By Elisabeth Quinn
Christmas is an incredible time of year but it’s also when we feel most burdened. We think that we have to have the turkey, the tree, the presents… otherwise it “won’t feel like Christmas”. Somewhere along the way we confused a feeling with thinking we need to follow a script to achieve the feeling. But that famous ‘Christmas Feeling’ isn’t in the turkey or the presents. Where is it? Read on:
1. Ask some questions
When you think back to your childhood, what made you feel “Christmassy”? What filled you with joy? What can you do this year that is meaningful to you and your kids? What do your kids love about Christmas? What does your significant other LOVE about Christmas? Ask them!
Every year at the end of November, I put on some Christmas music, bring out some Lebkuchen, we gather, talk about Christmas in general, what we loved about Christmas last year and what we didn’t. Based on that conversation we prioritise what we will do this year.
My kids love the presents (well doh) but also: time spend as a family, decorating gingerbread houses and decorating the house.
I love: decorating the house, gingerbread and being outside in nature gathering pinecones to decorate.
When you know what is most important to those you spend Christmas with, it becomes so much easier to decide what to prioritise and what you can let slip. I learned the hard way many years ago that I CANNOT do it all. If I try, I get frazzled, grumpy and annoyed. I accidentally created an atmosphere that was the exact opposite of what I was aiming for.
For me that means prioritising time spend together over a perfect home cooked Christmas meal. In fact I buy almost everything we eat on Christmas day ready made. That way I’m not torn away from my children on Christmas day because I have to make the stuffing.
2. Spread the Joy
I grew up in 2 different countries so I have become a dab hand at incorporating traditions as and when they suit me.
When it comes to Christmas few countries do it better than Germany and the Nordic Countries. One thing Northern European Countries do well; they turn Christmas into a season.
They celebrate the four Sundays in the run up to Christmas as ‘Advent Sundays”.
On Advent Sunday afternoons, friends and family gather for small intimate celebrations, marking the coming of Christmas. An Advent wreath is the centre piece with one candle for each of the Advent Sundays (find instructions of how to make your own wreath in my Calm Christmas Guide).
There is something so lovely about spreading the joy of Christmas, to gather in small groups to enjoy each others company in a no-pressure, loving setting. One Advent Sunday we arrange cookie exchanges were everyone brings a batch of their favourite biscuits, we gather, drink coffee, listen to Christmas music and enjoy some delicious biscuits while the kids run around and play.
3. Presents, Presents, Presents
Oh presents, they can be so wonderful and also SUCH A BURDEN. Every year we buy 60 million unwanted presents in the UK. If you are completely honest with yourself, do you enjoy buying gifts for everyone on your list? Do you enjoy receiving gifts from everyone who gives gifts to you?
We see gifts as an expression of someone’s love and appreciation for us, and it is one way to show that, but gift buying is by no means the only way.
This year, my kids will get presents (I’m not a grinch) and my nieces and nephews. And that is it. Buying presents for my husband used to stress me out- that man doesn’t WANT ANYTHING so we talked about it and agreed ‘no more presents’. Similarly all the other adults in my life.
Why not have a conversation with those people in your life you think maybe receptive to the idea of doing things differently this year. Maybe they don’t like giving presents either. Maybe instead of an actual gift your sister would rather do a craft course with you, maybe your best friend has been feeling stressed every Christmas not knowing what to buy you and would really appreciate being released from the pressure, maybe the financial strain of buying gifts is too much for your aunt this year…
There may be people in your life for whom not having to buy you a present is the best gift you could give them.
4. It all starts with you
I want to encourage you to honour this special season without sacrificing your health. This Christmas shift your focus from trying to be ‘perfect’ and ‘doing it all’ to focusing on connection, belonging, self care, nourishment and joy.
You DO NOT have to do it all and you certainly DO NOT have to do it all yourself. What is the most important thing to you this festive season? Focus on that. But don’t forget: You NEED time to rest. Rest is not optional. You cannot function at full speed for all of December, it just isn’t possible! So what can you do? Plan in some rest, spend time outdoors, sleep, hydrate, go slow and accept that you are NOT superhuman. You will be much more present and relaxed with your family if you can give yourself some rest. You will create true Christmas magic with your family if you aren’t frazzled and at the end of your tether.
5. Christmas Porridge
Oh Christmas food, Oh Christmas food… I LOVE Christmas food! I really do, the stuffing, the gingerbread, the roast potatoes, the gravy, the stollen… I am actually drooling writing this.
One of the great joys of the Christmas season is Christmas food. BUT it is a long season with so many delicious things to eat that, sometimes, it can all get a little bit too much.
I spend most of the festive season feeling overfed, uncomfortable, and low on energy.
The great thing about our appetite is that the first few bites are always THE MOST delicious but the next few are only so-so. How can you capitalise on that knowledge to have delicious festive flavours to go along with more nourishing fare. In my house a firm favourite is porridge with stewed apples and gingerbread crumpled on top. You get the deliciousness of the gingerbread while nourishing your body. We also love stuffing with roast winter vegetables! You’ll find some great festive everyday recipes in my Christmas Guide.
Christmas truly is the most magical time of year and by striping away all the things that my family didn’t truly value (bye bye writing Christmas cards) I freed up time, energy and money to focus on the things that we truly love and that really add to our experience of Christmas. I expected that changing how we do Christmas would make it less magical but somehow it has become even more meaningful, joyful and magical.
Find more tips, recipes and craft ideas Elisabeth's Free Calm Christmas guide at www.supermumdetox.com/christmas
Various, MADE magazine