How we’re dealing with social pressures and keeping things simple this Christmas

Christmas is 11 days away and for many, the pressure is on. Whether it be holiday shopping, baking or social engagements – the holiday season can get insanely stressful for a lot of people (us included). I wrote a post about our holiday traditions a few weeks back that dealt with how we deal with gift giving and traditions within our own home but I didn’t really discuss how we deal with social obligations around this time of year.

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Mer and I both have large extended families who graciously invite us over to celebrate and enjoy the holidays with them. Prior to Margs being born we’d often shuttle from one relative to another to celebrate Christmas and New Years. It was exhausting and stressful because we always felt pressured and couldn’t really enjoy our time at any one place because we knew we had to get up and get going shortly after we arrived.

Now, we’ve learnt to just say no. As grateful as we are for the invites, we simply have to decline. We much prefer to spend our holidays in one place and enjoy our time that way. We’re now able to truly enjoy our time with the people we are visiting and we love it that way.

We make or buy consumables as gifts. Shopping can be stressful and is very expensive. Often times, I’d be standing in a store looking to buy a present and would have absolutely no idea what to buy. Now, we usually gift consumables to our friends and families. I love to bake around this time of year and usually make four or five times the quantity of each baked good so that I can prepare small trays of goodies to bring to our favourite people. My go to cookie recipes include: lemon drops, pizzelle and zeppole. They are incredibly easy to make and are really quite delicious. I freeze each cookie as I make them and then just pop the quantity I need out of the freezer a few hours before they are needed – they are as good as freshly baked. Coffees, teas, chocolates and bath products are also favorites in cases where cookies or baked goods are not appropriate (We have a few friends with food intolerances).

We schedule and enjoy quiet time at home. There’s nothing worse than zipping through the holidays without any time to relax and just be. Mer is fortunate and gets quite a few days off around this time of year and many times he remarks that he got absolutely no time to relax and enjoy his time away from work. Now, we dedicate certain days during the holiday period as “inside days” – we stay in our pyjamas and do absolutely nothing (no cleaning, cooking or daily chores) but spend time together and enjoy these limited days when we can choose to avoid obligations like work.  This year, we schedule Boxing Day as a pyjama day – our plan is to order Indian Food and spend time together as a small family.

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The holidays don’t necessarily have to be stressful. We’ve fallen victim to social obligations so many years that we’ve finally decided to take back our holidays and choose to do exactly what feels right for our small family. This year that looks like Christmas Eve with aunts and uncles, Christmas Day at home and New Years Eve with friends. We no longer feel pressured to completely bust our budget by buying gifts or attending so many family gatherings that we spend more time driving than enjoying the people who are important to us.

The holidays are about both enjoying and relaxing and we feel we’ve found a good balance between the two.

How do you manage holiday chaos?

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  1. December 14, 2016 / 7:43 am

    A great post. This year my husband and I are enjoying Christmas day all by ourselves at home. For the first time ever. I’m so looking forward to it! If I’m honest though, I can’t shake the guilt that we should be having extended family/in laws over for the day but we are sticking to our guns and are determined to have a day on our own this year. It’s been an intense year, and quite stressful at times, and so we didn’t want to add to it over Christmas by rushing about. Hoping you enjoy a lovely, relaxing and blessed day at home with your family. Claire.x

    • December 14, 2016 / 9:04 am

      There is a ton of guilt. We’re still trying to sort that part out of it as well. We do know that it just feels right to take back some of that holiday time for ourselves so we’re sticking to our plan.

    • December 20, 2016 / 10:03 pm

      I manage holiday chaos by taking along my great friends patience, courtesy, observation, silence, respect for others, and a great dose of humility wherever I travel and when I shop.

      • December 21, 2016 / 10:29 am

        Wise words! Thank you for sharing!

  2. December 14, 2016 / 10:17 am

    You are one smart lady to be setting your life up this way so soon in this adventure. The guilt will fade or you’ll decide to do different things different years.

    • December 14, 2016 / 4:43 pm

      Thank you! Yes, our choices are not set in stone – we plan to do what feel fits right each year. Some years that might look like a very busy Christmas while others it might be very low key.

  3. December 14, 2016 / 12:13 pm

    We focus on family. It was harder, in fact, when our little girl was a tot. In those days, there were elderly grandparents (mine) to think of, so it was easier for us to travel to family members’ homes than for them to come to us. We did a lot of miles in the car! Now, the boot is on the other foot. We get to host my parents, and my sister will welcome us on Christmas Day. On the other days, it will be dog walks, time to be together and nice things to eat. No Boxing Day sales or late night parties!

    • December 14, 2016 / 4:44 pm

      That makes total sense. In our case, the grandparents are included in the Christmas Eve gathering we’re attending. We’ll be doing much the same on Christmas Day – just hanging out the 3 of us and the animals. 🙂

  4. December 14, 2016 / 2:44 pm

    We spend every Christmas just the 4 of us, a small but happy unit. We don’t have much in the way of family, my husband lost his mother this year and now there are no grandparents left. Sometimes I long for someone to visit! So I suppose it is human nature to always want what you can’t have ..
    I would also rather be alone then feel pressured to spending time with people I never see all year just because it feels the ‘done thing’ at Christmas. I just don’t see the point.
    I think you have to do what feels right for you, maybe these visits could be spread out throughout the year? I would have though that would be manageable. I hope you have a restful Christmas x

    • December 14, 2016 / 4:45 pm

      Absolutely! We’re very fortunate to get invited to a few different relatives homes. Having said that, it’s just so difficult to shuffle from one place to other. When it was just the 2 of us, we’d do it. But, with Margs’ we’re trying to slow down and just keep things as simple as possible.

  5. December 14, 2016 / 3:39 pm

    I call it slow Christmas. I use the “thrill of the hunt” to find unusual and economical Christmas gifts.. all through the year. Our local thrift shop is the mother lode of fabulous things. I have picked up gorgeous art books originally priced at hundreds of dollars for just a couple of dollars. There’s always exquisite crystal (everyone always needs glasses), art work, vintage tools . It’s there if you just look and have patience. And like you we say no to a great deal of social engagements. We spend the day quietly with our son and daughter in law – all of us doing what we love best. Cooking and enjoying our unusual gifts. I start baking decorating and wrapping gifts Dec. 1st. Nothing too much last minute. I keep stress our of our home. Cheers Virginia and best wishes for everyone to have a calm Christmas.

    • December 14, 2016 / 4:47 pm

      Love that you find your gifts at a thrift shop – they are so much more meaningful that way. On that note, I’m afraid of crystal glasses – I watched my grandma shatter one in her hands one Christmas and I swore I’d never own any 🙂 Happy Holidays!

  6. December 14, 2016 / 6:29 pm

    Too late now 🙁 having family coming from out of town…stressing out already! Hopefully next year I can just be strong enough to say NO. <3

    • December 15, 2016 / 9:50 am

      Yes! I imagine that would be stressful! Enjoy it though – you can still keep it simple!

  7. December 14, 2016 / 6:31 pm

    Great post! We used to rush around too. Now we have the majority of Xmas day at home with the kids, then walk to my mums which is only 15mins away and spend the evening there with family playing games etc. 😊

    • December 15, 2016 / 9:49 am

      Love it! Happy holidays!

  8. December 14, 2016 / 8:40 pm

    Sounds like you have a very well balanced Christmas planned! I hope it’s relaxing and enjoyable for your family. We are hosting my in-laws, and my parents are visiting my sister on the opposite coast. It’s my second Christmas without my family, so it’s very hard, but like you I cannot be in two places at once. Our families live too far away to holiday with everyone! The grandparents are too old to want to celebrate (sadly), so “frees up” some time to celebrate just here. I am going to try and keep things simple, but we celebrate both Christmas and Hanukkah, which fall on the same day this year!! So it’ll be a bit busy…

    Great idea on the consumables gifts! So smart. I wish people would buy me coffee and chocolates… 🙂 This year I bought my parents symphony tickets and made my sister a few batches of flavored cashew butters (her request, bc she loved them so much last year!). Win!

    • December 15, 2016 / 9:49 am

      Thank you! We’re doing what we feel is best I suppose! Happy holidays to you as well!

  9. December 15, 2016 / 10:48 am

    Handmade gifts show more love and though. I wish you the most joyous… and peaceful holiday season! By the way, thanks for stopping by our blog. Had you not, I missed get not have found yours and your delightful posts, that I’m now following. I hope you’ll follow us, if you’re not already. Merry Christmas!

    • December 15, 2016 / 10:51 am

      I couldn’t agree more. I’m not very crafty but I do bake and so we love gifting homemade goodies to our friends and family. Thank you for the follow, I look forward to following you as well.

  10. December 16, 2016 / 2:39 pm

    With the years we have slowed down and kept the basic, eliminating the rest. We don’t do shopping malls. We have no gift giving since we don’t really want anything and I prefer to give books to children. For little ones we ask parents what would be helpful as a gift.
    We do go to parties but in our circles it is an adult crowd. Christmas Eve our tradition is to have a few people over, usually someone who has no place to go to share this day with us.
    On Xmas day it will be a quiet dinner at home with our puppies. Enjoy the peace and quiet of Christmas, best wishes.

    • December 17, 2016 / 9:57 am

      Lovely. I think it’s wonderful that you spend Christmas even with people who may not others to share the day with. That, is the whole point of Christmas spirit I think.

    • December 17, 2016 / 3:16 pm

      Thank you!

  11. December 17, 2016 / 7:53 pm

    I love your post! I totally understand the pressure of living up to societies standards and I wish I was brave enough to say no and stand by it!! 🙂 Maybe that’ll be my New Year’s resolution 🙂 <3

    • December 19, 2016 / 9:22 am

      Baby steps. You don’t have to eliminate all at once 🙂

  12. December 19, 2016 / 5:07 pm

    This is the first time in eleven years that we have lived around family at Christmas time. It is such a gift, but wow! Its a new kind of busy.. trying to send a little bit of kindness in everyones direction. Since there are so many people and only one busy me of three littles, we are all about the consumable gifts! This year: chocolate covered pretzels!

    • December 20, 2016 / 11:01 am

      It’s really a blessing to be close to family during the holidays and be included in their holiday plans. BUT, it’s exhausting especially if you’ve got 3 littles 🙂

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