Adding Holiday traditions without subtracting cheer

Even if you’re a casual reader of my blog, you know how much I love the holidays and all the tradition that surrounds this time of year.  But this year especially has been filled with requests for our family to start new traditions this holiday season.  From visits with Santa to tree lighting ceremonies to holiday countdowns and more, I don’t think we’ve turned down one holiday idea yet. Even though I know my job as a parent is to start meaningful traditions for my children, sometimes it’s hard to know when you’ve taken on too many.

To help me figure out this balance that will help keep me sane this year but still bring the magic of the holidays to our house, I have come up with a few rules for myself:

1) There will be no extra holiday baking for me unless it is an event – I know this sounds backwards because typically “events” require extra work, extra cleanup, and extra stress but I refuse to spend hours in my kitchen alone when I could be spending that with family and friends.  Want a home baked pie?  Well, come help me make it!  We can have fun cooking together and then while it’s baking, we can sit back and catch up.

2) Homemade gifts will not be added to store bought gifts, recipients will get one OR the other.  This year we are planning on getting extra artsy and crafty, which is going to take a bit more of our time as a family if we want to make stuff we are really proud of.  To counteract this extra time creating and designing, I hope to spend less time at the mall as a result.

3) Planning!  The tree lighting ceremony that is three towns over doesn’t have to be a special trip if I plan to make a day of it and get some shopping done at the same time or even take the long way home to look at Christmas lights.  It does take a bit more effort to research days and times of holiday events ahead of time, but the benefit of being able to enjoy more as a family is worth the effort.

4) Instead of hitting the local mall, I resolve to do more shopping in “festive areas” – for instance downtown Seattle or in sleepy Snohomish.  It will do wonders for making the holidays seem more magical and it will make for natural photo ops with the family at the same time, another thing I usually have a hard time fitting in and then find myself regretting later.

5) I will not wrap more than is absolutely necessary.  Bags work just as well as paper and ribbons and they take a fraction of the time.  Extra special bonus?  They are reusable, too!

6) Toddlers love Christmas lights more than any other decoration, and they are cheap and easy to decorate with.  Instead of garland, we have lights lining our table.  Instead of a swag we have more lights decorating the mantle.  Instead of a wreath we have lights twisted in a circle.  My daughter gasps every time we turn them on, telling us “Thank you much!” and it takes nearly no effort.  Talk about a win-win!

What do all of these have in common?  Less time by myself doing “tasks” and more time as a family.  Children truly are only young once and I don’t want to miss a minute of it, even if it is to encourage the magic of the holidays.  By including my family in my preparations and by completely minimizing the time I spend away, I end up with a whole lot more holiday cheer and a happier family as a result.

I’d love to hear what traditions you have to make the holidays merry without feeling like you have an extra to-do list!

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