Rather than discovering how to enjoy the holidays and the time leading up to them, I just wanted to scream Bah Humbug! To do away with all of the needless lighting and spending, giving and general wasteful merriment. To stop everything in order to receive the peace that idle quiet would bring. To not let Thanksgiving and Christmas take over the entire months of November and December...that there were many other days in those months that seemed to be forgotten or wasted in the hustle and bustle of things.
Just before stepping over the ledge into Scroogedom, I figured out a way to celebrate without all the stress and put Thanksgiving and Christmas in their place so to speak. Basically, it involved scaling back holiday preparations, enlisting the help of others, and getting everything done early. Not letting the holidays take over...
Scaling Back Holiday Preparations: For Thanksgiving, my family and I decided on a permanent menu that we have every year and we made up a shopping list and production schedule that is replicated each year. From year to year, we make our turkey the same way and use the same sweet potato recipe and every other menu item for that matter. This saves time of planning. On Thanksgiving day, we don't set an elaborate table or use our fine china or silver (we don't have any) and instead set a buffet on the stove top using our pots and pans as serving dishes.
Enlisting the Help of Others: In order to make the day enjoyable for all involved, we are each responsible for a different menu item. For instance, I may handle making the turkey and gravy from start to finish while my son may do the mashed potatoes. If we have invited guests, they take part in the food prep fun as well. Last year when my niece and her mother were visiting, they enjoyed feeling like they played a part in the meal. All the kids at the table especially enjoyed noticing how well their menu item turned out and loved saying things such as "my green beans are wonderful" or "the stuffing is fantastic". After the meal, we all helped clear the table and clean up which made the day enjoyable for all.
Getting Everything Done Early: I shop early in the morning on Thanksgiving week or many days before the holiday when the crowds are sparse. This saves me time and my sanity.
Scaling Back Holiday Preparations: Reduce, reduce, reduce! My family and I have reduced the amount of lights hung outside (or skipped it altogether), the decorating done inside, gifts purchased, cards sent, people visiting, parties attended, obligations met. I soon found the enjoyment of Christmas isn't dependent on any of the above but is dependent on the amount of time spent just hanging out and enjoying the company of friends and family in an easy relaxed style. Having coffee in our pajamas easy. Leftovers from the night before easy. We skip wrapping presents and put our gifts in cloth bags. We create wish lists with online links for easy shopping and share them with one another. We just click and we're done, knowing that what we've purchased is appreciated and wanted and won't find its way to the back of the closet or the landfill.
Enlist the Help of Others: All of us take a part in putting on the holiday. Ryan is in charge of the Christmas Village set up and enjoys covering the dining room table with it each year. Mike hauls all of the decorations out of the basement or from the attic. I oversee the card effort and divvy up the list so I don't get stuck doing all of the writing. We all take part in shopping and preparing any food eaten on this holiday and we tackle the meal on Christmas Eve in much the same way we handle Thanksgiving. Anything we don't feel like doing, we don't do. Some years we don't hang lights, some we do. Other years we have a Christmas Eve party, other years we don't. Mostly we just do what feels right to us, not what is expected of us to do the holiday right.
Getting Everything Done Early: While many non-consumerist folks scream against Black Friday, I love it! I enjoy the thrill of finding a deal in order to save money and getting all of my shopping done on this day so that I can free up my calendar for other pursuits. Armed with my list of both needed yearly household items and the Christmas wish lists of my family, I hit the stores early. Most of the crowds head to the big ticket items like TV's and I find myself in empty areas of the stores buying new pillows for the house or shoes for myself at drastically reduced prices. I have now deemed Black Friday my "Buy Everything Day" where I try and buy everything I need for the year to take advantage of the savings offered. In fact, I have decided to keep a running list of things we need at the house to purchase each year on Black Friday and stay away from stores as much of possible the rest of the year.
So, here I sit, at the end of November, just coming off one of the most relaxing Thanksgivings ever. I spent about two hours shopping for food last Tuesday morning and another six making dinner before we ate at 2pm. After dinner we lit a fire and sat by it talking until late in the evening. Spending time with family and savoring the day as it came to a close. Thanksgiving didn't deter me from enjoying the rest of my November as I prepared for it and it is my hope that my Christmas preparations don't take me away from enjoying my December either.
For Thanksgiving and Christmas are each just one day. One day in a cast of hundreds each year. I don't want to waste any of my days in the pursuit of a perfect holiday.