Summer has come and gone, and football season is going strong. We have just entered the busiest time of the year. From October through December, holidays abound. With Halloween in October, Thanksgiving in November, and Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa in December, these add more activities to already filled schedules. While this can be a wonderful time of the year, the stress that can result from an already filled calendar can rob the joy and add a level of stress that can be overwhelming. As this last quarter of the year begins, commit now to manage the stress so that the joy of the holidays can create wonderful memories. Ok, you say, but how?
It is first of all most important to set realistic expectations. Do you really enjoy sewing and have the time to create unique Halloween costumes? If yes, then it may be worth it to you to make the time to do so. If so, I hope that you have those costumes ready, for Halloween is right around the corner! But don’t think that it is necessary for you to do so if your answer to these questions is, “No.” There are perfectly fine ready made costumes that will suffice. The same is true for Halloween parties. If Halloween is your favorite holiday, and I realize that it is to some people, then a party to celebrate the season may be worth your time and money. If not, go to the parties that others host and save your energy for other activities. And with the Clowns scare, this could be a year to take Halloween off! While this may not be practical if you have little ones at home, it is very practical otherwise.
Thanksgiving is my family’s busiest holiday. Last year we had an all time record of 60 people seated for Thanksgiving dinner, with turkey plates, linens, and silver. Yes, 60! While it is a wonderful event, it takes a lot of planning, preparation, and execution, and not just on my part. We are a family of cooks, and enjoy preparing meals together. And there is more than the Thanksgiving meal to prepare, for family starts arriving the weekend before turkey day, and the last ones leave the Sunday after Thanksgiving. In the 30 years we have hosted this holiday, I have learned what to let go and what to keep. I gave up on trying to match the silver and glass ware at each table, although I do prefer that the plates at each table match. And regardless of how much easier it would be to use paper and plastic, having china and linen and cloth napkins is one of my rules that can’t be broken. Place cards are totally unnecessary, as I learned the year that I used them and almost had a family revolt! I learned years ago that I couldn’t do it all, so for many years other family members host different meals, and there is a chore list for set up and clean up, with even the youngest cousins helping. The meal is usually the same, with different ones cooking their favorites. Regardless of how soon I start the preparations, I never get finished before people start arriving, so I have become much more comfortable with asking for help, and not worrying about what isn’t done. Whether your crowd is 60 or 6, the principles are the same; plan, prepare, and execute, and with lots of help from others!
While we ready for the upcoming holidays, let’s remember that the most important thing about holidays is the gathering of family and friends.
In considering what traditions are important in your family, aim for less stress and more joy. While the magnitude of my family’s Thanksgiving results in some stress at times, the joy that is created by all of the family being together for days more than compensates for the stress. You can calculate the stress/joy dynamic for your holidays. Think of the one holiday that you find most stressful, evaluate the specifics of the stress, and consider if there is also enough joy to make it worth the stress. Be brave enough to be honest with yourself, and do not hold onto traditions for the sake of memories, or even habit. Change things up and see if you can live with the changes, and if they result in positive outcomes, such as less stress.
There are 10 weeks to go before this last quarter of the year ends, and we still have Christmas to go! Prepare now for how you will spend these next two months, and commit to enjoy these holidays.
My best to you and yours!