farewell to November


A few nights ago, I was wide awake at midnight because my internal clock was off track. Setting the alarm for the first time in nearly a week signaled the end of sleeping late and staying up late with the kids. We had some great family meals, watched movies, and took a much-needed break from routine over Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving is the calm before the storm, the last peaceful moment before the frenzied rush of the coming weeks. Christmas is at the doorstep ringing the bell. It desperately wanted in last weekend, and I usually usher Thanksgiving out quickly to accommodate.

I’ll admit that Christmas took over a few hours on Black Friday with some online shopping. Gifts are an inevitable part of the holidays, and I always hope to have them bought early so I can avoid last-minute shopping trips.

Christmas is an exciting time, but the world tends to move too fast for me and I have a hard time keeping pace in December. Each year I have new hope that the season won’t be as hectic as the year before and all the holiday preparations will get done in time to relax and enjoy the activities that make this a wonderful time of the year. But no matter how early I start preparing it’s never enough, so I have to wonder if my expectations for this season are unrealistic.

After practicing some minimal habits throughout the year, I’m starting to have a different view of some of our holiday traditions. My usual planning, shopping, decorating, baking, and gift wrapping are a lot to fit in to a schedule that nearly doubles with events during the month. It’s time to consider the purpose behind our traditions and if they need to be changed up a bit.

We send photo cards to friends and relatives each year, but it’s done in more of a mass productive manner than the way I’m sure the tradition was originally intended. I’ve considered eliminating this tradition in favor of a more environmentally conscious and personalized greeting, but am reluctant because I enjoy receiving cards from friends. Perhaps personalized emails with photo attachments will be my new tradition if time permits.

Each gift I give this season will be done more consciously. This year, there are more experiences on our wish lists than before. Gifts will be given because they evoke joy or make life better in some way. I’ll try to avoid giving gifts that were bought because they were a great deal I couldn’t pass up, or because I feel obligated to give something out of a false sense of expectation. Who knows, maybe others feel the same way and wonder why we exchange gifts at all when the act of spending time together is really enough!

As far as decorating, my daughter and I have set up the nativity scene and hung stockings, but other decorations will wait for a week or so. Our artificial pre-lit Christmas tree has been a source of aggravation with branches that take a long time to separate and fluff and sections that won’t stay lit.

I’ve researched Christmas tree alternatives on Pinterest, as well as what type of tree is best for the environment. There are many different opinions on this, but I decided to get a real tree and gave away our artificial one so there’s no turning back now! The great thing about getting a real tree is that it might die if bought too early, so it graciously gives Thanksgiving its due time.

I’m willing to accept that some traditions can’t be changed overnight. Small changes to our holiday traditions just might start new ones that are more meaningful to us, like having time to bake and deliver cookies to friends, make ornaments with the kids, or do something spontaneous to celebrate the holiday.

My husband and son have a tradition of watching The Lord of the Rings movie trilogy over several nights in December. Sometimes they convince me to sit and watch with them, but I’m always distracted by my long to-do list. A calmer state of mind will allow me to be more present, which is worth changing some traditions.

As we say goodbye to November, not rushing through Thanksgiving has set the pace for a less hectic holiday for my family. I plan to let go of some of my former expectations of a perfect Christmas and lighten up on myself.

Things don’t have to be done perfectly, and in fact, some things don’t have to be done at all. The things I choose to do this holiday will hopefully be more meaningful because of it.

Do you have a plan for making the holidays less stressful by changing some traditions that don’t really fit your lifestyle anymore? If so, I wish you luck and would love to hear about your progress!