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Holidays, The Easy Way: your guide to a less stressful December

by Meagan Francis on December 3, 2012

Holidays the easy way, your guide to a less stressful december

It’s official: the Christmas season is here. And for some of us, that means the pressure is on.

The pressure to get the right gifts for everyone on the (extensive) list recommended by etiquette experts (remembering a year I chased our trash collector down the street in my pajamas because I realized I wouldn’t see them again until after the holiday. Yes, he got his card and tip, but I lost a little piece of my dignity.)

The pressure to send cards (tradition!) or not send cards (the environment!).

The pressure to bake 4 dozen different kinds of cookies or hand-craft every cute idea seen on Pinterest.

And really, I think most of the anxiety stems from a pressure to create meaningful traditions. We want to feel like we’re engaging in something bigger than ourselves, creating lasting memories and adding warmth to the world at this time of year.

But last year, in a series of posts about making holidays easier, I said this about giving in to “shoulds” at this time of year:

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.

Here are the four posts from last year’s Holidays, The Easy Way series, in which we tackle cards, baking, teacher gifts and giving. I hope they help make your holidays a little easier…and happier.

Holidays, The Easy Way: Christmas Cards

6 ideas for making the card-sending process easier, more manageable and more enjoyable – including:

  • Pare down your holiday card list.
  • Rotate receivers.
  • Consider sending non-holiday cards.
  • Make it easy on yourself.
  • Relax your standards.
  • Have your kids do the work.

Holidays, The Easy Way: Baking

Baking during the holidays should be fun – not an obligation. Tips include:

  • Scale back.
  • Team up. 
  • Cheat.
  • Do what works.
  • Forget the calendar.

Holidays, The Easy Way: Teacher Gifts

What’s meant to be a token of appreciation and thanks can turn into a source of stress, pressure and even competition. Tips for keeping it in perspective include:

  • Keep in mind why you’re giving the gift.
  • “Budget” a specific amount of time for making or buying gifts.
  • Give something that makes you happy.
  • Remember that teacher gifts don’t have to cost a lot.
  • Keep in mind that there will be many more opportunities to show appreciation.

Holidays, The Easy Way: Giving Back

Three easy and last-minute ways to give back as a family during the holidays:

  • Donate to a large charity.
  • Think local.
  • A personal touch.

I would love to hear how you’re making your holidays a little easier this year!

Want more ideas
for creating a happier home life?

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

LP December 3, 2012 at 9:17 am

Thanks for these wonderful reminders. Just wondering why you suggest donating to a large charity — there are so many small (and local) organizations that would deeply appreciate a family’s generosity.


Meagan Francis December 3, 2012 at 9:28 am

Hi LP! If you read the post, you’ll see I did suggest local/small organizations as a great way to donate as well. My intent was to give several options, not to say one kind of giving is any better than another. I think sometimes, when you’re feeling stressed and strapped for time, giving to those larger organizations is often faster and simpler (most of them have streamlined giving processes set up online; with local orgs, I’ve found that I often have to do a lot of calling around to find out exactly what they need and how to get it to them.) I’m all about giving, however you can!


Nina December 3, 2012 at 12:53 pm

I actually don’t do any of the four tips you mentioned: giving cards, baking, teacher’s gifts or giving back, maybe because I inherently knew that they would stress me out :) Well actually, next year I will probably give teacher gifts when my kid starts school (he’s not in school now) and I give regularly on a monthly basis instead of once a year, so maybe thoe two don’t count ;)

In either case, I am totally with you on not stressing about the holidays, particularly traditions. I just do what I enjoy, which is namely gift-giving and decorating a tree. I truly appreciate cards and baked goods but don’t find extreme joy in them enough to warrant even more time taken out of this busy month to do them.


LP December 3, 2012 at 1:26 pm

Thank you Meagan. Totally agree. Love your writing and your ideas.


Llabona December 3, 2012 at 5:22 pm

The excerpt from your old post sums it up perfectly. Traditions don’t have to take over your life in order to be significant for your family. Your family will always remember the little things.


Elizabeth Kane December 3, 2012 at 7:18 pm

So true about traditions having a dark side. I know that forced feeling that you “should” be doing this or that to complete the holidays for the family as you’re filling out the calendar.

I’m tucking away your baking tips that I’ll use in the next few weeks. Is it just me, or can the kitchen be the most stressful zone of all? Where are all these kitchens with the happy, smiling, laughing people around the stoves like in the commercials?!


Stephanie Precourt December 4, 2012 at 8:09 am

We are definitely paring back on our Christmas cards this year. I buy a cute inexpensive box of simple cards to have on hand when we get one from someone and I’d like to reciprocate. So they don’t get our official family photo card but at least they’ll get a note from me!

And baking has scaled back so much this year! I usually baked for others and the kids’ school but this year it’s just us! But still it’s nice to have permission to cheat!



Sarah Parisi December 7, 2012 at 4:36 pm

Great ideas for scaling back :) I think this is the first year in a long time that I’m not scaling back, at least time wise. Maybe it’s because the kids are a little older & slightly independent, or maybe it’s because there’s a baby on the way & I’m in denial about what that’s going to be like, but I’m loving doing it all this year! (Although I may feel different in a couple weeks!)


Melissa December 7, 2012 at 5:36 pm

This year we have been focusing on the small things—going on drives to see lights, watching Christmas movies–things that don’t create a lot of stress. I also did my Christmas cards in October (made, not mailed out). I am usually ordering them a week before Christmas, so that is an improvement. Lists are a must–and have really helped this year. Thanks for the other ideas! They will help!


Janet December 9, 2012 at 1:29 pm

Such great reminders, Meagan. I always love your writing – you are spot on! In trying to do everything for my family, I so often feel like in the end I fail due to a tired, grumpy mood! I think this is something we moms struggle with alot.


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