December has arrived and that means that the long awaited countdown to Christmas begins. This season might be by far my most favorite time of the year. I love the decorations, the sweet smell of cinnamon and sugar in the air and the fact that every possible object is adorned by millions of sparkling lights.
However even the most wonderful time of the year can have a darker side…stressful shopping, increased holiday traffic, endless to-do lists, family gatherings, the expectations to make everything perfect for everybody…
It seems to me that over the years Christmas got more commercialized, putting more emphasis on material side of things and adding more pressure to fulfill artificial image of how the Christmas should look like. It’s no wonder that at times it can feel like the spirit of these beautiful holiday has disappeared.
But if we step back and contemplate what Christmas is really about we realize that it is not about giving presents for presents sake, but about gifting your loved ones with the gift of joy and appreciation. It is not about over indulging but about treating yourself with little luxuries. And it can be only as stressful as we allow it to be.
For me Christmas is the time to slow down and relax, to unplug from work and to-do lists, to reflect upon past year and recharge for the year to come. It is the time when you can afford to slack off a little without feeling guilty about it.
Here are my tips for infusing your Christmas with some magic:
Make a plan and then relax
If you are the chief Christmas organizer in your family you know that a lot goes into orchestrating Christmas. Creating a realistic plan is a great way how to not forget anything important. I like to start by making a list of all the things I think I need to do. Then I scan the list and determine which tasks are the absolute must (like buying and decorating the Christmas tree, finding meaningful Christmas presents or cooking delicious Christmas dinner), which ones are important (like baking homemade cookies) and which ones are nice to have if time permits (like deep cleaning whole apartment). From my experience I rarely, almost never get to the third category so it is safe to just forget about it altogether. Next, I schedule the musts and then the important tasks on a specific day and I try to follow the plan as much as possible. For some tasks e.g. Christmas presents I like to create sub-lists to give me better overview what I’m giving to whom. Also, I do not hesitate to delegate some tasks to other family members, I do not have to do everything on my own.
This takes a lot of stress from the Christmas organizing because you can feel on the top of things and you know that the essentials are being taken care of. And you can relax and actually enjoy Christmas holiday season.
Play some nice Christmas music
Nothing puts me into festive spirit faster than listening to some classic Christmas music. And by classic I mean Frank Sinatra or Nat King Cole. Sometimes I mix it up with a little bit of pop (think Wham or Mariah Carey) if I feel like it. Hearing those familiar tunes makes me feel peaceful and merry. I am sure you have your own Christmas favorites so go ahead and play whatever works for you.
For some years now I established a tradition where I pour myself a cup of Baileys Irish Cream (or Magnum Highland Cream Liqueur if I can get my hands on that), put Frank Sinatra on repeat and decorate our Christmas tree. Pure Christmas bliss.
Christmas without decorations is like spring without flowers, we can not imagine one without the other. They create the ambience and instantly make you feel festive. I like to put out mine at the beginning of December and leave them till Epiphany. Christmas tree is an obvious staple but I also like to use pine cones or branches, arrange glass ball ornaments into a large glass and lit loads of candles. You do not have to rely on store-bought decorations, you can make your own like paper or popcorn strings, paper ornaments or using ribbons instead of glass decorations on a Christmas tree.
Candles are the easiest way how to bring a festive feeling into your home. They have a soothing effect and their gentle light adds coziness to any space. I prefer to burn good quality ones, preferable from soy, sunflower or bees wax and stay away from paraffin candles. It is a good idea to air out the room from time to time as candles give off some amount of particles while burning. Also, stay on the safe side and never leave your candles unattended or close to something flammable.
As we are trying to create magical moments and experiences for everybody else it is easy to forget about ourselves. However, even in holiday frenzy it is important to make time for treating yourself, be it by having a hot bath with nicely smelling bath foam, enjoying a moment of peace with a great book or buying something special just for yourself.
Everything in moderation
When we have plenty of something we rarely value it. In this era of mass consumerism we can have everything almost instantly yet people are not happier. Overindulging leaves you feeling unwell and heavy while if you limit yourself a bit you will savor everything more and you will actually be much more satisfied. It’s no wonder that the minimalistic way of living is getting lot of traction lately. Choose quality over quantity, be it in food, presents or company you keep and you will be able to appreciate it more.
Great holiday movies
One of the many thing I love about Christmas time is that I can bundle up in cozy, soft blanket with hot chocolate or a bowl of hearty soup and watch holiday themed movies. Not surprisingly, my absolute favorites are Love Actually and The Holiday. I saw both of them countless times but they still have that magic for me. Other favorites include Home Alone and Harry Potter. Can’t wait to watch them all again!
Tradition is something that we like or has a meaning so it is worth repeating. They also provide a sense of continuity. Keep those traditions that bring you joy whether it is cooking a special meal that only gets cooked at Christmas, lighting advent candles or visiting friends or family and forget those that lost their meaning.
If you have a chance visit the Christmas markets. Nothing works better to induce Christmas spirit than to be in the company of merry people enjoying themselves, laughing and sipping mulled vine or Christmas punch. Add some good bite and loudly played Christmas music, maybe the smell of hot chestnuts in the air…do I need to go on? 🙂
Here is a thought…why bake alone when you can bake with friends or family? 😉 Couple of years ago one of my friends organized our first Christmas baking session and I’ve been in love with this idea ever since. You can cross of one task from your do-to list and have a great get-together at the same time. And you can also expand your baking repertoire by swapping recipes.
Do some acts of kindness
Christmas is a time when we feel more generous and compassionate. And we also have a lot of opportunities to turn those warm feelings into actions. Lots of charities are organizing special Christmas collections or events so just go ahead and join in. Do not stop there and try to kinder to everybody you meet (including yourself). You will help to spread the magic of Christmas all around!
I wish you all lots of love and magical Christmas!
Image courtesy of : Unsplash – Toa Heftiba.