We’re into the thick of December now, and if you are like me, at this point you’re overwhelmed by the (self-imposed) pressure to create a magical holiday season for your family. By nature I am low-key and a bit of an introvert, so the idea of wearing my family and me out by seeing and doing all the Christmas things available in the valley is overwhelming. If you feel this way too, consider this permission to let yourself off the hook!
To enjoy—rather than stress—the rest of the holiday month, try checking off one or two must-do Christmas plans and then spend the rest of December enjoying family and friends through more low key Christmas activities. Here are some ideas to get you going:
- Buy a real Christmas tree.
We have always purchased a real tree because I love the smell and nothing says Christmas quite like taking the whole family to pick out just the perfect Douglas Fir. What’s more, live trees are so—much—easier. You don’t have to wrestle them in and out of storage, and you can simply recycle them after Christmas is over. Plus, you can procrastinate putting it up until a few weeks into the month because they don’t last that long anyway!
- Skip Santa pictures. *gasp!*
I know, I know, right here I’ve lost some of you. While I have nothing against Santa, I think it’s ok if this year you want to skip waiting in a long line, forcing your terrified child onto the Jolly One’s lap, and then buying an expensive picture to commemorate the special moment. Santa is so fun for our family, but we also try to keep our hearts focused on the true Christmas story. Our favorite ways to do that are following a nightly advent routine (here’s what we’re doing this year), and checking out the long-running Scottsdale Living Nativity. With live animals, costumed-characters, and hot chocolate, this intimate, come-and-go, live nativity is a great way to give kids a sweet visual of the first Christmas.
- Check out neighborhood—rather than commercial—light displays.
Order pizza and then pile your people in the car and drive around looking at lights in your neighborhood. We love the variety of amazing commercial light displays all over town but don’t feel bad if you want to skip the cold and the crowds this year and do some Christmas light hunting of your own.
- Include friends in at-home memory making.
Something fun we’re trying this year is inviting a few neighborhood friends over for a time of kids’ cookie decoration and exchange. We’re asking our friends to bring baked, undecorated cookies. We’ll provide the sprinkles, icing, etc, and the kids can do the rest. It seems like a festive way to celebrate together with friends without committing to an over-the-top planned activity.
- Try opening gifts Christmas morning with immediate family only.
A true blessing of the holidays is being able to spend time with our families. But sometimes zig-zagging between family Christmases is a stresser of its own. If you’re not traveling for Christmas, and this is at all possible, I highly recommend letting kids wake up in their own beds Christmas morning and coming out to open presents with just the immediate family and/or very close relatives. The rest of the day can be spent chasing all over town to celebrate with extended family, but starting the day with a special time for parents and kids helps keep the magic of Christmas morning in and the chaos out.