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Several years I did the unthinkable in my family and in that of my husband’s:  I suggested that we end gift-giving at Christmas and simply allow a phone call of warm wishes and a holiday card suffice.  We had gotten to the point of exchanging wish lists and then sending $25 gift cards across the country.  A $25 store gift card went out to a sister-in-law, who would send $25 back.  I failed to see the point, let alone the holiday spirit.  The result?  Several years into doing this, I’m still getting notes of gratitude for making the holidays more peaceful.

Make a list, check it twice, and stick to it

Here are other suggestions I’ve used for keeping the holidays sane:

• Create a budget and stick to it.  Don’t overspend at the holidays. It’s just no fun. Make a list, estimate your expenses and stick to it.
• For employees, give gifts of time off (half days, full days, etc.).  Let’s face it, during the holidays, they’re often less productive anyway.
• Reduce your work schedule during December and January.  The winter months are a time of rest and dormancy.  Plants need it, humans need it.  This over-activity during the holidays is not good for us, as it’s counter to the natural rhythms of where we live.  This is a meditative, reflective time.
• Let happiness and joy come naturally rather than as a mandate for the holidays.  The expectation that the holidays have to be fun and exciting does not allow for all our emotions to be present, like sadness for loved ones no longer with us or anxiousness about getting the turkey right.
• Love the gift you give another because you want them to have it, not necessarily because it’s “perfect.”  In our instant gratification world of Target, Costco, and online shopping, we rarely wait for the holidays for a special gift or treat.  More often than not, we buy that gift for ourselves when we’re ready.  The best gifts are usually not what’s expected.
• Get shopping done before Thanksgiving or by the end of the first week of December and buy nothing else.
• Get your holiday cards done over Thanksgiving and send them out the first week of December.
• Tell kids to pick the three things they REALLY want and get two of them.  Set a deadline for the list.  Let it change a thousand times before the deadline (you know it will) and then let the deadline stick.
• Create a ceremony to celebrate each other.  We do a solstice ceremony at home that takes us all of 15 minutes in which we go around and for each person acknowledge what we love about them, how we have seen them grow that year, and what we wish for them.  We do it on the solstice, and it’s the highlight of our holiday season.
• Remember, less is more.
Have a wonderful holiday season!

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