Preparing for the Holidays: Simplify Your Holiday Traditions

This post is the second in our Preparing for the Holidays series.  As we mentioned last week, each year our family makes an effort to simplify our holiday. We make promises that we won’t over-schedule or cook too much food, or buy an excess of gifts. We even swear that this is the year the adults are not going to exchange any gifts. And yet, most holidays we find ourselves cooking big meals, giving gifts and often feeling busier than ever. On the heels of Thanksgiving, when we actually took our own advice and simplified our Thanksgiving menu, we can say that we are making progress…

But we are still searching for ways to simplify further so we can experience the full potential of the holiday, which to us means experiencing a deeper level of connection to our family and friends, finding time to pause, reflect on the past year and be grateful for what we have, and feeling peaceful, mindful and present. So we have been asking ourselves the following questions:

How would it feel to create a celebration that reflects our unique authentic self? To be present and mindful rather than busy, stressed, and rushed? Can we shed expectations, let go of perfectionism, and, if necessary, amend or edit longstanding traditions?  Can we take the risk of being simple this year and trust that we, our loved ones, and life are more than enough?  This year, can we trust, let go and “let life shape itself” instead of trying to control or schedule the holiday?

Our answer is, YES! So below, we have included some ways that we plan to simplify our holiday.

1) Hone in on the traditions that truly matter: Often we default to traditions out of habit without considering whether we really still enjoy them. Or perhaps we continue a tradition because we feel it’s important to others. But people change over time, so not all traditions will be in alignment with who you and your family are now. Click here and use this simple process to get in touch with the traditions that truly have meaning for you and your family.

2) Reduce, eliminate or re-think gift giving: If you plan to give gifts, it can help to plan early. Occasionally, just the right thing will pop up at the last minute, but typically starting early will ensure that you have the time to be thoughtful and will hopefully result in a useful and meaningful gift. Also, consider less material gifts such as offering your time (cooking someone dinner, babysitting for a friend), gift cards, or an experience such as a night out or a trip. You and the adults in your family may also opt to have a gift-free year.

3) Be kind to the earth: For many of us, the holidays are a time when we consume much more than we do the rest of the year. We eat a lot, we buy a lot, and we travel a lot… so this year, find ways to tread lightly on our earth, such as using recycled wrapping paper or forgoing the wrapping paper all together. Create vegetarian holiday menus, or  stay local and don’t travel. Click here for nine healthy, simple, eco-friendly choices you can make this holiday season.

4) Simplify meals: Let go of any preconceived notions about what a holiday meal should or should not be. A holiday meal can be anything from a turkey to turkey burgers! It can be home-cooked, a shared potluck, catered, or take-out.  And it can be enjoyed around a dining room table, the kitchen counter, on a tray by the fire, at a restaurant, or on a picnic. Click here for tips about how to simplify your holiday meal.

This Thanksgiving, Alison had a Thanksgiving for two, so in place of a turkey, she made a small organic roast chicken and just a few favorite sides.

5) Be grateful: This holiday, replace your wish-list with a gratitude-list. Studies show that gratitude is an antidote to stress and fear. It also puts us in the holiday spirit! Click here for gratitude tips.

6) Be mindful: When you are living in the moment and present with those around you, you are a gift to all those you come into contact with. Consider a mindfulness practice, such as journaling or meditating, to help you stay in the moment. Notice if you get stressed out or overwhelmed and bring yourself back to center. If you don’t already, try meditating each day—even if only for five minutes.  Click here for tips about how to meditate.

7) Nurture yourself: the holidays can be stressful. This is the time to make sure we maintain our self-care routines, such as eating well, exercising, reading for pleasure, soaking in a tub, and taking time to do nothing. If you don’t have any self-care rituals, now is a good time to begin!

8 ) Contribute and connect: During the holidays, many of us spend time thinking about what we’re thankful for and feeling gratitude. Often, this leads us to think about those who are less fortunate and what we can do to “give back.” Giving back is an important next step to feeling and expressing gratitude, so find a way to give back whether it’s with your time, money, kindness, or prayers. Click here for tips about how to give back. Also make time to connect not only with friends and loved ones, but your neighbors and community as well.

 

If you liked this blog, you may also like:
Replace Your Wish List with a Gratitude List
Dreaming of a Green Christmas: An Earth-Friendly Holiday Season
Celebrating With Sweets: The Winter Holidays Edition
Holiday Giving Traditions
An Earth-Friendly Thanksgiving
Preparing for the Holidays: Simplifying Your Holiday Meal

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