The Season of Busy is Back. What to do?

Well, it’s that time of year again. The holidays are here. It’s what I call The Busy Season.

My first Christmas. I was obviously not stressed out. I am not sure about my parents, however.
My first Christmas. I was obviously not stressed out. I am not sure about my parents, however.

At our house, late fall means basketball, plays and a multitude of activities related to things in which the family is involved. This time of year also means baking, extra cleaning, Thanksgiving, and all that entails, and then Christmas and all that entails. The thought of all of this makes me long for the quiet, boring days of January.

Don’t get me wrong. I love the holidays, but flopping around like a marionette that is controlled by a mad puppeteer is not what I envision for a time of such significance.

Somebody stop the madness.

The other day I went into Walmart and everything was Christmas. There was even a little Santa Claus in the foyer holding a sign that told me how many shopping days I have left until Christmas. This caused me to have some strong feelings; in fact, I wanted to kick Santa, but I restrained myself. I just told him to “shut up” as I walked by. To make matters worse, I went to the candy aisle in search of candy corn for Thanksgiving (and for a little snacking, I’ll admit) and it’s gone! Gone, I tell you! All of the candy is now Christmas candy. This store went straight from Halloween to Christmas! The only evidence of Thanksgiving (yes, remember the holiday in the middle?) are the turkeys and cranberries on sale in the food section.

For years now, I have loudly complained about this to my family and, judging from some things I see on social media and in the news, others are angry too.

Angry? Yes. ‘Anger’ is a good word to describe my feelings because the stores are not trying to spread holiday spirit. All they want is my money. They also want it earlier and earlier each year. Last year, stores were actually opening on the day before Thanksgiving for Black Friday. Many of them stayed open on Thanksgiving as well. This year, is already spamming us with ‘pre-Black Friday’ sales opportunities.

Obviously, they will not stop the madness.

There are glimmers of hope. I read in The New York Times that some stores are refusing to open on Thanksgiving. Some stores are even refusing to get into the Black Friday hype. That makes me happy even though we are still surrounded by rampant consumerism this time of year.

Somehow, the madness must stop. It will not stop with them so it has to stop with me. But how?

This problem has plagued me for years, yet I have not made changes until recently. I would like to share those with you, but here are the conclusions at which I had to arrive before I could make the changes.

  • I had to examine my priorities. What are my priorities this season? It all goes back to the reason we are celebrating. My family celebrates Thanksgiving so that we can thank God for what he provides. We celebrate Christmas because Jesus was born to make us children of God. Why are you celebrating the holidays? What are your priorities?
  • Once my priorities are set, my activity should fall under those priorities.  This is where change begins. What activities out of the multitude that are available are truly essential?

For me – and I suspect that this is true for most people – Thanksgiving is not really the problem. It’s Christmas, or more correctly, the commercialized mess that Christmas has become.  How can my celebration really mean something when I tired and cranky from all of the running around?  Here are some things that my family and I have come up with over the years:

  • Avoid activities that cause stress.  For me, this means that I stay home on Black Friday; I don’t attend most parties and I forget about Christmas cards. Instead, we try to keep things as normal as possible so that essential activities aren’t as stressful.
  • Pick a devotional or read through Advent liturgy during the six weeks the church celebrates. This will help you keep your priorities in order and bring peace and joy to your heart.
  • Limit holiday baking and gift giving. Seriously. With all of the calories that baking yields, stick with your immediate family’s favorites and maybe try one new thing. You will be grateful come January. And gift-giving? Wow. This is an enjoyable activity, but many people are still paying off credit card debt from last year. We’ve asked ourselves how much we really need and what is our motivation behind giving?  That has pared down a lot of unnecessary gifts that just get tossed aside anyway.
  • Don’t make everything. This is weird for a crafter to say, but unless you have successfully followed a strategic plan for making gifts for everyone this Christmas, don’t start now. It’s tempting to try, believe me (after all there are more than 40 days left, of course I can make 10 sweaters!).  Going on a marathon crafting binge, however, is bound to make anyone cranky. Plus, it takes the joy out of doing something you love.
  • Be prayerful. If stressful activity were not enough, relational stress is at an all time high during the holidays as family members gather together. Many of these family members to not spend time with each other during the year because they do not like each other, but at the holidays feel like they must be together out of obligation to parents or to their idea of what family means. If this applies to you, be prayerful ahead of time. Try to make peace as you are able. Take a walk if you have to.

These are just suggestions based on how my family celebrates. Do you have any ideas for your family? What do you do to make the holidays more pleasant and less stressful? I would love to hear your thoughts.

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