Some people love the holidays, while others… not so much. This time of year carries a lot of potential for great memories around family, food, gifts, and experiences. Then again, that also means it carries the possibility of a lot of stress and great disappointments. How can you create a holiday experience that you’ll look back on with a smile?
I have a few thoughts, of course!
Manage your expectations
We often have a vision of the “perfect” holiday. Sometimes we pull fond memories from years past and try to recreate the feelings we remember from our childhood. Or maybe we absorb it from all the media around us. (Like Joanna on my favorite HGTV show Fixer Upper, who seems to do it so effortlessly.) We take a mental snapshot then do our best to recreate the scene.
Perhaps we think if we set the scene just right, then everything will go the way we expect it should.
If you set expectations that are unrealistic, then you are setting yourself up for disappointment.
I had to learn this lesson the hard way. I remember my first Christmas as a new mom. I shopped for the perfect gifts, I called my grandma to get all of her recipes, I wanted it to be best Christmas ever. But when we arrived at church on Christmas Eve to discover there were no seats left and we had to go to mass in a metal building next door, my bubble burst. I remember feeling utterly disappointed. I couldn’t shake it off. It set up a series of events that left me in tears on my daughter’s first Christmas.
Sometimes the key to success is lowering your expectations. Celebrate every small win, and let go of the stuff that isn’t perfect (and there is always something that isn’t perfect!).
If the Christmas dessert comes out of the oven, and it’s not burnt – that’s a win!
If the kids get to Christmas dinner and they aren’t in their pj’s – that’s a win!
How can you manage or readjust your expectations to create a better experience?
Focus on your priorities
What is the most important thing for you? Is it that your house is clean? Is it that your kids are smiling and laughing? Would you like to be able to take a break over the holidays to recharge?
Decide which is the biggest priority to you. Then all your decisions fall into place. You might be doing things that are not really serving your purpose or your goal. Are you willing to let them go? Sometimes it takes some sacrifice or some creativity or some compromise.
Let’s say you want all the family around the table looking their best. Knowing this will take your time and attention to execute, you may have to give up cooking the 5 course dinner you wanted. Realistically, you only have so much time. Compromise and pick up a pie at the store.
Maybe your goal this holiday is to get some much needed rest. You might need to practice saying “no” when being invited to every holiday party.
Maybe your goal is to have all your kids spending quality time together. Maybe you need to let go of the idea that your house will be spotless.
Take the Tractor
When I was a young child, our Christmas tradition was that we went to my Grandma Irene’s house for Christmas Eve dinner in town. We looked forward to this one time of year that we were together with all of our cousins.
When I was 6 or so years old, there was a blizzard raging outside on Christmas Eve. I remember my mom being really worried that we wouldn’t get to go to town and that Christmas would be ruined. My dad fired up the tractor and he plowed our way to town!
I can still recall the bright white snow flying. I remember huddling together on the tractor in the cold and being a little frightened. When recalling this Christmas, I was overcome with emotion. I don’t remember a single gift I received but I remember my Dad finding a way for us to be together with our family.
It’s not about a “perfect” holiday. It’s about focusing your priorities, managing your expectations and making the creative and compromising choices that match. When you do, you are choosing your Happy Holiday Ending!