Holly, Jolly


Yesterday I needed a little attitude check. (Do you ever give yourself one of those?)

The way I was feeling was, “How am I supposed to do all of these Christmas-y things I want to do, when I can barely make it through a regular day?” Seriously, I give myself a high-five just for going to the grocery store with two kids. I immediately determined that a couple of people would be receiving gifts that were less time-intensive than what I originally planned.

Even after I removed some projects from my list, I still had no idea where I might find the time to do the other things. Tension started creeping in. Stress started robbing me of joy.

But then I remembered.

All of these Christmas things are optional. They are self-imposed, and I am doing them because I want to. If I can’t be happy about them, then I’m not going to do them. So I either need to cheer up or go back to normal days.

I decided to cheer up. (And surprisingly, my refreshed attitude helped me get moving.)

The days before Christmas are not about working under pressure, seeing how much you can wrap, deck, and bake, and then unveiling it all with a big “TA-DAA!” on Christmas Eve. It’s not a performance. Those Christmas preparations are part of the celebration, so enjoy them while you can. And let’s not get so wrapped up in the party planning that we forget who it’s for.

How do you make room for Christmas activities in addition to your regular life?
About Rachel

I write about practical tips that will help you simplify at home. Connect with me on Pinterest and Twitter.


  1. You have read my mind, Rachel! I have been trying to figure out the same thing today.

    The idea of filling out my Xmas cards has put me over the edge-because like you, I often feel like we’re in survival mode over here!

    I’m in need of an attitude adjustment as well.


    steadymom´s last post…Blogoversary Giveaway: Love & Tea Company

  2. Ah, thank you so much for the reminder. I love the part where what we do is self imposed, well, for the most part.

    I’m laying low this year, with fewer decorations, fewer presents and hopefully less stress!

    Sharon´s last post…Couponing, revisited.

  3. We decided not to do Christmas presents at all. My baby is young enough not to know the difference and I’m not sure I even care what everyone else thinks. This is the biggest stress relief ever!!!

    Tara´s last post…Urban Knitters

  4. Wow! I don’t even have children and I feel overwhelmed with Christmas. We decorated our home early this year just so we could enjoy it and not feel rushed. I don’t feel like shopping for gifts at all or baking or any of that! I love Christmas but just not the “have to’s” that come along with it…

    anne´s last post…What do they think?

  5. I think the extra stuff is hardest for you moms with small children, esp. if you have several children.
    I also think our culture rushes Christmas – when I was young, most people did not even put up their tree until the week of Christmas and all the extra decorations that so many people do now, hardly anyone did that.

    Just do what you can – and pick out the traditions that give you joy and let the rest of it slide.

    Rhonda in OK´s last post…Giveaway for the start of this blog, my next big project and a gift idea

  6. My 6 yr old daughter plays Tiny Tim in her class play “A Christmas Carole” and she sings:

    “Oh, what a day! I don’t care if its gray if it’s Christmas together.
    People will say we’re the luckiest family in town…

    Even the poorest are rich in love, and love is so easy to do.
    So celebrate Christmas for all that its worth.”

    Her song reminds me of the importance of Christmas–togetherness–and it makes me smile. :)

    p.s. I’ll be bawling at the show next week! Whaaa! P)

  7. Tree Huggie says:

    After focusing some of our beliefs towards Buddist thought we decided that the holidays had become far too commercial and impart the wrong values. We decided that if it was not something we enjoyed we would stop the excessive consumption, save the earth a bit, and lower our stress. We spend a relaxed day having whatever special treat food we feel like, usually deciding last minute, enjoy each other’s companionship, and do fun things around the house that we never have time for. We never have holiday ‘drama’ and no one is upset to miss out on the latest gadget that was sold out and will be forgotten in 2 weeks. If we had kids we’d celebrate but on a small scale.

    • I agree with Tree Huggie and Holly. I have dropped the usual ‘run around headless like chicken’ routine this year and suddenly find all the preparations I read constantly about, ‘alien’. The tree is not even going up and will remain in storage (and thats one less stress;)) We are back to single income and I guess thats one great impetus to let go of the frills (usually unnecessary). I am trying hard to figure how to get my 3 young darlings internalise that Xmas is more than just receiving gifts- its as much as about giving to others. We will soak in the holiday mood outside home- where there are plenty festive atmosphere. YES, it does feel very liberating not to keep up with obligations.
      But in the past, I must admit christmas preparation became regular life! ;p

  8. I’m a mother of young ones also, and with each year I’ve been feeling increasingly the same way. I don’t want to spend the holidays in grouch mode and miss the true meaning. You are right. Much of the stress we have is put on us by ourselves. And largely, we let our consumer driven society influence us and make us feel like we have to perform and do x,y,z, or we are not truly celebrating. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Time to take back Christmas for what it was originally intended to be!

  9. This week we had a new baby (our fourth) and my husband was laid off.
    Ironically, I have found it incredibly liberating. I don’t have to spend time trying to get the family together for the perfect Christmas card picture, because we can’t afford it. Same thing goes for all the crafty, homemade gifts I normally do, the shopping I would normally do, as well as lots of other Christmas activities which, while fun, are also stressful and sometimes costly.
    The busy-ness of having a new baby, plus the absence of funds is turning out to make this holiday season pretty nice and really stress-free. I’m loving it. Truly.

    Holly´s last post…Bennett William

  10. I’ve had to do many of those attitude checks over the years as my three children grew up. Nothing Christmas-y about a grouchy mama! These last couple of years, I’ve been scaling back on everything, from gifts to decorations, to cooking. Love it so much more. Thanks for the thoughtful posts. I always leave your site with a small bit of serenity.

  11. Like you and the other commenters, I make room in my life for Christmas activities by being selective, by editing my expectations.

    Being patient with myself and saying, “Good enough is good enough” also helps to keep it mostly stress-free. Last year we didn’t send Christmas cards. This year we will but, we gave ourselves two days (instead of one) to buy, set up and decorate the tree. Every year we try to edit our gift buying list.

    Meg´s last post…Waiting for After

  12. I make time by lowering expectations:

    http://fimby.tougas.net/the-perfect-Christmas (preparing for an unperfect Christmas)

    and then dropping our usual homeschool routine to make the time to get gifts ready and do the extra creative stuff we love

  13. I know exactly what you mean too. My boys turned three this summer and I feel like this is the first holiday season that I actually have energy to do Christmas-y things. I plan to do a lot of things “after hours” since my boys still like to be right in the middle of things. But I also plan to incorporate them by having them pain mini canvases as gifts for all the g-parents. And I think I too accept that I can only do what I can do.

    Annie´s last post…Giving Day 3

  14. perfect post for this time of year. i decided to relax. . . 2 under 2 is hard enough without having to worry about all the extra and unnecessary stuff during the holidays.

  15. For me its as simple as just being realistic and honest with myself about what I can actually accomplish with a glad heart…the rest..just may not get done, and that is ok.

    Tina´s last post…Constant Motion

  16. My sons and I have been looking at what is most important and most enjoyable for this season. Some have already noticed that I have been altering traditions and routines to fit the needs of my immediate family and not keeping up with what everyone else has always done. I spent a lot of Christmases completely exhausted, and I refuse to have that happen again.

  17. I struggle with this, too. Savoring the season is something I really want to do, but so many things intrude, some by necessity and others because I am not as purposeful as I want to be. And I struggle with my attitude, too, in not resenting the things God has called me to do. I want to sit and look at my beautifully and brightly lit Christmas tree; I want to make gingerbread cookies and spend an afternoon or two decorating them; I want time to make more handmade gifts. One thing that has made the season stretch longer is to start listening to Christmas music BEFORE Thanksgiving. I know a lot of people poo poo that…but for me it is a simple thing that has helped me focus on Christmas and enjoy it longer.

    Wayside Wanderer´s last post…Peppermint Brownie Bites

  18. I grew up in a home where Christmas was so insane… a mad flurry of last minute spending (that left us reeling) huge preparations that kept my folks up all night… a miserable day as we launched from one set of grandparents to the next with extremely tired parents… When we got married my husband and I decided to cut out everything and only put back what was essential… turned out all that was essential was a visit with my folks and his round about the day and the rest could all be dropped – what a revelation! Apart from visiting our families: his the day before and mine the day after, Christmas is ours to just have fun… if we want to do christmas crafts we do, if we want to decorate we do, if we want to gift each other we do… and so on… mostly we lie around and read – its a very quiet day!!! and do a project or play games with our kids – things we don’t always take the time to do.

    se7en´s last post…Se7en Do Christmas: Step 5 – Gift Wrapping…

  19. It is a very stresful time of the year. Thankfully things have slowed down over the last few years, after a nasty accident and spinal surgery my expectations have greatly reduced, in some ways it is a blessing. Reading all your posts I think back prior to my injury and I was working a full time job with lots of extra hours, three kids and all those household duties. I would have to work all day Christmas Eve and come home and have 20 or so guests for dinner!! Then do it all again for 12 on Christmas day!! How silly was I!!! Now the family is around 30+ and I send out emails with a list of what I want each person to bring. We only buy for the little kids in the extended family and for our family (husband, kids and their partners) we get together in october and pick one name out of the hat, and you only buy for that person their is a price limit and ooohhhhhh so much less stress. Being in Australia we at least get to eat outside and let the little ones run free (if it is not too hot). Merry Christmas

  20. Like you say – its not a performance! We always work to keep things really simple, and I tend to be pretty organised – I always aim to have my present shopping done by the end of November, and I do most of it online and with a tight budget. I love sending cards but do those a few at a time in November, leaving December free for Christmas fun …

    Gypsy´s last post…Take my advice – I’m clearly not using it

  21. Perfect, perfect, perfect.

    Megan at Simple Kids´s last post…December 4th: SK Showcase and Weekend Links

  22. Christmas things are optional.. this is so true, thank you! It can become so stressful at this time of year, and this reminder does help to put it in perspective.

    chaotic kitten´s last post…Seeing Stuff I have Dehoarded In the Shop

  23. Rachel, thanks for sharing these thoughts. I feel like I’ve been grounded again. I’m with you: getting to the grocery store and back with both kids and food in tow is something to cheer about. Christmas can feel like it adds a lot of pressure, but like you said, a lot of that pressure is self-made.

    So I’m going to go and make a cup of tea and seriously slash my Christmas “to-do” list that I’ve been building. Thank you.

    Lynnita´s last post…J5MM Monthly Index: November 2009

  24. I remember holidays like this. Kids add such a challenge to even the simplest jobs. You are smart to “downsize” your to-do list.

    I always remember the advice of Erma Bombeck. “Go Christmas shopping and leave your checkbook and credit cards at home.” She suggested that we just enjoy the sights and sounds of the season–and leave that rushed feeling out of the picture. I like that.

    Confession: that is a lot easier to do at my age than it is for you to do it at yours!

    mrs. e´s last post…Some things you just don’t forget

  25. I love your post.

    We regularly don’t do things other people do because i refuse to be stressed anymore than I already am.

    Now that I have twins, I have a valid excuse and really, no time, to run around doing gifts, so I will do very little this year.

    Marcia Francois, Organising Queen´s last post…on how I plan my life

  26. Rachel,

    What a wonderful posting. Your sentiments here really strike a chord and should be applied to everything in life:

    “All of these Christmas things are optional. They are self-imposed, and I am doing them because I want to. If I can’t be happy about them, then I’m not going to do them”

    How eloquent. I live my life everyday like this…some people don’t understand, but living the life you choose, on your terms is a good starting point for a happy life. Thank you for the fresh outlook.

    simply stephen´s last post…impact of disposable paper products on the environment

  27. I really do not do a lot for Christmas. It has freed me up in my mind. Simplicity.

    Jena (Organizing Mommy)´s last post…Always trying new things..

  28. This may sound Grinch-like, but I promise it really isn’t. I’m staying sane this holiday season by skipping the tree! I’d rather spend my time writing Christmas cards with a cup of hot tea, Christmas music and a Christmassy scented candle. Reaching out to distant friends is more important to me this year. :)

    Juice´s last post…The Best Laid Plans

  29. Cynthia Moore says:

    Thanks for sharing!! I just realized while reading this that I have always viewed these things as a sort of performance, not a celebration. I will remind myself, when I am needing an attitude adjustment myself, that it is in fact for celebration!! Thanks again!

  30. So, so true! I’ve been feeling this way after just having my 3rd child. I’m in a bit of a funk and wasn’t finding joy in certain festive activities. I forget that I HAVE A CHOICE in what I participate in. Maybe I need to add “PJ Day” to our list of Christmas fun so I can enjoy myself too!

    Intentionally Katie´s last post…Easily Overwhelmed

  31. boy .. i guess men and women feel this too.. overwhelmed with the tadaa.. started on the tree feel like i really dont and im not enjoying this..do i need meds..lol.. or just a time out..