It's not just the holiday season itself that makes magic-- it's the holiday routines themselves that bring so much of the sparkle to our season.
When it comes to the holidays, we can go overboard with family expectations and loaded-up schedules. This leads to an over-worked, exhausted mom rushing around making magic for everyone else.
If you're trying to figure out how to have a manageable, joyful holiday without the exhaustion and the invisible labor, lean hard into the ROUTINE of it all!
The holiday routines themselves contain so much magic we don't have to overwork ourselves. Here's how!
Holiday Routines bring Comfort and Joy
Inside our culture and our families, we use systems and routines to celebrate an occasion or mark a milestone.
Because routines and systems are all about doing the same thing each time the same way, we get comfort from the predictability of the holiday ritual.
My daughter and I celebrate Christmas with my family each year. We enjoy doing the same things every year during that trip: seeing the downtown lights, singing carols at church, and the Christmas morning rituals. In our family, the youngest members distribute the presents, we open one present at a time so everybody can see each person's reaction, and Santa Mouse leaves little treats in the tree for the youngest.
I have now been celebrating the very same rituals every Christmas morning for almost 50 years and it brings me so much comfort to have it done the very same way.
Mundane Routines are Powerful
Think about even the most mundane routines and rituals your family has for celebrating milestones. Growing up, mom made our favorite dinner for our birthday and looking forward to that brought me so much happiness.
My daughter and I invite the same set of families to join us for Thanksgiving every year, and this big, raucous group of friends operates like an extended family of cousins. We look forward every year to the same friends, the same food, and the same games and traditions.
For several weeks during Mardi Gras in my city of New Orleans, friends and neighbors hang out on the parade route for hours watching parades and sharing food and drink. In between parades, kids who see each other only during Mardi Gras throw the football while their parents catch up. It's a powerful reminder of community and tradition.
It’s the memories of these rituals that are comforting, and the repeating of them that brings us joy.
And... they save money
It costs nothing to create holiday routines your family can look forward to.
If you're looking on Pinterest for new ideas for Christmas or looking at spending hundreds on surprise Santa, Nutcracker tickets, or downtown carriage rides, STOP!
You'll find that your family isn't looking for NEW ideas. They want the same-old-same-old holiday routines you've been doing for generations.
Keeping the same routine for birthdays, holidays, and family milestones creates echoes around our memories. Every holiday becomes a reminder of the positive holiday memories in the past.
So don't be too worried about creating novelty or trying to ward off bored kids. Keeping the rituals alive is an important role to play this holiday season.
Routines around Gifts help us Focus
When we keep the holidays simple, it helps us stay focused on the celebration and the people. One area that takes WAY too much time and causes more anxiety than we need? Gift-giving.
It's time to stop treating holiday shopping like a part time job and apply some of our favorite systems to this annual event to help you spend less time and enjoy it more.
Our focus should be on the people and the time we spend together, not on finding the perfect gift.
Systems help us save brain energy, and one of my favorite ways to do this is BATCHING. So apply this to holiday gift shopping. You can dedicate one day to purchasing all your gifts, shop for stocking stuffers in one store, or simplify shopping altogether by switching to a gift exchange or having family members give lists with links.
A good conversation with your family around intentions for gift giving can help ease some anxiety around this part of the holidays. I've found that some family members agonize over finding the perfect gift while their gift-receivers might prefer a gift card. A conversation around expectations can actually help everyone get on the same page and spend the right amount of time and energy.
Saving brain energy is important during the holidays, especially as a parent. Right now, think of ways to get some of your brain energy back for the important things like snuggling your kids and reading bedtime stories.
Family Routines Help you Reduce Mental Stress
The mental stress for families over the holidays is significant.
Holiday parties and school programs, church outfits and family expectations, gift shopping and holiday cards, meal prepping and kids out of school... it's a lot!
It's important to take steps to reduce the amount of work that holiday planning and preparation takes you. Even if it means doing less.
I used to think that holiday decorating meant excess since that's the way my mom liked to decorate. It took days, involved the whole family, and the packing and storing of the supplies involved so. many. boxes.
Turns out you can do your holiday decorating just the way you want.
Over the years I've learned that I'm way more likely to approach holiday decorating with joy if it is simple and quick. I want to bring our holiday boxes up from the basement in ONE TRIP.
So I have three boxes that contain our tree ornaments, nativity set, and garland. And that's it. It takes us one evening to put up our tree and decorations, and my toddler and I could do it together without a lot of fuss or other adults needing to help.
Just getting to a simpler system took a TON of mental stress off of me.
Last year my daughter asked if we could put Christmas lights on the house and I just said no. I wasn't comfortable on a 30 foot ladder and the money it would take for us to hire someone was too much. We strung some lights on our porch and called it a day.
If there's something that's giving you mental stress, create a system to give yourself a break!
Simplify Your Holiday Routines
Where can add routines to take the stress out of the holidays this year?
If your holiday season is TOO FULL, consider simplifying or outsourcing some of the work.
The key here is to think about the ways systems can help your family, and to lean into the power of how routines can themselves bring us so much joy just in doing them the same way each year.
May your holidays be truly peaceful this year!