Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Making the Holidays Magical

What can you do to make the holidays more magical for your family, your friends, and yourself? Whether you celebrate Hanukkah, Christmas, Yule, Winter Solstice; or if you're an atheist who just likes the snow, festive atmosphere and pretty lights - what can you personally do to foster a warm holiday spirit? What things make the holidays really exciting for your children, your spouse/significant other, your parents, your sister, or your best friend?


- Eat some fruit. It's easy to forget to slice and enjoy fruit, especially in this busy time of year.

- Eat up some leftovers, if you have any. I need my fridge to be more empty by the weekend (so that I have room for party food). Plus I want to save money by using up perfectly good leftovers instead of running to the grocery store one more time this week.

- On the topic of leftovers, take a quick peek in your freezer. Is there something in there that you've had for a while and haven't used, probably because it takes more time to prepare than you think you can spend? Make a plan to use and enjoy that food this weekend - or give up on it and get rid of it. I have a nice bag of frozen broccoli and water chestnuts - perfect for stir fry, only I never seem to have fresh tofu in the house and I don't make the time to actually make the stir fry. I swear I am going to enjoy that meal this week. I'm adding tofu to my grocery list and I'll pick it up at the store today!

TODAY'S PROJECT: Holiday Magic

Think of something you can do today, and this weekend (as well as on Hanukkah or Christmas days) to make it magical and beautiful for yourself and for your family and friends.

You don't need to spend money to accomplish this, but you do need to spend time thinking, preparing, and doing.

Today, you might read one extra bedtime story (something with a holiday theme?); let little ones stay up just a wee bit longer if they are doing something with you (rather than camped in front of the TV or videogames by themselves). Play a board game after dinner instead of rushing to do the dishes; listen to holiday songs on the stereo during dinner or cleanup time; light a fire in the fireplace; open a bottle of something festive (champagne? sparkling grape juice?) to make dinner more special. Serve dinner (however simple the meal is) on your festive china. Burn incense, holiday candles, or pine scented oil in your fragrance diffuser.

This weekend opens up all sorts of possibilities for surprising your family with small treats, extra attention and affection, time spent doing something fun with you, putting up an extra set of lights or two, burning a couple extra candles, serving a special (but not over the top) meal, playing karaoke or Wii Fit with your kids, bringing home a festive houseplant for the dining table, making a holiday breakfast with Santa-shaped pancakes, inviting just a couple friends over for a holiday movie night; babysitting your best friend's kids for 3 hours for free so she can get some Christmas shopping done; and baking festive holiday cookies.

You can add some magic to the holidays without stressing yourself out. Just be relaxed about it. Give of yourself and your time.

What are the important things about the holidays? Spending time with family, children, friends; a warm inviting home; special meals; delicious beverages both hot and cold; candlelight and Christmas lights; cookies and desserts; a few days off from work perhaps; cards and phone calls from far away friends and relatives; photographs sent to you of cute young kids; festive drawings kids make you for your fridge; beautifully decorated homes; board games played til midnight; holiday music; festive parties; perhaps a snowy leisurely morning to sit back with a cup of steaming tea and a book you've been dying to read.

I notice I didn't mention gifts in the above list as I was thinking and typing and talking out loud to myself. I love buying gifts, giving gifts, and wrapping gifts, especially for children. Gifts definitely can make a holiday magical. But they can also be the most stressful part of the holidays for so many people. The malls are crowded, you're not sure what to get someone, the other shoppers are grumpy, you're exhausted, you don't have as much money to spend as you like or you spent too much money and feel guilty; you worry someone won't like what you got; you worry your sister will give your child a more expensive toy than you can; your mom gave your adult sibling a better gift than you got; etc. etc.

I'm going to make my own personal holiday much more magical by not stressing about the gifts. I'll strive to be spending carefully, giving joyfully, wrapping festively, and not worrying about it too much.

I'd like to continue to strive to give gifts year-round when I see something that reminds me of someone, rather than just giving things I thought I should buy at Christmas. I'll try year-round to give gifts of myself and my time. Babysit for people; cook for them; offer a ride to the airport; offer petsitting when someone is out of town; write someone an unexpected cheery letter; take someone out and treat them to a movie just-because. That's what I'm going to TRY to do in 2010 and for the rest of my life.

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