I have the fondest memories of the Christmases of my childhood, of being surrounded by family, preparing special meals together, feeling pure magic in the air. Perhaps that is why it seems easier to reconnect with my inner child at this time of year. As I reminisce, I can still feel the warmth of that simpler time…and I just want to hold on to it so tightly. In the face of adult concerns and responsibilities, that feeling brings such peace.
The hustle and bustle of the holiday season seems to carry its own interesting set of adult concerns and responsibilities, and well…stress. In the midst of the baking and lovely gift making, outside pressures often do begin to creep in. We start juggling the family expectations, the traditions that no longer fit our family life, too many invitations, the feelings of not having enough time, all while trying to avoid the barrage of the multi-media-marketing-machine. Phew! No wonder that inner child feels lost sometimes.
Whenever I’m feeling overwhelmed, I know that simplifying will lead me back to where I want to be. I look for ways to clear away excess in our family spaces to make room for connection and fun. I hold onto a few little rituals that lend magic to our days. I decide which activities can go on without my family, creating more time for each other, and I keep the pressures of the adult world at bay.
These basic little principles can serve as a stalwart guide through the holiday season, too- an antidote to the whirlwind some of us experience. Before the season is in full-swing, set some intentions for what you would like to experience. Consider these questions to get you going:
:: When preparing your holiday decorations, what subtle changes to the gathering spaces will ensure that more time is spent together? Are special stories and games easily accessible? Are there also quiet spaces for contemplation?
::As your family thinks of others this holiday season, what gently used items, toys and books can be donated to a local charity? Can all family members participate in this gesture? After the donations have been made, how does it feel to have less?
:: Simple rituals do provide a moment of reverence for family members of all ages, so they are a wonderful way to connect with the true spirit of the season. Sometimes it is the simplest candle lighting or mealtime verse that will be remembered for years to come. What are your favorite traditions from holidays past, and what new ones can you explore?
:: Many families celebrate Advent, marking the days until Winter Solstice or Christmas. This tradition can provide a lovely structure for adding a new touchstone to each day. When will this small celebration take place each day? How will you mark the passage of time together?
:: Whether celebrating Advent, or just looking for more things to do together as a family, the holiday season offers many opportunities to express your family’s values. I like to choose little activities that appeal to a child’s head, heart and hands, like creating a seasonal story together, making a simple birdfeeder, or leaving a “Secret Santa” gift on a neighbor’s doorstep.
:: Before the parties begin, spend some time talking about what you would like to do as a family this holiday season. Find a place on the calendar for as many of those activities as you’re comfortable- especially the ones that offer rest, relaxation and bonding close to home. As invitations begin to arrive, check your calendar, and honor the commitments you have already made to family time.
:: And most importantly, check in with each other along the way, and change the plans as necessary so that all family members are experiencing a joy-filled holiday season. Should pressure and stress creep in, figure out their source and make some adjustments.
There’s no need to grin-and-bear-it this year! Let’s all remember that the season is an opportunity to celebrate what is meaningful to our own unique families. The clearer we can be about what we do want to experience, the easier it becomes to communicate that to others, to remain true to ourselves, and ultimately, to have the happiest of holidays.
As a Simplicity Parenting© Group Leader, Allison Abramson is honored to help families build deeper connections and have more fun. She lives with her husband and two little girls in Providence, Rhode Island, where she blogs about their journey toward a Peaceful Life. More information about Simplicity Parenting© can be found here.