kids help. That way, we can make piles of holiday cookies to share without spending a whole weekend, ending up exhausted and grumpy.

For our special meals, I make side dishes ahead that can be reheated and a main dish that doesn’t take a lot of babysitting, like roasted salmon, slow cooker Mongolian beef, braised short ribs, or steak on the grill. For special meals with a crowd – potluck. Everything is delicious because people will make what they are good at, and no one person shoulders the burden of cooking everything.

Examine what you love about the holidays and why.

This was the second reason we declared no travel on Christmas Day. My children would awaken early, unwrap gifts, and want to spend hours playing. Instead, we had to make them stop playing, put on uncomfortable clothes, and get in the car. We all hated this. They wanted to play, and I wanted time to enjoy them. Then AND now, we all enjoy a day to relax, stay in our PJs, enjoy our gifts, eat our favorite treats, watch movies, play cards, and be together, just the five of us.

What are some other things you might consider adding to your holiday season for more joy?

ALL the Christmas movies.

Along with warm blankets, buttery popcorn, and hot cocoa with an obnoxious amount of whipped cream.

ALL the Christmas lights.

I love twinkle lights, so we added extras dangling from the ceiling in the basement. I love to drive around to see the best Christmas displays in town, especially the over-the-top houses, which are even better than those you pay to drive through.

ALL the giving.

If you eliminated a few things that weren’t bringing joy this season, you might have time and energy to devote to giving where it can make a huge difference. A couple of my favorites are the Salvation Army’s Angel Tree Registry and Our Daily Bread Soup Kitchen.

ALL the memories.

This could be a fancy dinner out, a night of live theater, a concert, or a class like canvas painting, glass blowing, or cooking. Shh… I can’t say what my kids and I are doing this year, but it’s going to be so fun! Memories make the best gifts so the best thing we can give to each other is our time.


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