I’m big on holiday traditions. Listening to certain carols, eating certain foods, putting up the same old decorations year after year…I get a lot of joy and comfort from the familiar rituals and festivities of the season.
But traditions can have a dark side, too. When they become less about joy and fun and more about pressure and obligation, traditions lose their purpose and actually get in the way of a happy holiday. We don’t necessarily want to stop baking, decorating, or sending cards altogether, but we want to incorporate those much-loved (and sometimes, much blown out of proportion) traditions in a saner, less stressful way.
If you’ve been reading here a while, you know I’m all about taking the easy way out. That doesn’t mean you stop trying; just that you figure out what’s most important to you and do that without worrying about perfection or meeting some imaginary standard.
So over the next month, I’ll have several posts dedicated to celebrating holidays the easy way by taking a common tradition that has a habit of blowing up into something unmanageable – like a weekend-long gingerbread-baking-a-thon – and breaking it down into something you can tackle without wanting to hit the eggnog by noon.
Last year I wrote about sending handwritten holiday cards, a tradition that I had let slip and was hoping to re-embrace. But I acknowledged that for many of us, the pressure and obligation of taking the perfect holiday photo, sending 100 cards, or even getting them out the door by December 21 can feel overwhelming. From that post, here are some ideas for sending cards without stressing out:
- Pare down your holiday card list. Is there anyone to whom you can hand-deliver a card – or a relative you see so often they really don’t need a card? Likewise are there friends and family members who aren’t that likely to appreciate the card and would really rather just get a phone call or email?
- Rotate receivers. If your list is long and full of people you rarely communicate with otherwise, maybe there they don’t all need to get a card from you every year? If so, maybe you can create two “B” lists and rotate them so that those people who aren’t in your close circle of family and friends get a card every other year.
- Consider sending non-holiday cards. If you like the idea of sending a yearly greeting to your former college roommate or first boss, maybe you could send a “Happy New Year” card rather than a Christmas card. Or relax even more and send a “Happy Winter” card sometime in January when life calms down. You could even stagger your list throughout the year and send a smattering of cards quarterly. Forget those etiquette “rules” you’re holding yourself to–a heartfelt greeting is welcome at any time of year.
- Make it easy on yourself. Put all the items you need–cards, nice pens, stamps, envelopes, a list of addresses, etc–together in a box or drawer so they’re easy to pull out and work on when you have a minute or ten.
- Relax your standards. You don’t have to spend hours practicing your signature so it’s written in legible cursive. You don’t have to include a lengthy summary of your year or professional-quality family photos. Play to your strengths and interests–if you love taking pictures, a handful of candid snapshots of your kids may be more valuable to your grandparents than that single posed portrait. Or if you’re a better writer than photographer, draw them a “picture” with your words.
- Have your kids do the work. Too busy to pick up photo prints or write much more than your signature? Hand your child a stack of paper and some crayons and ask them to write ‘letters’ to the relatives. Likely your mother-in-law will enjoy your child’s rendition of a Christmas tree more than any letter you could send, anyway (no offense intended.)
Do you send holiday cards? Any tips for making the process easier?
Check back soon for more “Holidays, The Easy Way” posts on everything from baking to giving gifts.