The television Christmas adverts are in full swing, the twinkly fairy lights have started to appear on the Hight Street and your anxiety levels may well be on the rise. With an all-out Christmas flurry at one extreme and a homemade, Kirsty inspired one at the other, most of us are hoping for a Christmas that lies somewhere in between. If you find yourself struggling to balance a desire to stay sane with the urge to make Christmas memorable, fun, and festive, you are not alone. Here are a few suggestions to simplify the festive season just a little.
Budget and stick to it! It’s easy to get caught up in the holiday spirit, just because you have the perfect gift ideas, doesn’t mean you should mortgage your home to get them. Decide on a realistic budget for all your gift shopping, figure out how much to spend per person, and stick to it.
Stay local Great if you want to avoid the supermarket and chaotic city centres. Sticking with shopping at local small businesses can be a fun self-imposed limit and will benefit your community too.
Go vintage Think vintage records and a turntable for a music-obsessed teenager, a lovely china platter or some tiny grape hyacinth bulbs planted in a pretty tea cup for your mother-in-law.
Handmade Either made by you or buy from the vast array of crafters online or at a local shop. Esty and Notonthehighstreet are two excellent websites for unique, handmade gifts.
Give experiences or even better, shared experiences. Try tickets to the theatre, a museum, zoo or National Trust membership, photography lessons, cooking classes or even dinner for two at a favourite haunt.
Gifts that give back Choose gifts for which part or all the purchase price goes to a charitable organisation. It feels good knowing the gifts you are giving are helping people or the planet.
Limit gifts per person This can be helpful to rein things in, especially in households with kids. If you’ve given with wild abandon in the past, maybe cut back with fewer, but carefully chosen gifts this year. Think quality over quantity.
Small, special moments each day
Indulge in hot chocolate at breakfast, light candles and sit around the tree in the evening, read a special Christmas story to the kids, listen to your favourite Christmas music and dance around the living room. Get the family together and watch a much-loved Christmas film. Often these everyday moments end up making the best memories.
Think of ways to simplify a tradition
Instead of ditching a festive tradition altogether, think of a way to scale it back a bit, so it’s easier and more enjoyable for you. For example, make 3 of your family’s favourite kinds of Christmas treats instead of 10, get everybody to prepare something themselves.
Fill stockings with small, needed items
Gifts in stockings are meant to be fun surprises. But for many tired and shopped-out parents, filling stockings can feel like an added expensive burden. Start a tradition of filling stockings with only things that are needed. Think crayons, paperback books, bubble bath, socks. Many shops and chemists offer 3 for 2 on small stocking gifts to make things more affordable.
Remove visual chaos
Regularly remove packaging, shopping bags and glossy magazines instead of letting them pile up. These are visual reminders of your Christmas to-do list, and they just clutter up your house and your head. Keep your home feeling like a haven.
Try on a new tradition for size
Sticking with the theory that lots of little moments can be more meaningful than one big blowout event, for December try adopting a daily tradition that gets you in the spirit of the season. Here are some ideas:
Small acts of kindness. Popping a few coins into the charity collection box, checking on an elderly neighbour during the cold season, donating to your local food bank - it all counts!
Daily gratitude Start each day by quietly thinking (or writing down) one thing you are thankful for in your life. If you have kids, get them involved, too.
Take a moment. The stress of Christmas can be self-imposed, that running commentary in our head listing the many things we think we ought to be doing/buying/eating/drinking. When you find yourself getting wound up, breathe. Remember what’s important is to simply enjoy what’s going on around you right now, in all its imperfect glory.
Take some time out
Do something you usually love but have let slip during the busy festive season: take a walk, make time to read that book you’ve been looking forward to or just let your eyes close while you’re sitting on the sofa. It doesn’t have to be all festivities all the time!