The Only Items Your Holiday Calendar Needs This Year

If you’re like my family, you enter every holiday season thinking “This year, we’re going to relax. We’re going to do fewer things. We’re going to enjoy the moment!”

And then you get invited to 15 holiday parties, each of your children’s schools puts on a separate holiday concert, your church or social group asks you to join a committee to help get toys to needy families, and suddenly your Advent calendar is less about enjoying a daily piece of chocolate than it is about color-coding, chauffeuring, and making sure everyone gets everything done on time.

This year, do things differently. Say no to the committees (but donate a wrapped gift), stay away from all but the parties of your closest friends, do everything you can to trim down your holiday calendar to a manageable size.

With that in mind, here are the only items your holiday calendar really needs this year:

Home decorations

When my family was young, we followed a tradition I learned from my mother: the day after Thanksgiving was Christmas Decoration Day. Everyone did their piece, from stringing up the lights to piercing oranges with cloves to make pomander balls. Nobody had to worry about cooking, since there were always plenty of leftovers from Thanksgiving dinner. When the day was done, our decorating was too.

Kid concerts

Chances are, your children are going to be involved in something, whether it’s playing a sheep in a Nativity pageant or singing in the school choir. Don’t fill up your schedule so much that these events feel like obligations, not celebrations. And whatever you do, don’t sign up for the Christmas pageant refreshment committee. Simply sit and watch, knowing that this year you’re going to enjoy the moment instead of arriving late and rushing out the door afterwards.

A new family photo

Use your trimmed-down holiday to ensure you get a family photo in which everyone looks relaxed, not stressed. Christmas portraits are a great way to both celebrate the season and also get a permanent memory of your family in its current stage of growth. Whether you’re dressing little ones in elf costumes or capturing your teenagers as they prepare to step over the threshold to adulthood, you’ll be glad that you took the time to get these pics.

Plus, the best ones always make excellent holiday postcards. Check “holiday card shopping” off — twice.

A few, special parties

Holiday parties are part of the magic of the season, but too many parties spoil the magic and eat up your time. Talk to your family and pick a few, special parties to attend. Then send your regrets to the rest.

The visit to Santa

If you’ve got young ones, you know why this is important.

A tradition of your own

Sometimes it’s so easy to get caught up in other people’s holiday celebrations that you forget to consider what type of celebration you want for yourself. Is yours a family who goes downtown to watch city officials turn on the lights on the big tree in the park? A family who always goes ice skating, or who always gets tickets to the Nutcracker Ballet? Choose your family tradition, and make sure it stays on the calendar this year. It’s the annual gingerbread house, each year bigger than the last, that your children will remember and pass along to their own families.

The reason for the season

Whether or not you plan to attend church on Christmas Eve, it’s important to remember what Christmas is truly about. Don’t let your family get too caught up with presents and parties and the Elf on the Shelf. Christmas is a time for reflection, a time for celebration, and a time for giving. Decide how you and your family are going to give back this year, and make that the last — and most important — item on your holiday calendar.

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