Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Traditions: Stress or Success?

This is a time of year packed full of holiday traditions. In my mind, traditions are things I look forward to doing -- things that remind me of happier times and put me in a celebratory mood.

And I think that's how all traditions start out. But then, somewhere along the way, some traditions evolve from 'want to' to 'have to.' We feel the pressure and stress of cramming so many activities into the crowded days that we often don't have time to truly enjoy what's happening.

Now, I want to stop here and say that Christmas is my favorite time of year and I do have a number of traditions that remain enjoyable. But as I face this holiday season with a long to-do list and a book deadline, I'm trying to reevaluate traditions and focus on the ones that bring me true enjoyment.

Here are some of the keepers:
The tree -- we cut our tree in the National Forest each year. For $10 we purchase a permit from the forest service and on our assigned day we venture forth into the snowy woods with our dogs in two and a thermos of hot chocolate to find just the right tree. It's a fun outing and something we look forward to every year. Back home, we string the lights and adorn the tree with ornaments collected over the years. Almost all have sentimental value and looking through them is a fun trip back in time.

Christmas movies: We've already talked about Christmas movies on the blog. I have my own stash I watch every year, including A Christmas Story; Love, Actually; While You Were Sleeping and Christmas in Connecticut. Even though my schedule is jam-packed, I am going to take a day off to sip cocoa, eat popcorn and enjoy a movie marathon, on the sofa in front of the fire.

yes, it's a pain to hang those outside lights and wreaths, but every time I come home after dark (which is after 4:30 these days) I smile and feel wonderful looking at my little house lit up. So I did it.

Christmas books: I just put in a big order from for a bunch of new Christmas romances. Between Christmas and New Year's day I try to take off and read as many of these as possible. Besides, it's research -- right?

Traditions I'm cutting back on:

Baking. I still want to give cookies to friends and neighbors, but instead of elaborately decorated sugar cookies, this year I'm doing cookie bars and recipes where the dough is made ahead of time and frozen, then sliced and baked. Much less time consuming. In years past I've also done little loaves of fruit bread, which were also fast and well received.

Shopping: I did it all at sales earlier in the year or online the day after Thanksgiving. What a great feeling to be done so painlessly.

Wrapping. Last year I bought a bunch of Christmas fabric on sale and sewed a lot of different sized cloth bags. Now I just pop a present in, stuff in some tissue paper and tie on a label. I'm done and there's a lot less garbage on Christmas morning.

Cards. I'm still fighting this one. I like sending and receiving cards, but they take a ton of time. I want to cut back, but haven't figured out how yet.

Christmas dinner. One dessert, not three. Skip the relish tray. Fewer side dishes. We don't need to make pigs of ourselves to enjoy a good meal, right?

How are you handling Christmas traditions? Any must dos you don't want to miss? Anything you're giving up this year?


Estella said...

The adults in the family are not exchanging gifts. We are only buying for the children.

Cindi Myers said...

I think a lot of people are doing that kind of thing, Estella. Less shopping and wrapping and it saves money, too.

Megan Kelly said...

Cindi, These are great ideas--I'll put my daughter on the gift bag one after Christmas. Very green idea, too, which she'll like. I bake cookie from scratch, but if anyone is rushed, those tubs of Nestle Toll House Chocolate Chip and Sugar Cookie dough taste just as good as mine. And the sugar cookie dough was easier to handle than any I've ever made from scratch. Won't save money, but it does save time. No one cared at Thanksgiving. :) Megan

Cindi Myers said...

Good to know about the cookie dough, Megan.