Blogger Carrie Snyder, center, and her girlfriends enjoyed a wreath-making class during the holiday season.

Navigating Our Health: Top 5 Ways To Enjoy Your Holidays

Published Date: 2018-12-05

Ahhhhh….. December.   I love December.  I am one of those people who really looks forward to the holidays and Christmas each year, and who secretly likes colder weather better than summer.  I mean sweaters, boots, and leggings are way more desirable than bikinis and skimpy tank tops – I know all the post-childbirth, still-rocking-that-extra-baby-weight mommas are with me!

However, with the excitement of Christmas each year also comes the extra stress and the way-too-high expectations. 

As I was leaving the grocery store the other night, feeling completely defeated because I totally blew my grocery budget for the week, I was stressing about all the “things” I needed to do:  get the Christmas tree, buy ugly sweaters, get gifts from the Elf (oh gosh and where did I put that thing last year?), do some online shopping, do in-store shopping, get Christmas pictures done so I can order the Christmas cards, address the Christmas cards, and THEN actually mail them before Christmas….

My mind was racing. About that time, a familiar Christmas jam came on the radio: Karen Carpenter’s “Merry Christmas Darling.” My mind immediately went back to riding in the backseat of my mom’s burgundy Ford Explorer heading to the mall for Christmas shopping. My mom always loved the Carpenters (probably still does).  I started thinking about what Christmas meant to me as a child, what things I remembered and held dear.

As a parent, we have such high expectations for each holiday. We want our children to have the best experience possible and, with Instagram and Facebook, it is easy to feel the pressure to over-schedule events or feel like you’re not doing enough. 

As I reflected on my childhood Christmases, it really came down to tradition. Traditions are what make Christmas so special. My mom and I always had a “shopping day.” We would both “skip school” (she was a teacher) and spend the day shopping. We would go out for lunch and it was always such a special day. 

I remember going to my grandmother’s house for Christmas Eve each year, waiting so patiently for everyone to finish eating so we could open presents. The best part of the night was always watching my Pop-Pop open presents.  He loved Christmas and opening presents probably more than anyone there.  He would pick up the packages, shake them, and make some off the wall guess as to what it was. I also remember my grandmother’s chipped beef dip. It was always my favorite. Christmas Eve was always so special. 

When I became a nurse and had to work holidays, my grandmother would always pray I didn’t have to go in.  And somehow… she would make it happen. I would end up being placed on-call for Christmas Eve and be able to spend the evening with my family. She has always had a direct line to God.

I remember the excitement of Christmas Day and waking up early to see what Santa brought. My mom would always have these huge cranberry muffins we could snack on while we opened presents. My grandparents would come over bright and early for the event. After we opened presents, we would get ready and head to my aunt’s house for Christmas breakfast.  Then we would “visit.” I’m not sure if that was just a “Sussex County thing” or if all people used to do this. We would load up and go house-to-house to visit with my parent’s close friends and other family. Then we would go home and wait for all of those same people to come to our house to visit. I’m not sure if people still do this, but it is a tradition that has been somewhat lost in our family. I just wonder how my mom was possibly able to keep the spirit of Santa alive and still get all of her shopping done without the internet????? It would take a miracle for me to be able to pull off Christmas without Amazon Prime.  Anyway……about that time I thought…. I might not send out Christmas cards this year. What if this Christmas I only did the things I wanted to do for my family and friends instead of doing all the things I feel like I have to?  Hmmmmm, now this is an interesting concept.

My two best girlfriends and I went and made fresh Christmas wreaths recently. It is something I have always want to do since becoming “an adult.” I can remember my mom and her friends making wreaths together. My girlfriends and I had a blast. We brought wine and laughed the whole time as we “attempted” to channel our creative side. I told the girls I needed to work on my blog the next day.

My friend Jess called me on the way home from our wreath-making experience and said “I know what you should write about….. Tradition! And, how it looks different for all families and how traditions change.”

She went on to tell me about how after her parents divorced when she was a child, her mom would always take her to the movies every Christmas. It became a tradition for the two of them once her family’s situation had changed. As I sat down this morning to work on this blog, it all clicked!  

Tradition is not something we can plan…. It is something that happens on its own. What our children take away from our holiday experiences, is not always the things we had planned. So, as parents, we need to focus on putting energy into doing the things we want to do when it comes to the holidays. The important stuff, like being present, spending time with family and friends, not trying to “create” the perfect memories or traditions. I am hoping my “craft night, wreath-making experience” with my girlfriends also becomes a new tradition.

So, to keep with my blogging “tradition”….. Here are the Top 5 Ways You Can Focus on Enjoying Your Holidays This Year: (I am going to try really hard and follow my own advice. I am aware that I will likely fail in certain areas, but trying is half the battle!)

  1. Only commit to the things that you and your family agree are important and don’t over-schedule. This may mean not trying to squeeze two Christmas Eve dinners in on one night just to please everyone. My husband and I did this for years until we had kids. Once we had our daughter, we realized it was so much more enjoyable to go to one dinner and really be present rather than rushing around. Our family all understood and now we spend Christmas Eve with my family and Christmas Day with his. 
  2. Simplify: I am sure I am not alone when I say:  my kids have way too much stuff! The clutter in the playroom gives me anxiety and the thought of adding more to it almost sends me over the edge. I am going to try to buy less “stuff” and focus on experiences.  (I know this one I will struggle with.)
  3. Don’t sweat the small stuff: So what if you don’t make it to the tree-lighting ceremony this year, and so what if your cookies are store bought and not made from scratch? Focus on the important things. In 20 years, your kids will probably not remember that their Elf “forgot” to move one night when mommy and daddy fell asleep early.    
  4. Stay off of social media and stop comparing your life to others (another super hard one for me): Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, etc. can make us all feel like we are failing terribly as moms. We think… “ugh, so-and-so’s family pictures are perfect and they all have matching outfits” or “gosh, those parents have taken their kids to see five Santas and mine haven’t even seen one yet,” or “Sure, I can make these super-complicated homemade gifts for my kids’ teachers… no problem!”  In the end we are setting ourselves up for disappointment and anguish. Set reasonable expectations for yourself and your family. Don’t believe everything you see on the internet!
  5. Don’t send the Christmas cards: I means this figuratively….. For me it might be Christmas cards that cause way too much added stress, for you it may be putting fancy bows on your packages.  Whatever it is that you are dreading this holiday season, rethink it.  Is it really necessary?  Is it really important?   I still am undecided whether I will send out Christmas cards this year, but I already feel better that I have given myself permission not to.

Merry Christmas!