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Holiday Season: Less Stress, More Connection and Nostalgia

The holiday season brings mixed feelings for many, especially Moms who often carry the brunt of the workload for creating a wonderful or magical experience for others.

I thought I’d share a few things that I’m either doing this Christmas, or have done over the years, to create a little less stress and more connection in our family.

Interestingly, even now that my son is 19 and spends less time with us, I notice him drawing closer and feeling nostalgic as we repeat some of the same activities we’ve always done at Christmastime. We watched Elf the other evening, for about the 10th year on a row 😂. We all laughed together and felt a little nostalgic. The connection and nostalgia have always mattered to me, but as I get older, I feel it even more.

I’m deeply grateful for the connection, and I’m glad we made the effort to create a few of our own family traditions despite how tiring it felt at times when he was younger when we were also caring for aging parents. In hindsight, it feels even more worthwhile now.

*If you don’t celebrate Christmas–I hope you can use and adapt some of these ideas for creating connection and nostalgia at this time of solstice and short darker days.

Here are a few of my ideas and what’s worked well over the years:

  1. Turkey dinner: For years now, we’ve had our big celebratory family dinner early on Christmas Eve. It took extra effort to get everything ready *a day early*, but for me as chief cook, I loved looking forward to genuinely relaxing on Christmas morning while opening gifts together. I didn’t have the worry about what time to put the turkey into the oven hanging over my head. We’d snack on mixed nuts and oranges while opening gifts, with coffee for the adults, and enjoy a leisurely breakfast when we got to it. Bonus: Dinner was easy–leftovers! When we started doing this, I started genuinely enjoying the day.
  2. We have a few favorite music tracks we listen to every year. Hearing the same music year after year brings a feeling of nostalgia. One of our favorites is Vince Guaraldi’s A Charlie Brown Christmas.
  3. Plan some calming or regulating activities into the days, including physical activity–such as:
    1. Walks (either with family or alone), time in nature, games or outdoor activities, or reading.
    2. Listen to audiobooks with your kids–we have a good selection at our library and there’s lots online. Majik Kids has just released a new feature length Christmas story on their website called Joy to the World and it’s free to listen.
    3. Listening to one or more of the same favorite stories during the holiday season creates the nostalgic feeling so many long for at holiday seasons.
  4. Other favorites of ours:
    1. Watching Elf with Will Ferrell. Kid friendly and we never get tired of it. I have a menu of foods I only make at Christmastime and our family tradition is to have an “appetizer” dinner while watching the movie.
    2. Stuart McLean (1948 – 2017) – storyteller from CBC Radio (The Vinyl Cafe show), tells heartwarming stories that our family absolutely loves. My son started listening about age 7, long before I thought he’d be interested. We often listened to his stories on long car rides to visit my parents. Some of our favorite Christmas stories are on this album.
  5. Games and puzzles. Balderdash has been a favorite of ours over the years, but this year I bought Telestration. Games are a great way to connect and laugh together. For the little ones, I prefer cooperative games. Also, puzzles are a great indoor activity for the whole family. I grew up in a family who loved puzzles, and spent endless hours gathered around the table doing them in the winter.
  6. Trying not to overbook myself. This is a tough one for me–sometimes my enthusiasm is greater than my physical ability 😂 And of course, when you have a family, there’s a lot that just has to be done. But I’ve been practicing letting go of some things and I’m getting better. This year I’ve created more space in the days leading up to Christmas by postponing tasks that I’d wanted to do before Christmas. Is there anything you can let go of, that would give you just a bit more ease at this time of year?

I know it’s not always possible to create a feeling of spaciousness when you have little ones. I hope you can let go of what’s not absolutely needed, and enjoy some times of connection with your family this holiday season, despite some of the inevitable busy-ness.