We’ve all heard the song “The 12 Days of Christmas.” In it, the singer’s beau gives a new and larger gift each day. By the end of the song, the singer must be completely overwhelmed by Christmas.
Most of us can relate to the feeling of being overwhelmed by the holidays. Between purchasing and wrapping gifts, attending holiday parties and happy hours, decorating, baking, and traveling – not to mention trying to finish end-of-year tasks at work – we’re on the move nonstop from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day.
It doesn’t have to be that way.
One of the most common pieces of advice we hear this time of year is to simplify. You don’t have to bake dozens of cookies and spend hundreds of dollars on gifts. The reason for the season is family, not stuff. That’s solid advice.
However, you can also lower your stress by following the real 12 days of Christmas. Most people these days believe the 12 days of Christmas are December 12 – 24. However, the true 12 days of Christmas are Christmas Day through January 6 – the 12 days it took the Three Wise Men to reach Bethlehem once they received news of Jesus’ birth.
Part of why the holidays are stressful is because we try to cram so much into just a few days. Yet there’s no law requiring you to do this. Stretch out the season so that you can celebrate in a way that works for you and your family.
I believe that one of the joys of the holidays is creating your own traditions. In my family, for example, my husband and I wait to celebrate Christmas until both of our children and their husbands can join us. It’s important to my husband and I that we celebrate Christmas all together as a family, so we let our daughters spend Christmas Eve and Day with their husbands’ families and celebrate together a few days later. This way we aren’t forcing our children to choose between us and their in-laws, and it buys me a few more days to prepare.
You don’t have to follow my example of celebrating the holidays at a later date. Think about what’s important to you and what you can change to reduce your stress. Too many gifts to buy? One of my clients convinced the adults in her extended family to participate in a white elephant exchange instead of purchasing gifts for each aunt, uncle and cousin. Not enough time to bake? Pick just one or two cookies that you absolutely must have at Christmas.
The holidays should be a time to slow down and appreciate who and what we have. When we’re stressed and overwhelmed, we only see the holidays as a hassle. By finding ways to celebrate on our own terms, we can reduce stress and truly enjoy a beautiful time of year.