How do you have a stress free holiday season?
Do you limit activities? Limit travel? Say no to holiday parties? Create new "simple" traditions rather than the ones that you grew up with? Have a minimalist Christmas, with few gifts?
The first answer that comes to mind is go away for the holidays and get away from everyone. This is something I'd love to do myself one of these years. Even if only a town away. Go relax at a resort if you can afford to do so.
As we are all adults now in our family and don't live near each other, we don't find the need to celebrate in any special fashion. My parents love going to their church and my brother goes to his inlaws and my sister loves live concerts and I love listening to caroling and watching Christmas specials and sitting back with a hot chocolate and marshmallows and seeing "it's a wonderful life" for the gazillionth time . I also take one of my seniors to a Christmas eve service and a nice dinner. So just choose to create a comfortable quiet relaxing time for yourself and like you said above learn to say no to parties you don't want to go to and take a nice bubble bath instead, play some wonderful christmas music and bake some cookies and even eat the dough. Enjoy yourself as it is you holiday to celebrate how you choose. Have some spiked egg nog...Let your hair down and make some fun for yourself!!
Since we are often traveling in our RV over the Christmas holidays, we've adjusted our holiday celebrations to our lifestyle. We only send gifts to our young grandchildren, and I mostly shop online and have them sent directly to the recipient. Everyone else usually gets either cash or a gift card. I try to do something personal for each person in our family, though. Last year I designed calendars with pictures of each family on each month, and a few special photos of our travels, too. We often play holiday music in our RV, and try to attend special holiday events wherever we are, but generally, our celebration is low key. Because we aren't usually near family, we try to stay in campgrounds that have pot luck dinners or something special on Christmas Day. It's nice to share the day with others in the same situation.
We try not to over plan and we have several rituals which ground up both in the morning and at night.
We limit the number of people we would invite over for dinner, only closest family members. And we plan everything very well and ahead of time.
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