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25 Ways to Make This the Best Christmas Season Ever

The holidays can be stressful.

Your to-do list has suddenly quadrupled. You may be spending more money than you intended. Perhaps you are entertaining house guests, hosting a party, or traveling. For most of us, life is simply busier and more expensive during the holiday season.

And for some, the holidays are a reminder of lost or absent loved ones, feelings of loneliness, or financial difficulties and stress.

We may have dreams of a Norman Rockwell Christmas, but the reality is probably closer to National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation — at least at some point during the holidays.

There’s a lot of pressure to make the Christmas season perfect and to cram it with events, shopping, and parties. But I find that some of the simplest pleasures can make the season bright and fill me with the joy and wonder of Christmas.

I invite you to share in the simple pleasures of the season with these 25 ideas:

1. Begin with gratitude. Before you begin handing out the gifts and tearing in to them, take a moment to reflect on all of your blessings since last Christmas. Write them down. Look at all of the good you have in your life and be grateful.

2. Set a budget. If you know exactly how much you are going to spend this Christmas, then shopping becomes much easier. Don’t feel pressured by the media, the advertisements, or other people to spend more than you intend.

3. Release expectations. Allow this Christmas season to be what it is without expectations or hopes for perfection. We are often disappointed when things don’t go “as planned” during the holidays, so plan loosely and remain open to change. Embrace the reality of life as being part of the season.

4. Keep it simple. Part of releasing expectations is simplifying your Christmas season. If you over-schedule yourself with activities, shopping, and travel, you will be stressed and will miss out on the peace and beauty of the season.

5. Spend time in nature. Wherever you live, in a cold or warm climate, spend time outside absorbing the natural beauty of this time of year. The smells, the sounds, the climate of December are all part of the joyful anticipation of Christmas.

6. Listen to beautiful music. Everyone has their favorite holiday music, and it creates background mood for the holidays. Consider music that is peaceful and soothing to bring calm during this hectic time of year. I love the music of Stanton Lanier during the holidays or any of the Wyndom Hill music.

7. Create and sustain traditions. Traditions during the holidays make us feel connected to one another and to something larger than ourselves. They offer a sense of certainty and comfort. We have a tradition of letting the children open one gift on Christmas Eve, and it’s always pajamas to wear that night.

8. Entertain without perfection. Sometimes we avoid inviting friends over during the holidays unless everything is perfect — the right meal, the house completely decorated and cleaned, a gift purchased. Let that go and enjoy spontaneous get-togethers to share a meal or simply some time together. Don’t miss connections waiting for perfection.

9. Light candles. The glow of candlelight creates magic and warmth. Light them at dinner, during a bath, on the mantle. I’ve put an assortment of candles in the fireplace when it’s too warm to light a fire.

10. Buy gifts mindfully. Don’t purchase a gift just for the sake of having something to give. Buy something that is truly a gift for the recipient, something that lifts them up and makes them happy. Here are some ideas for mindful giving.

11. Bring nature inside. As you decorate for the season, bring some of the beauty from the outside into your home. Cut branches and holly berries to put on your mantle or in an arrangement. Decorate pine cones to put on your tree. Spray leaves with gold paint to use on your table or as place cards. Here are more ideas.

12. Go caroling. Print off some Christmas carols from the Internet. Brew up some hot chocolate or mulled cider. Get some candles or lanterns. Call a few friends to join you, and walk around your neighborhood and sing. It’s really fun — and more fun if you spike the cider!

13. Wrap creatively. Instead of buying more wrapping paper, get creative. Collect all of the paper you have from last year and use it first. Use recyclable brown paper bags and tie them with bright ribbon or raffia string. Use burlap or fabric pieces to wrap up round or small gifts. Here are some more ideas.

14. A baking party. Set aside a morning with family or a couple of friends, and enjoy the pleasures of baking together. Bake a batch of Christmas cookies, pumpkin bread bread, or your own favorite holiday treat.

15. Feed the birds. Get a bird feeder as a family gift before Christmas and set it up near a window. It is such a simple and beautiful pleasure to watch the variety of birds looking for a good meal!

16. A family project to serve. Plan something together as a family to help or offer hope to others during the holidays. Adopt a family, serve in a soup kitchen or food bank, visit shut-ins. This reminds us of our many blessings and provides a sense of meaning and context for the season.

17. Create simple, healthy meals. From Thanksgiving until the New Year, we are faced with an array of delicious, but often fattening and unhealthy food choices. Whenever possible, create simple and healthy meals to keep your eating choices balanced.

18. Support the arts. In this economy, the arts are suffering with lower attendance. Many performing companies, ballet companies, and other arts organizations are closing their doors. The holidays are a great time to support the arts while feeding your soul. Attend The Nutcracker, go to a holiday symphony performance, or watch a local theater production. These are great family occasions.

19. Send a letter or gift to a soldier. Imagine being in Iraq or Afghanistan this Christmas, away from loved ones and the comforts of home. Remember those fighting for our freedom and send a note of thanks or a needed gift.

20. Rediscover meaning and purpose. As things begin to slow down in the days before Christmas and the week after, take some time to reexamine your own life to determine what is truly meaningful and important to you. Define and uncover your passion and purpose to begin the New Year with a fresh perspective.

21. Write a love letter. One of the most meaningful gifts you can give is a hand-written letter expressing your love and gratitude to your spouse/beloved, your parents, your children, or a treasured friend. Take time and thoughtful care in expressing your feelings, writing on beautiful paper, and wrapping your gift. It will never be forgotten.

22. Reach out to someone lonely. If you know someone alone or lonely this holiday season, connect with them. Invite them over for a meal or include them in a family occasion. The holidays can be very sad for many people, and you can bring a ray of light into their lives.

23. Take a drive or a walk. Get in the car and take a drive just to look at the holiday lights and decorations. Or simple walk around your neighborhood. Carry a mug of hot chocolate and a box of homemade cookies with you and make it an occasion.

24. No last minute shopping. If you find yourself without a gift for someone at the last minute, don’t rush out and buy something so you won’t be empty-handed. Instead, create your own “gift card” for someone offering something special they would enjoy — a dinner out, a coupon for chores, a back rub, a movie together.

25. Make Christmas Day last. Instead of ripping into gifts and rushing through the morning, open gifts one-at-a-time. Enjoy each person’s pleasure of giving and receiving. Light candles, put on music, and intersperse gift opening with breakfast, laughter, and connection.

What will make this the best Christmas season ever for you? Please share your ideas and experiences in the comments.

Barrie Davenport is a personal and career coach and founder of Live Bold and Bloom, a blog about bold and fearless personal growth. She is the author of the free guide, 7 Key Ingredients for a Meaningful Life.

  • http://thebooksthatchangedmylife.com Marc Van Der Linden

    Great tips to enjoy Christmas in a nice and joyful atmosphere! I already have done my Christmas shopping too and I’m happy that I can avoid the mass shopping places in the oncoming week.

    Thanks for sharing 

    • Barrie/Live Bold and Bloom

      That’s great Marc! Now you can just relax and enjoy the next few days! Merry Christmas to you.

  • http://www.discoverleecountyfl.com MargeNewton

    Wow, what a list!  As I was reading it, I thought, I hope there is something about baking, and sure enough you have it.

    The only thing I might add is “Eat some soup.”  It’s a great way to use leftovers, sends warm feelings to your heart and stomach, and just the eating of it, helps create an atmosphere of relaxation.

    • Barrie/Live Bold and Bloom

      Hi Marge,
      I couldn’t agree more — soup is definitely soul-satisfying. :) I’ve got a feeling you are an excellent cook!

  • http://hanofharmony.com The Vizier

    Hi Barrie,

    It’s so true, the holidays can be stressful instead of relaxing.  This is especially so with a major festive season like Christmas.  But as you rightly point out, it is the simple things that can truly make Christmas meaningful.  I especially like:

    1.  Begin with Gratitude

    We tend to take our loved ones for granted as we go about our hectic lives.  Remembering who is truly important to us and why really helps to make Christmas more special.  

    10.  Buy Gifts Mindfully

    It is not a good idea to buy gifts for the sake of buying.  After all, we certainly would not give a thoughtless gift a second look.  If the person whom we are buying for really matters, he or she is worth the extra effort to get a truly meaningful gift that they deserve.

    For me, Christmas is a time to be grateful as you mentioned in point one.  Nothing would make this Christmas more meaningful than to share it with my loved ones.

    Thank you for sharing this lovely article!  :)

    Irving the Vizier

    • Barrie/Live Bold and Bloom

      Hi Irving,
      So nice to see you here! I hope you have a lovely Christmas with loved ones. See you in the New Year. :)

    • Barrie/Live Bold and Bloom

      Hi Irving,
      So nice to see you here! I hope you have a lovely Christmas with loved ones. See you in the New Year. :)

  • http://twitter.com/NeaLOA Nea

    Wow…these are really wonderful tips. There are many people who no longer feel the holiday spirit,but that usually has everything to do with their approach to it.  When you decide that you will make the Christmas season a wonderful time of year, that’s exactly what it will be.  You’ve provided 25 of the many ways to bring that to fruition.

    • Barrie/Live Bold and Bloom

      Hi Nea,
      You are so right — our attitude towards the season is a choice like everything else. Whatever the season brings, we can see it as wonderful. Thank you for your kind comments.

    • Barrie/Live Bold and Bloom

      Hi Nea,
      You are so right — our attitude towards the season is a choice like everything else. Whatever the season brings, we can see it as wonderful. Thank you for your kind comments.

  • http://pristineperception.com Suzanne

    Remember being authentic and taking off the many masks is a great way to have an enjoyable celebration season.  You will appreciate more and in essence be appreciated more for just being you. :)

    • Barrie/Live Bold and Bloom

      So true Suzanne. This isn’t the time to impress or over-do. It’s easy to get thrown off track because of all of the holiday hoopla. But I think most of us (adults at least) would prefer a simple and calm holiday season.

  • Toni Cañellas

    thanks for the tips!

    • Barrie/Live Bold and Bloom

      You are welcome!

  • http://alwayswellwithin.com/ Sandra / Always Well Within

    Writing a love letter, reaching out to someone who is lonely, taking time to examine your life.  These all touched me. 

    • Barrie/Live Bold and Bloom

      I’m glad Sandra. Those are the meaningful things we offer ourselves and others, aren’t they?

  • http://bizzytoothmommy.com/ Ritu

    Seems like for most of us holiday schedules (stressful, commercial) have replaced holiday traditions (meaningful, heartfelt). I love it when lists such as yours reiterate taking the time to enjoy the little things and focus on those with meaning and love.

    Also, nice to see you in places other than my inbox:)

  • http://www.peppervirtualassistant.com/ Agatha Tefora

    On Christmas, I don’t want to be stressed with all the baking, I enjoy it but with the number if people we are having at home, I opted to order food. Stress free life on Christmas!

  • Ronaldcholmes24

    Try to enjoy every moment of the day although your family and friend leave your ass at home in solidarity.its not your worst case sinario and etc.

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  • http://www.etechnoblog.com Riya Mathur

    Very very balanced list to spend holidays, try to engage yourself and have some break from work and spend time with near and dears ones. Also feeling the nature is best tip as usually we don’t get time to feel it everyday, Thanks Barrie and Merry Christmas to you too 

  • http://cashwithatrueconscience.com/rbblog Ryan Biddulph

    Hi Barrie,

    I like the emphasis on getting back to nature.

    Breathing in fresh air, taking hikes, strolling in the woods…each practice brings us into the cradle of perfection. No stress. No worries. We are present, when fully in nature. Holiday stress is the result of lack of presence. In the here and now, it’s all good. Everything is OK.

    Thanks for sharing your insight Barrie.

    RB

  • http://bbakeca.com/ BBakeca

    Great list…love your post!

  • Lilianryder

    I know I always listen to Ella fitzgeralds swinging Christmas album… It just makes everything perfect!

  • Lampton erin

    I just felt good when I read these 25 ideas in this middle of xmas today

  • Lampton erin

    I visited the lonely street man  and offered a words of happy Xmas, he was very happy and said God bless you..

    • bk

      Sweet

  • John

    Great

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  • bk

    Awesome!I love Christmas and do u?

  • Ruth

    this Christmas and New Year have been the worst for me in a long time, and reading through this list of tips I can’t believe how many simple things I didn’t do or lost sight of or just plain forgot. I really regret it now and wish I had read this a couple of weeks ago. I won’t make the same mistake next time