20 ways to have a fantastic Christmas

By: Jennifer Gruden

© Author: Canadian Living Credits: ©


20 ways to have a fantastic Christmas

By: Jennifer Gruden
1. Say no
If you felt like you were rushing from 'do to 'do last Christmas, practise the fine art of saying “no thanks” this year. It is truly OK to put your volunteer efforts into a bake sale at a different time of year, or to invite that couple that always hosts a Christmas party over for a July barbeque.

If you feel like you're always pressured into decisions, read up on our Learn how to say no and reclaim your time.

2. Let elves do the work
One valued tradition: The gift of catering. Order a few trays from the local deli and partake of them on your off days, while doing a puzzle, a craft or watching a DVD.

3. Never underestimate the beauty of your neighbourhood
If you have young kids, get them out of the house as a way of breaking up the pre-Christmas excitement or to distract them from the after-all-the-toys-are-opened holiday letdown. My husband and I take our kids out for a nature hike/treasure hunt in the park across the street on Christmas afternoon. Another favourite tradition: Driving around to see the lights with treats in the car and carols playing.

4. Pick one thing and ace it
Some people make beautiful family Christmas cards, others whip up the most amazing Christmas bark. Few of us are able to do both. Make good on your signature X-mas skill, then rest on your laurels for the rest of the holiday.

5. Make time for adult activities
Don't be shy about taking a little grown-up time. Book a babysitter for brunch and shopping, or check your local school, church or community centre for a "parents' night out" movie screening. Bonus points if a visiting relative is willing to babysit, because then your kids get continued family bonding time.

6. Let go of perfection
While we all want things to be just right, trying to do everything perfectly all season can be stressful. It's fine to host a dinner with simple, easy dishes, or to let some gifts go modestly wrapped.

7. Potluck it
"Many hands make light work." Invite family to bring their favourite drinks, appetizers or side dishes to your gathering, and all you'll have to worry about is the mains.

8. Scale back or spread out
Our kids have been overwhelmed by gifts in the past, resulting in a very long gift-opening ceremony and a cranky letdown after. Now my husband and I restrain ourselves, and we encourage the kids to open presents on Christmas Eve as well as on Christmas Day, and we even save some presents (from long-distance family and friends) for Boxing Day or afterwards.

9. Don't try to recreate the past
Christmas is about tradition, but even traditions change over time. If there’s some aspect of Christmas that stresses you out or that you find meaningless, feel free to jettison it. For example: If you hate standing in line to talk to Santa or your kids just end up crying on his lap, skip it. You can take their pictures in front of the tree instead, and they can write to Santa at the North Pole.

Everyone has at least one tradition that makes Christmas extra special. Here are a few
Canadian Christmas traditions that are sure to warm your heart.

10. Do, however, maintain the most meaningful traditions
If decorating the tree together as a family is what you love best about the holidays, then do it, sulky teens be darned. The trick is to eliminate the superfluous activities so that you can prioritize the core ones .

11. Give back, but on your own schedule
This is the time of year in which volunteering and charity reach their peak. If they’re an important part of the holiday for you, carry on. But if you're overwhelmed trying to manage your family's holiday schedule, make a plan to give your time and money in February or March. Make a note on the calendar and move on.

12. Practise conversational interference
Bringing extended family together quite often leads to conflict. If you have a sister-in-law who always has to compare gift expenditures, or a cousin who always has to assert contempt for mainstream holiday celebrations, practise this phrase: "Pass the onion dip." Whenever the conversation goes awry, just change the subject and let it drop.

13. Make travel-time fun

If you have to do a lot of driving around, crank the carols or play Christmas trivia games. If you're on a flight or a train, do simple crafts or read holiday classics. Pack some cookies and you've got yourself a moving party.

Here are some easy decorative Christmas crafts sure to keep your little one busy for a few hours.

14. Use your words
If you start to feel overwhelmed or stressed, use your words. It's okay to turn to family and friends and say, "You know what, I am completely stressed out about getting everything wrapped." Even if they don't jump in to help, you'll probably feel better just for having said it.  Another conversation to consider: "Dear, I would really appreciate a gift this year that has nothing to do with cleaning, repairs, or cooking."

15. Ask for help
This is a variation on above, but it bears repeating. Look, even Santa has elves, and nine reindeer pull his sleigh, right? If you have relatives coming to stay with you, ask them to help with seasonal duties. If you’re shopped out, ask your partner or a friend to find a few last-minute items. You’re actually giving people an opportunity to experience Christmas with you.

16. Prepare your kids for disappointment
It may sound anti-Christmas, but it really isn't. Prepare your kids for getting a gift they don't love or for not getting a gift they wanted. Walk them through a script: "Thank you aunt Jane, whenever I look at this I will think of you.”

17. Get sleep
Nothing is fun when you're exhausted. Baking one more kind of cookie or adding that extra flourish to a gift-wrapped package isn’t worth it. On nights you're not partying, get some quality shut-eye.

18. Make time, not stuff
We live in an age of distraction and stuff. If your budget is stretched or you're running out of shopping or baking time, pick a few close friends or family members and book a future coffee date as your gift to each other.  You don't have to squeeze everything into the 12 days of Christmas.

19. Be grateful
If you’re reading this piece in good health, with a full belly, and heat in your home, you really are among the fortunate.

20. Deep joy can’t be manufactured
While there are life-moments that always tend to produce joy—watching someone open the perfect gift; seeing everyone take their seats around the table—the truth is that joy can’t be forced. Christmas, like all major holidays, is way bigger than us. Breathe deep, stay in the moment, and let what happens happen. The world may just surprise you.

Christmas can sometimes really stretch your wallet. Here are 10 affordable Christmas decorations you'll love and 8 secrets to spending less on Christmas baking.

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20 ways to have a fantastic Christmas