I don’t forsee being stressed; in fact, I plan not to be stressed.
I don’t want to gloat or anything, but we have a low-stress Christmas. On Black Friday I watch people on TV, whacking each other with sale items at Big Box stores; I work hard not to roll my eyes.
I hear people talk about Keeping Christ in Christmas, but their actions speak louder than their words.
Here’s one option: When the kids were small, we started a Secret Santa plan, where each Christmas we would put our names in a hat, and choose out our person for the following Christmas. We had all year to keep our eyes open for that special someone. We set a dollar limit, relatively low, with an emphasis on thoughtfulness rather than on monetary value.
We wondered at first if children that young (ages around 7-13) would understand the concept of one gift given – just one gift received, but they have been thrilled by the idea ever since. Now that we have three daughters-in-law, we have continued the game with nine people, to the delight of all!
We start with one person opening his or her gift, and pass it around to look it over; then the next one goes. This means that I can recall my Christmas presents from the last few years – I wonder how many people can claim that?
We refuse to do Yankee Swap, which, all agree, would just end in tears.
I usually shop online, since we’re never sure to be near the family at Christmas. This year, however, Karen and I went shopping in Madrid, Spain, for our two people (ssshhh!). So, my main Christmas shopping has been done since August.
Christmas dinner? It’s pot-luck – everyone brings what he or she wants to add, there’s no assignments and the result is unpredictable and fun. This year I’m contributing Swedish meatballs with lingonberry garnish; last year I made an English Pudding that my Aunt Ethel always brought. We have dishes from many countries. If people bring only salads, well, that’s what we eat! Only desserts? No problem. If there’s something in particular you want to see on the table, then you’d best bring it.
And yes, I get it, that women usually are burdened with more holiday stress than men, but be assured that I do my share to help in the house and kitchen too, as my family will testify. And I do understand that some have a large tribe of nephews, in-laws, steps, etc., and that their family situations are not as self-contained as ours. But maybe you can catch everyone at that moment when they bring up how stressful shopping is and suggest something more streamlined.
An afterthought: When people talk about how much holiday stress they face, is this (for some) a sort of “reverse bragging” about how much their family depends on them? Is Christmas really all about “me”? This is of course between you and your own conscience, not mine, but I thought I’d mention it.
“Brace yourself – it’s Christmas Season!” by Gary Shogren, PhD