It seems like it gets worse every year–the busyness of the holidays, that is. Between holiday parties and concerts, kids activities, sports and recitals, and holiday decorating, shopping, and food preparation, I am completely wiped out by Christmas day.
So, this year, I have a new goal: Create a peaceful Christmas holiday. I’ve been working on how this is possible for my family. After all, I do have six children and I did just publish my first book, which I’m still in the thick of promoting. It’s going to be a full time of year no matter what, but perhaps it doesn’t have to be as busy. I am seeking peace, and I’d like to share some of my ideas with you.
6 Ways to Create a More Peaceful Christmas
1) Slow down and simplify. I know. It sounds easier than it is. But slowing down allows us to see and appreciate the things that matter most, and that is key to a peaceful holiday and a peaceful life. As I write in This is How We Grow, “It is precisely when stress is coming after us that we most need to slow down and see… As we exit the speeding highway and opt for the slower, scenic route, we find a richness to life and we wonder how we’ve missed it all this time.” (p.77) The following ideas can help you simplify during the holidays. They can help you slow down and “see” greater peace. (First, ask yourself, “What are the most important parts of my life? Am I giving them the attention they deserve or am I so busy I’m missing it? What do I need to do to really focus on what matters most?”)
2) Ask each family member which holiday traditions/activities matter most to them. I asked my kids to list their top three. The things they said they couldn’t do without were simple and meaningful–“Having our extended family come on Christmas Eve,” “Giving away our ‘Christmas Jar'” (see this post for more on that) “Reading Christmas stories together in our PJ’s.” Ask your family and see what they say. You may be surprised how little it actually takes to make a perfectly peaceful and enjoyable Christmas for everyone. (Ask: “What activities or traditions are the most important to you?” Then, listen and write them down. And be sure to ask yourself.)
2) Say no to things that don’t really matter. Once you know what’s truly important to your family, say no to those things that aren’t. I have learned to say “no” to activities that make my family or me feel stressed (or aren’t mandatory for my kids!) in the month of December. If I enjoy going to a holiday party or concert–if it brings meaning and peace to my family and me–then I will go. If not, I am learning to just say, “no,” and it makes such a difference. (Ask, “Does this bring peace or joy to my life?” If not, let it go.)
3) Say “yes” to the things that matter most. As I learned years ago, saying “no” is really saying “yes” to something better. When you free up your schedule from activities that aren’t important to your family, you can then focus on those that are. Say “yes” to quality family time, meaningful exchanges with those you love, and serving those less fortunate. Saying “yes” to the important things makes life so much richer and Christmas so much more peaceful. (Ask, “How can saying ‘no’ to one thing free me up to say ‘yes’ to something better?” “What things deserve my ‘yes’ at this time?”)
4) Simplify gifts, and add more meaning. One of the most stressful parts of the holidays, for many people, is the shopping. Instead, try a “4-Gift Christmas”. To cut down on time and money spent on Christmas gifts, my family switched to the “four-gift Christmas” a few years ago. Each child gets four gifts–a gift of wonder (the thing they really want), a gift of need (clothes, underwear, socks?), a gift of meaning (my favorite–I pick–usually a homemade blanket, scrapbook, or maybe a family trip), and a “Santa” gift. This has made Christmas shopping so much simpler for me, and it gives me more time to spend with my family. Also, I have the kids give each other a “service” instead of a gift. It’s a great way to get them loving and serving one another and is so much more meaningful. For more great ideas on adding meaning and simplifying gifts, read my post, “The 5 Gifts of Meaning.” (Ask, “What could make my holiday shopping less stressful? What could make gift-giving more meaningful?)
5) Bring the True Spirit of Christmas to your home. We always read the Christmas story in the bible on Christmas Eve, but this year, I wanted us to remember the true meaning of Christmas all month long. So, we started doing Advent candles–one each Sunday until Christmas and one on Christmas Eve. Focusing on themes like, “Hope,” “Love,” “Joy,” & “Peace,” this is one way to keep my family’s minds and hearts focused on the meaning of the holiday. Think about what Christmas really means to you, then seek ways to bring that meaning into your home each day. (Ask, “What helps my family/me focus more on the true meaning of Christmas? Implement those things.)
6) Serve with a joyful heart. If there is one thing that brings greater peace, it is service. Look around for opportunities to serve others and do it. Make a goal to help one person each day, and have your family members do the same. Adopt a family, give a gift to a needy child, give someone a ride, or even just listen. It doesn’t have to be a grand gesture, but service and charity are what Christmas is all about. And serving others is the quickest way to lighten and brighten your own heart, too. Now that’s what I call peaceful. (Ask, “How can I serve today?” Then, do it.)
What brings your peace during the holiday season? Share your ideas with us, below, by leaving a comment!
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