“Merry Christmas” may have been replaced by “Happy Holidays” as the standard November–December greeting in our multicultural society, but if your family celebrates Christmas proper, you no doubt hope to stay merry without falling victim to the stress that can spoil a holiday under any name.
(You can adapt the following tips to any holiday, any time of year.)


Remember the True Meaning of the Day

“Keep Christ in Christmas” may be a bit clichéd, but it’s still a worthwhile principle. Even if your family isn’t particularly religious, read and meditate on the original Christmas story and the images it evokes: simple settings, peace and goodwill, eagerness to share, finding joy even in the midst of inconvenience and interruptions. No hint here of bad tempers, feeling obligated to get everything “perfect,” or striving to impress others with the fanciest decorations or most elaborate party.


Avoid Holiday Overload

Even if you’re a born social butterfly, you don’t have to attend every Christmas party or festival, let alone drag less social family members along with you. Give yourself at least two nights a week for at-home family time, or private reading, or anything that allows for savoring a little peace and quiet.

Be careful what you put in your mouth! The price of enjoying yourself shouldn’t be a bellyache, a hangover, or an unwanted ten pounds. Take small portions, and take time to enjoy every bite. (Another good reason for weekly at-home nights: you can serve light meals to balance the feasts you do indulge in.)

If you have a long list of friends and relatives, do your shopping online and have gifts shipped directly to recipients. Or just send electronic greetings.

Even with your closest friends and relatives, don’t feel obligated to buy expensive gifts: bargain-price stores and resale shops have great options too, so give yourself the present of a well-balanced budget.

Celebrate in a Way That Brings You Joy

There’s a story of a woman who cut every Christmas ham in half before putting it in the pan, because that was the way she’d always seen it done by her mother, who’d seen it done that way by her mother, who’d seen it done that way by her mother. When someone finally got curious enough to track down the origins of that “tradition,” it turned out Great-Grandma simply owned no pans large enough to hold a whole ham.


Some people keep up Christmas traditions for reasons that are worse than silly: they hate that fruitcake recipe and so does everyone in their household, but they keep baking it because they were conditioned in childhood to believe that’s what you eat on December 24. Or they ache all over just thinking about putting up all those fancy decorations again, but can’t stand the thought of having a simple tree next to their neighbors’ showy display.

What kind of a celebration is it to willingly make yourself miserable? Find menus, traditions, and events you and your loved ones genuinely enjoy, and never mind what anyone else does or thinks.

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a joyful and prosperous New Year!