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Aster's avatar

How can you make Christmas less exhausting ?

Asked by Aster (19974points) December 29th, 2011

Each year isn’t fun with insomnia coupled with buying umpteen presents and wrapping them, fighting traffic and cooking/cleaning/cleaning up. I know I’m not alone, right? Everyone is exhausted and frazzled, right? How can this be changed? Do you have any little secrets or methods to make buying for twelve people less deadly next year? If I just sent checks like some do, there would be no gifts under the tree. The four foot tall tree I downsized to this year which makes me feel guilty and lazy.

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22 Answers

bongo's avatar

I don’t give presents to anyone other than my immediate family. My boyfriend doesn’t even get one. Instead I go out for dinner with them or go for a few drinks. WAY more fun than going Christmas shopping and it means more to that person as you are finding time to spend with them rather than just dropping off a tin of chocolates. I have had a stressful christmas this year, not because of shopping of gifts etc but a very good mate of mine died the day before chistmas eve.
It has really helped me realise that Christmas is not about presents and rushing about it is about going out and having fun with the people you love.

syz's avatar

The best thing our family ever did was to decide that each of us would buy one (generic) gift in a certain price range, and then pull numbers from a hat to choose a gift (we also play dirty Santa, where you can steal someone else’s gift). We have fun doing it, and I only have to decide on (and pay for) one gift rather than eight. That has made a tremendous difference in my attitude towards Christmas.

JilltheTooth's avatar

I am fantastically selfish these days which makes me much nicer to be around and Christmas a lovelier holiday for all. I use gift-bags, I don’t wrap. I make a lot of food presents that people really like, and my house smells nice as a result. I invite a few friends over Christmas Day to eat Mac and Cheese around the coffee table in as casual a way as is possible. I don’t overspend, either on energy or money, and I figure if I’m ready by the following February I’m ahead of the game. I learned a long time ago that the gun you know, the one that the Grinch holds to your head to make you think you’re lazy and stupid if you don’t buy into all the hype isn’t loaded. I really enjoy the whole season, now.

Edit to add: I should also mention that when I switched my attitude, a few people gave me grief, but it didn’t last long. Remember, you are in charge of how you feel.

Aethelwine's avatar

I got online two weeks before Christmas and bought almost all the presents I needed to get from Amazon. No stress involved at all! The FedEx lady who delivered some of the packages was wearing a Santa hat and wished me a Merry Christmas. I loved it. This was the least stressful Christmas I’ve had in years.

We also met family the weekend before Christmas at a Chinese buffet and stayed home Christmas Eve and Christmas Day with our immediate family. It was very relaxing.

marinelife's avatar

Enjoy the smaller tree. Don’t allow guilt into the equation.

Shop online (and have the gifts wrapped if you want). Shopping, wrapping and shipping is taken care of for you.

Order from some of the gourmet food catalogues for treats and entertaining.

ragingloli's avatar

Live alone, do not go to parties, do not visit families, do not buy presents, do not decorate and above all, do not celebrate.
Worked for me.

gailcalled's avatar

it helps to be Jewish.

This year we all got together for the 24th and 25th. We decided beforehand about limiting the gifts to the three little boys (my grand nephews). Their parents gave me my annual large calendar, with family photos and the important dates already marked on it, plus pix of us all during the past year.

My sister cut some white pine branches and draped them around a support pole in her great room and hung some decorations and lights on them.

The meals were simple yet delicious. Home-made pizzas and a huge salad on Xmas day. The chef left the cheese off the pizzas designated for the vegans. Desert was a giant apple/cranberry crisp made with the apples from the garden and served with some local ice cream (for the decadent members of the family).

On the 26th we had a large pasta sauced with olive oil, garlic, cherry tomatoes, Jerusalem artichokes just harvested and artichoke hearts. Another huge salad. Some roasted cauliflower and baby Brusssel sprouts.

Steamed greens with oil and garlic. Dessert was left-over crisp and more ice cream.

No one was frazzled; no one was disappointed; no one harbored any grudges. The few drinkers had some wine and the local beer. Even the very old, sweet dog behaved well and kept on living and making us laugh.

john65pennington's avatar

Next Christmas, tell all your family that you are having Christmas in Key Largo. Plan your trip and go.

Then , you can send them a check and will have solved all your Christmas problems for next year.

If you decide to go, how would you like a riding partner to Key Largo?

jca's avatar

I find that working full time makes the holiday season extra hectic. Now that I work in a city near stores, it was a bit better with being able to shop on lunch hours, but it was still hard to do everything. I find that wanting to have the perfect holiday season is always hard, comparing what the reality of life is like to the images seen in magazines, with holiday cards being written by the fireplace, with a mug of cocoa nearby, and presents wrapped using extra-creative wrapping methods, and crafts done thoughtfully, tree decorated beautifully, home made cookies packaged and delivered to friends, the dinner table looking like something out of Martha Stewart, etc.

I used to work with a woman who would take every Wednesday off in December, to get it all done, which is a great idea, if you have the vacation time left at the end of the calendar year.

Aster's avatar

@john65pennington, great idea! I’ll take your wife with me, ok? lol

dappled_leaves's avatar

If Christmas isn’t fun, you’re doing it wrong. Try to decide which aspects of the holiday stress you out the most, and work on eliminating them, or asking other family members to be responsible for them. And, you know, let them do it in a way that’s fun for them. Try not to live up to some perfect ideal of what Christmas should be.

keobooks's avatar

I am going to try this for next Christmas. It helps you plan a little bit of Christmas every month of the year so that you can be more than well enough prepared for the holiday season. It’s not like Christmas comes on as a surprise—it’s the same time every year. Of course it will all be stressful if you procrastinate. If you do a tiny bit at a time over a longer period of time, you can do more and feel less stress.

However for me, there is the stress and guilt some family members seem to think Christmas requires. Like I have relatives who demand to see me when I am seeing other relatives or things like that. I just have learned to make my choices and stick with them. People mostly give me less grief since I don’t give them an opportunity to let them make me feel evil for not doing exactly what they want.

jca's avatar

One thing I do every year is if I have people I’m not seeing until after Christmas, I don’t stress about trying to buy and wrap their presents by Christmas. I do find that lately, a lot of pre-Christmas sales can be better than the post-Christmas sales, but regardless, I don’t even think of these certain gifts until early January. I have a friend I am seeing probably this weekend, and she requested a gift card to a certain store, and so I will buy it in the next few days.

jazmina88's avatar

celebrate the real deal at church and tell the family to blow.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Go to Florida, like the Big Chicken JillTheTooth did!

geeky_mama's avatar

To add to the usual Christmas-crazy I had an unusually busy December at work (one international and 2 domestic trips – which included lots of preparations for client presentations) and was over-committed to Girl Scout and Cub Scout events.
Here’s what I did to make things a bit more sane for myself during the holidaze this year:

1. I delegated everything I possibly could or felt comfortable with to others. This meant our 10 yr. old did a lot of the gift wrapping.

2. Make the stuff you “have to do” as fun as possible. My best girl friend and I do all our holiday baking together. We make about 10 varieties (sometimes we mix some cookies ahead) and bake them in one marathon day while our kids play. We eat (guac and chips and other snacky foods), chat and sip iced tea the whole day while rotating trays of cookies in and out of the oven. Then we pack up half the cookies for her to take home with her..and voila, Christmas baking is done and it was fun in the process.

3. I did nearly all of our Christmas shopping at Amazon. I even recall buying some presents from their mobile app, on my phone, while walking in the airport. How’s THAT for multi-tasking? Seriously, this should be #1 in my list—because this is what made Christmas shopping tolerable. EVERYTHING came on-time or ahead of schedule. Love, love, love Amazon. Plus I loved getting package deliveries nearly every day (I work from home, so seeing the UPS or FedEx guys with yet another package was a nice distraction).

4. I cut corners where I could (e.g. store bought frozen cookie dough for the sugar cookies that the Girl Scouts baked and delivered to elderly shut-ins) and did only the things I really felt were important (hand written notes in our Christmas cards and the favorite Christmas dishes I like to eat were made by me..).

5. Above all, @Aster, cut yourself some slack. The guilt and insomnia you experienced tell me you were beating yourself up…and it’s not worth feeling bad about. You do the best you can do with the hours awake you have each day..but make room for taking care of yourself. Give yourself a break and do something that relaxes you so you aren’t stressed out, unhappy or guilt-ridden. I take long hot baths with lovely Japanese bath powders, read a book for a bit and get plenty of sleep..even with this busy month (and a Jan. 1st departure to the other side of the world for yet another work trip).

figbash's avatar

Bunch gifts: Send one larger gift to a whole family (food gifts, $100 for their favorite local restaurant, LL Bean staples etc.) and buy them online to have them shipped directly.

Delegate: Have each person take a role that they can embrace and enjoy like tree decorator, Christmas Dinner maker, etc. They can loop others in and start their own tradition.

Limit the number of events: You don’t need to have Christmas Eve dinner, Christmas Brunch, Christmas Dinner all be large-scale events. You don’t need ot do cookies and string popcorn and go ice skating and chop down your own tree. The key is to free up time to spend it with your family

Encourage your family to make Amazon wishlists: This really helps with the anxiety that sometimes comes from gift-giving and speeds up delivery.

Decide which activities mean the most to you and prioritize them: Is that baking cookies with your kids? Going to a tree-lighting ceremony? When I go home, my sister, mom and I get in the car on Christmas even and drive around town aimlessly, looking in people’s windows and rating their decorations. Okay, we’re eccentric but it’s free, fun, takes two hours of time and is one of the things I look forward to the most.

I think that management of the overall ‘project’ of Christmas tasks is doable if you scale things back. Then you can focus on the things that are important and manage any Christmas drama that can be a part of family gatherings.

Best of luck next year! A lot of the above comments are great advice!

dappled_leaves's avatar

Just going to put this out there… there are other places to shop online than Amazon; try to support local independent retailers if you can.

JLeslie's avatar

Do what a lot of Jewish people do, and only worry about getting gifts for children. Adults can buy their own stuff for themselves. How often are you thrilled with the gift your aunt or SIL gave you? Unless they knew exactly what you wanted. Especially if there are a lot of kids in the family, isn’t it enough fun to just watch them excited about their gift, and play with them and their new toys?

Or, have all the adults (or as a couple of they are a couple) buy one gift and play the game of pick a number, then go in order of pick a wrapped gift or swap. You can make the price range high if you want. Then its a game, and people get a good gift, and it takes the stress off of buying for a particular person when you draw names for gift giving (I never like the draw one name thing, just me). You can still give your SO a private gift at home if you want, but the big family even will be less stressful.

This Christmas my husband and I were invited to a Christmas party with friends and no gifts were expected, it was great.

A trip is a great idea, but I have the feeling you want to be with family at home.

JLeslie's avatar

Oh, and you can wrap boxes to put under the tree every year, fakes, and give everyone money, if you just like the look of the gifts. Like paying for a smaller wedding cake and having a sheet cake to cut back in the kitchen.

jca's avatar

One thing I did this year was let my four year old do the tree decorating (with the help of a family friend). I was planning, at first, to go after her and reorganize what she put on the tree, to make it look the way I would have liked, but then I didnt, due to time constraints, and figuring it’s not important to re-do her decorating.

I was thinking more about this thread in the past two days, since it was asked. I think in my case, I don’t experience guilt or worry about the holidays not being perfect. It’s more of a pressure to want them to be as close to perfect as possible, due to them occurring only once a year, and limited in quantity as far as my child being little for only so long.

dappled_leaves's avatar

@jca Probably your 4-year old would be more likely to remember this as a “perfect Christmas” because you let her decorate the tree and didn’t correct it, instead of having what you would consider the “perfect Christmas tree”. So that’s win/win. :)

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