One December evening, after hours at the mall, I trudged home loaded with boxes and bags—a stressed-out Christmas shopper.
When I saw my husband lying on the sofa, a newspaper across his face filtering snores, I lost it. How dare he sleep while my bunions killed me?
Sighing loudly, I banged the bags and boxes on the kitchen table, hoping to wake him.
Worked like a charm. He bolted up and exclaimed, "What happened?”
Christmas overload. That’s what happened.
Say the word "Christmas" and many women get hives. The decorating! The shopping! The entertaining! The guests! The money! Is there really a way to have yourself a merry, “little” Christmas and still feel fulfilled? With a little practice, and a new attitude, I believe so. Here are a few suggestions.
SHORTEN YOUR GIFT LIST
If you’re part of a large extended family, give up the notion that every person must buy for every person. That’s insanity waiting to happen. Many recipients return what you spent hours looking for anyway. Try something simpler.
Draw names. Ask participants to put their names on a piece of paper, followed by five things they would like to have. If you can’t get everybody together, have this information sent to one person in an email. That individual can draw for everybody then relay the results back. Admittedly, drawing names doesn’t always sit well with children, but it teaches them a valuable lesson: Christmas isn’t about receiving; it’s about giving.
SET MONETARY LIMITS
Unless you have money to throw away, you should set limits on your gift-giving. Whether it be with your immediate family, or extended family, the amount should be agreed on beforehand. If you don’t set limits, you’ll always be tempted to overspend by buying “just one more thing.”
If you aren’t resigned to drawing names or shopping from a “wish list,” consider choosing a “theme” for your shopping list. Avoid broad themes like “clothes.” Instead, narrow it down to something like sweaters or pajamas or perfume. Other ideas are games, books, videos, music, cosmetics. A theme will keep you focused and save countless steps at the mall.
Another way to simplify shopping is giving gift cards. Although they aren’t very personal, they usually please the recipient, and save you frustration.
The Christmas season is filled with get-togethers. It’s OK to make them simple. Try the following:
- Have a potluck party. Furnish the meat and leave the rest to friends.
- Prepare a one-pot wonder like gumbo or chili. A tossed salad goes great with either of these.
- Host an after-dinner party. Whip up your favorite desserts, brew up some interesting hot drinks, put on the Christmas music, light a fire in the fireplace, and enjoy.
Years ago, while shopping with my small daughter, we encountered the Salvation Army bell ringer. “What's that?" Anna wanted to know. I explained how the money was spent to help indigent families. Her face lit up as she stuck out her hand. "Mama, can I please give some money to a poor little child?"
There is no better time to look outward than now. Consider a monetary donation to a non-profit organization. If money is tight, you can still find ways to help. Offer to baby-sit for a single mom, prepare a meal for a family, volunteer at a soup kitchen. And don’t overlook the popular “angel” trees at department stores. Opportunities abound.
TAKE TIME FOR REFLECTION
People of various faiths enjoy this time of year, but Christmas is a religious holiday for the Christian faith, commemorating the birth of Jesus Christ. Don’t forget to nourish your soul as you reflect on the Christ Child.
- Attend a religious pageant at a local church.
- Listen to religious Christmas music.
- Read the Christmas story from the Bible (Luke, Chapters 1 and 2).
- Start an “Advent” candle tradition.
A familiar Psalm says: "Be still and know that I am God." The Christmas season seems a perfect time for practicing stillness, for discovering God.
LET GO OF IDEALS
It may take years to surrender, but letting go of your visions of a perfect Christmas will improve your life. Christmas may never come off perfectly. But that’s OK. Consider the first Christmas. A young couple in a strange city. A young girl about to give birth. No hotel rooms available. Only a simple stable to sleep in. Even so, the angels' song floated calmly through the night air, announcing that peace and joy had come to earth.
This article first appeared in The Dallas Morning News. All rights reserved.