Many years ago, before I had children or a house or a legally binding relationship, I had a job. The job was very important to me, and I took every opportunity to prove my commitment. One year I volunteered to make all of the desserts for the company Christmas party. Nevermind that I had never made anything more complex than a chocolate chip cookie. I had seen Martha Stewart on television, it couldn’t be that difficult! It was with that attitude that I picked up a copy of Martha Stewart Living and settled on the centerpiece for my cornucopia of holiday sweets – the crème puff tree.
No big deal. Make some delicate crème puffs, artfully arrange them in a tower, and cover the whole thing in a halo of spun sugar.
Four hours and a six-plus pack later, my boyfriend found me sitting on the kitchen floor, teary eyed and bleary eyed, covered in sugar. The crème puff tree was more like a crème puff puddle. We showed up to the party with a hundred dollars worth of lovely, store bought petit fours.
Sometimes the easy way out is the way to go.
With that in mind, here are my Top 10 Tips for a stress free, awesome holiday season:
1. Not everyone gets a gift. I kill myself every year making cookies for everyone I know. The mail lady hates me, why am I giving her cookies? Likewise, just because I give someone a gift doesn’t mean they have to reciprocate, and vice versa. We should give – or not, and receive – or not, graciously.
2. Just say what’s in your heart. There are a variety of religious and secular observations that go on around this time of year. If I know my friend observes Christmas, I say Merry Christmas. If I know my friend observes Hanukkah, I say Happy Hanukkah. If I’m not sure, I just say whatever comes to mind and make the assumption that whomever I’m speaking to will take it in the spirit that it is intended; that of peace, love, and joy, regardless of affiliation.
3. If you’re counting calories, keep it to yourself. You’re ruining it for the rest of it. There is no greater buzz kill than shoving crème puffs in your mouth and having the person next to you whispering ‘a moment on the lips, a lifetime on the hips!’. Zip it!
4. Get at least one person on your list something that will make them freak out with happiness. It’s as much fun picking out something that you know someone will really love as it is watching them open it!
5. If you’re buying for a person who has everything, don’t get them anything. Make a donation to an organization they love instead. Write a card and let them know how much they mean to you, and enclose the donation information. They will love it more than another candle, I promise.
6. Give to your charity of choice. Give more than you think you should. Find local ideas here!
7. Do something magical. You don’t have to do it all, but do something. Go see the Festival of Lights. Go to the Nutcracker. Watch a live nativity. Roast marshmallows. And here’s the magic part – whatever you do, really DO it. Be there, totally present. Not on your phone or worrying about the traffic or missing bedtimes, but right there in the moment.
8. Start a different kind of tradition. I tend to get consumed with shopping and baking and decorating and it is incredibly easy to forget that there are people in our community who have no one buying gifts for them, or food to eat, or a home to decorate. I know you don’t have time, no one has time. But the lesson you will teach your children, and the good you can do in the community, by spending a couple of hours of your time helping someone who needs you? See #7. Magic.
9. Listen to holiday music. Sing along. Except that Christmas shoes song. No one should ever listen to, or sing along with, that song. I once watched the entire produce section at the grocery store fall to their knees and weep when that song came on. Stick to the happy stuff, no one needs you crying on their cucumbers.
10. Shop online. Amazon Prime is a beautiful thing.
If I manage to follow all my own suggestions, I’ll have the most relaxed holiday yet. I might even be up for trying another crème puff tree.