- “Time to make the doughnuts…” (0:30)
- Challenge unrealistic expectations (1:30)
- Create your own rules (6:35)
- Take care of yourself (13:25)
- Let’s find your holiday magic! (15:20)
How to Create Your Own Holiday Magic
Okay, we’ve made it through Thanksgiving, Black Friday, and Cyber Monday!
The holiday madness is still ramping up…
How can you protect yourself and stay in the holiday spirit?
Just getting through the holidays in one piece is the goal for so many people. It used to be mine, until I changed my thinking about it.
“Time to Make the Doughnuts…”
I decided several years ago that the tail was wagging the dog, so to speak … that the expectations from our culture, TV, and my friends and family were driving my holiday experience.
I mean, who really wakes up to a brand-new Lexus with a giant red bow on it sitting in their driveway when it’s snowing? I haven’t met anyone who’s had that happen. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with it; it just seems unrealistic to me. It would be nice, but I’m not holding my breath.
There’s an old Dunkin’ Donuts commercial where the guy wakes up every morning and says “It’s time to make the donuts…” with this monotone voice and zero enthusiasm. Sometimes the holidays could feel like that, like I was just going through the motions. That didn’t feel good to me, so I decided to make some changes.
The holidays don’t have to be an emotional, physical, and financial drain.
I’m here to show you a better way!
And as with anything, take what works for you, and leave the rest!
Challenge Unrealistic Expectations
Challenging unrealistic expectations has become my mission for the past several years. It started when I realized I had unrealistic expectations for some people that affected my relationships with them and how I felt about myself.
Then I was strong enough to stand up against the unrealistic expectations that society has for our bodies – mine especially. I had to learn that just because people have an expectation, I don’t have to meet it, and I certainly don’t have to hate myself because I don’t subscribe or conform to it.
Part of me participated in the holiday madness longer than I wanted to because I wanted people to like me. And for the record: that’s a really shitty reason to give people gifts. It feels a little manipulative, too, if I’m being honest. I was always afraid they were judging or criticizing my body, so I thought I could win them over by being super generous.
This is how my people-pleasing showed up a lot of times … trying to mask my body-image insecurity. It’s messed up, but it was in the mix, for sure! I can’t say I was conscious of it, but it was a driver, nonetheless.
Once I got clear about how I felt about myself and others, I could see that there are so many unrealistic expectations in our culture – including the holidays. You know what I’m talking about…
The emails started months ago about getting ready for the holidays. Retailers are starting earlier and earlier to get our money. I’ve often said that Christmas will soon be year-round if the stores put up the decorations, candy, and ads any earlier!
And where’s the fa-la-la-la-la in that?
The focus on much of the holidays has become making money for the retailers. I would argue that it’s a far cry from how these celebrations started or their intent.
And I admit, I have been swept up in it myself! Trust me! I’ve been up to my eyeballs in sales, shopping, spending, and wrapping paper.
No matter what holiday you celebrate – Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or Festivus – it doesn’t have to revolve around presents and how much you spend … unless that’s what you’re into, and then go for it!
For me, the pressure to find the perfect gift for every friend I’ve ever had and everyone I’m related to became exhausting and not financially sustainable.
Yes, I enjoy giving gifts. I also love receiving them. Preferably in cash, so if you’re thinking of sending me something, please make it money. Just kidding! Well … sort of 😊
I LOVE finding the perfect gift for people I love; I just don’t want all the pressure to do it in November and December. If I find something for you on July 14th, I’ll buy it and give it to you then.
Yes, I’ve tried holding on to things until the holidays, but I always forget I have them and where I stashed them, and then I end up buying another gift – NOOOO!
I make good money, but I’m not independently wealthy, and the cost of presents for my closest 30 people was killing me. I see people get so stressed by trying to figure out what to get their spouse, kids, parents, neighbors, kids’ teachers, babysitters, girlfriends, karate instructors, librarians… Okay, maybe not the librarians … the poor librarians.
We research the shit out of all these presents, and then we track down the cheapest price. Does that sound like fun to you? No! It sounds stressful and chaotic. So then, why do we do it?
Because we are conditioned by all of the commercials to make these grand gestures and have huge trees piled high with presents. It’s in all the magazines; it’s surrounding us all the time, and we couldn’t possibly go against that … could we?
Kids don’t need 30 presents. They would probably be happy with one or two, but we condition them to want more and more and more – and to expect more.
“Keeping up with the Joneses” is a real thing, not just my best friend from across the street when I was growing up. (That phrase was so confusing for me as a kid.)
Your spouse would probably be happy if you took a break from presents for a year. I don’t know … maybe they wouldn’t, but it’s worth a conversation, don’t you think?
Remember: presents aren’t love.
I’m not anti-gifts; I’m pro-peace, pro-calm, and pro-fun.
What if you changed the rules and created the kind of holiday that fills you with joy rather than bogging you down with stress and debt?
What could that look like?
Time to dream and scheme!
It’s easier than you think…
Create Your Own Rules
I always remember that my brother gave the most thoughtful gifts, even when he was in high school and college. He always seemed to nail whatever he got me.
At one point, I took pleasure in getting people thoughtful gifts, as well. I loved Christmas shopping with my friends. It was an event, and it was so much fun.
I had my first job, and I could buy presents. I loved having the freedom to buy presents for my friends and family. It was only a handful of people, but I felt like an adult – earning my own money and buying my own gifts. It was a total thrill!
I’m not sure when it changed, but at some point, it went awry.
Somewhere along the way, I lost my joy for buying gifts, and it became another thing to check off my ever-growing to-do list. Where’s the fun in that?
Well, I actually LOVE crossing things off my to-do list. Don’t judge me; I love a good list.
My point is that I wasn’t having fun anymore. I got to the point where I was just buying stuff and assigning it to the receiver later: “Yeah. That looks like it would be okay for my brother…”
That’s no way to give a gift. My heart wasn’t in it, and I’m sure it showed. So, if you received a lukewarm gift from me in the past … I’m so sorry!
And don’t even get me started on gift cards. While I know some people want them and love them – and that’s perfect! – I wasn’t using them as giving something they really wanted. No, I was taking the “easy” way out and just checking that person off my list: “Gift card … check. Moving on…”
I LOVE Christmas! But in order for me to get my joy back, I decided to make some changes…
Rule #1. No gifts, except for the kids
“No one needs my crappy gifts anyway.” That’s how I sold my no-presents idea to my siblings. I’m a genius with words, I tell ya.
I continued my position with, “We can all buy whatever we want, and we usually do. Dad won’t even use the gift cards I buy him.”
I said, “Let’s just buy for the kids. They are little, and that’s the fun part of buying gifts … seeing their little faces when they open presents.”
They were all on board, and the rest was smooth sailing!
Rule #2. Time is the greatest gift you can give
Time with Your Family
Instead of gifts, I spend time with my family … much to their dismay 😊
We create memories when we make cookies, gingerbread houses, or take a walk through the Christmas lights. We take trips instead of buying useless things.
For the past several years, my husband Dan and I have gone with my siblings and their families to Williamsburg, Virginia for the weekend. We go to Busch Gardens Christmas Town or tour Old Town Williamsburg, and we spend the weekend with each other.
Perhaps, someday, my niece and nephews won’t want to take this trip with us – they’ll be older and might lose their holiday magic like I did – but we have this opportunity to be part of the childhood memories they’ll look back on when they get older.
They won’t remember the ninety-ninth Lego set they got, they will remember these trips – making gingerbread houses, watching Christmas movies with their cousins while Mommy and Daddy have drinks by the fire in the other room with their aunts and uncles…
Okay, maybe they don’t know about our drinks, but that’s what we’re doing. And it’s awesome!
I never get to spend this much time with my siblings anymore. Life is busy. This isn’t just a gift for the kids, as much as I sell it as such. This is a true gift to me.
Time with Your Significant Other
My husband and I exchanged gifts only for the first Christmas we were dating. After that, we were saving for our wedding, and then we decided we would take trips together rather than buy stuff.
It works for us, and we’ve taken some amazing trips and had some cool experiences! To me, that’s way better than a sweater and a bottle of perfume that I don’t really like anyway.
Now we have a beach house, and we say that it’s our present for the next 30 years – for every occasion! This is where we spend time with our families. They come to the beach, and we have fun. It’s the best gift we’ve ever given to each other.
Time with Your Friends
For the last 20 years, my group of friends has been celebrating what we call “Friends’ Christmas.” It started out at my house with a potluck dinner where we drew names for Secret Santa. It was so much fun!!!
Over the years, different people have attended and dropped out, but the core group remains the same. We’ve had it at different houses, cut out the gift giving, once hired a party bus, made it an ugly sweater party, gone to different restaurants, and had new experiences. Our mission is to spend time together, reconnect, and make new memories. We always have a blast when we’re together.
Rule #3. Be of service
I love giving to people who need a little help. My dad has always been big on reminding me how fortunate I am (he has Gratitude in his top 5 values, too). It’s a topic that he has always talked about and that I have always been very aware of.
There were a few years when I got out of college that my dad gave me a card that said he donated money to a needy family. That was my present – the card. I was never disappointed because I knew I had everything I needed, and it made me happy that someone else got what they needed.
For many years now, my dad has been telling me not to get him anything for Christmas. At first, I didn’t listen. He’s my dad, and he’s done so much for me, and it didn’t feel right not to buy him a present.
One day I realized that I could honor my dad’s wishes and help others at the same time. I went to the store, bought a bunch of toys, and I donated them to Toys for Tots. I gave my dad the receipt inside a card that told him I donated to children in his honor. Nothing made my dad happier!
That’s been my tradition for many years, and I love picking out the toys and imagining a child opening it who otherwise wouldn’t have received anything. #tears and #grateful
Where can you be of service? How can you help someone in need? It doesn’t have to be a grand gesture, but I’m sure it can make someone’s day.
One of the things I love practicing during my month of gratitude in November is random acts of kindness. I leave notes, gift cards, pay for the meal of someone behind me in line or in a restaurant. I like to extend it to December and see where I can help someone.
To me, there is no better feeling!
Take Care of Yourself
While you’re challenging the expectations, spending time with the people you love, and creating the holiday experience that you really want, don’t forget to schedule some time to take care of yourself.
I hear from women all the time that they are exhausted during and after the holidays. I hate that feeling!
What if you could get through all of the events with peace, grace, and ease … sounds amazing, doesn’t it?
The most important part of that equation is YOU, and that requires your being purposeful about how you spend your energy – this means not running yourself down.
Preserving your energy and sanity can be a priority without breaking the bank. Here are some ways you can take care of yourself and not feel depleted:
- Take a hot bath.
- Get a manicure and/or a pedicure.
- Take a long walk – notice the gorgeous scenery and take deep breaths.
- Get a massage or a facial.
- Say no to making 12 dozen cookies for your kid’s holiday party.
- Take a nap.
- Go to a museum, play, or other activity that you enjoy.
- Meditate (funny: I intended to type meditate, but I actually typed medicate … so, you do you 😊).
- Say no to some invitations. You don’t have to say yes to everything you’re invited to.
- Have someone clean your house.
- Get your hair washed. This is one of my favorite things to do for myself – it feels so luxurious!
- Sleep in.
- Take a day off work to do whatever you want to do FOR YOURSELF.
None of these things has to be an all-day event – unless you want it to be. My point is that you can give yourself the gift of peace, rejuvenation, and clarity in as little as 15 minutes.
Let’s Find Your Holiday Magic!
I’ve shared my new holiday magic with you. I love the holidays again! They’re filled with doing what I love with who I love … it doesn’t get any better than that.
I try really hard not to do things purely out of obligation but from a place of desire. Obligation feels heavy; desire feels free and light.
Yes, I still buy gifts for a few people, and I will purchase gift cards if that’s what my loved ones request, and I say no to what doesn’t feel energizing to me.
This is my new magic equation. Let me help you find yours.
The freebie for this week has this list of ways you can create your own holiday magic, plus questions to spark your imagination.
p.s. Don’t forget, you can still download a feisty Dysfunctional Family Bingo card that will help you sail through the most dysfunctional family gatherings.