As wonderful as holidays are, we tend to allow unwanted stress to find its way in. Here is how to have the perfect holidays and some advice for your elf.
The holidays are upon us! We’re a good couple of weeks into the joy and mayhem. In my neighborhood, some Halloween lights transformed into Christmas lights overnight. As if by magic.
As wonderful as holidays are–or could be–we tend to allow unwanted stress to find its way into them. What we all need is a little advice on how to have perfect holidays (and a little advice for your elf on the shelf!)
What Are the Holidays?
When I wrote this post initially, I only covered surviving Christmas. A few weeks ago, it occurred to me that Christmas isn’t the only stressful holiday. There are several more holidays, three more in what we call the “Holiday Season.”
Most Holidays Involve Celebration or Appreciation
The Benefits of Holiday Appreciation
Celebration and appreciation are both healthy activities. Whether expressing gratitude for your freedom on Independence Day or giving thanks for your family and health on Thanksgiving, appreciation is a form of gratitude. Any opportunity you take to express sincere gratitude is a healthy and positive endeavor.
I want to point out another opportunity with holidays. You probably know of many other holidays that other cultures or other religions celebrate and that you do not. You can still use those holidays as an opportunity to appreciate.
In addition to respecting what those other cultures celebrate during their holiday, you have the opportunity to appreciate that different culture. Not only will you grow from celebrating and valuing that other culture’s holiday, but you’ll help bring the two cultures closer together in a time when cultures are too divided.
The Benefits of Holiday Celebration
Although holidays can be fun, not all of them are. For example, Memorial Day should be a day of somber remembrance of those who have died in service to our country. Although some regret that Memorial Day has turned into more of a party weekend, I think that’s okay as long as we remember the fallen.
Whether the holiday is fun, it is still an opportunity to get together with loved ones to remember, celebrate and appreciate. Spending more time with loved ones is a great way to boost and maintain happiness. In addition to the time you spend with loved ones, you also make more memories to appreciate later.
Celebrating and appreciating as many holidays as possible is a great way to enrich your life, boost your happiness, and connect with others.
Celebrate All the Holidays
This holiday guide isn’t complete yet. I’m adding to it as I learn more about holidays and how to get the most out of them. If I miss your holiday, then please let me know.
I recommend against trying to force others to celebrate your holiday or celebrate the same way you do. Don’t shame or insult those who celebrate differently than you do. Kindly invite them to celebrate with you and offer respect for their holidays.
Likewise, don’t belittle those who celebrate holidays that you don’t. I know plenty of people who oppose Valentine’s Day, and there are growing anti-Thanksgiving and anti-Christmas movements. It is entirely possible to support a country’s indigenous people and show gratitude and appreciation for what you have.
Practice Positive Attitudes and Behaviour All Year
Don’t limit your practices to the holiday seasons. The holidays are meant to remind us of their subjects, not restrict the customs to those few days or months. Extend your practices beyond the holidays seasons.
Practice gratitude all year, not just in November. Even in the Spring and Summer, practice generosity and giving. Furthermore, show reverence and appreciation for our nation’s veterans all year long. I wish I could convince everyone to leave Christmas lights up all year.
A Brief List of Holiday Horrors:
- Christmas dinner
- Juggling gatherings with families,
- The company parties we’d preferably not attend but are expected to,
- Gift shopping (Check out How to Find the Perfect Gift),
- Gift Wrapping
- Grocery shopping in extra-busy stores
- And ensuring your elf has plenty of creativity and freedom to roam about your home looking for mischief.
It sounds horrible, doesn’t it? How can anyone possibly enjoy the holidays with so many varied items for which to ensure perfect execution?
What Are Perfect Holidays?
Let’s invoke the Ghost of Christmas Past.
Remember all those perfect parties you had as a kid?
Can you remember the times when your mom pulled off the perfect Christmas dinner?
Do you recall those parties vividly when nobody argued, nobody imbibed a little too much in holiday spirits, everyone was glad to see everyone, and all the food was breezily cooked to perfection?
Neither do I.
I do remember a Christmas party when one of the cousins totally freaked out over something and was a massive embarrassment to himself and his family. I’m not mentioning which cousin this was.
I remember the Christmas when somebody’s candied yams were obviously right out a can. And disgusting. Actually, that was every Christmas. And Thanksgiving.
Maybe it was supposed to be canned yams instead of candied yams. One kid was quite candid about the candied canned yams.
“One kid was quite candid about the candied canned yams.”
I remember a few parties with inappropriate gifts and a few with obviously regifted presents. I remember some kids–let’s say–disappointed that another kid got something she didn’t.
You and I end up struggling to come up with memorable, perfect holidays.
Why is that?
The best way to have perfect holidays is to let them be imperfect.
Just like mistakes and accidents in movies and songs are often what make them more endearing and engaging, it’s the fortunate accidents and unfortunate incidents we remember and talk about year after year.
Stress will only make you miserable. Like Newt Scamander says, “if you worry, you suffer twice.”
Like Gerard Way said, Look Beyond Imperfections.
I’d even take it a step farther and embrace imperfections. Seize them, even!
Let’s cover the first celebration of the holiday season. I’ll return in a few months with tips for the Spring and Summer holidays.
12 Ways to Enjoy Halloween to the Fullest!
- Enjoy big laughs from Halloween Humor.
- Challenge your friend to some Halloween Trivia.
- Plan and throw a Halloween party.
- Tell some ghost stories (or listen to some).
- Go to a haunted house or theme park.
- Put out a few decorations.
- Walk around your neighborhood and admire the Halloween decorations.
- Watch some scary movies (or at least some Halloween movies.)
- Wear a costume.
- Make a costume.
- Take your kids trick-or-treating.
- Give out candy to trick-or-treaters.
Enjoy Some Halloween Humor
Everyone enjoys a good laugh. Have a few laughs yourself and spread some humor by sharing some Halloween jokes with your friends.
If you need a great idea (or 300) for Halloween party invitations, social media posts, or funny texts, then you’ll howl at these funny Halloween sayings.
Challenge Your Friends to Some Halloween Trivia
See what you know and show it off to your friends! If you plan a party, Halloween trivia will be a fun addition to your party. Whether you’re testing yourself, entertaining your friends, or keeping the kids busy for a few minutes, you’ll love these Halloween trivia questions and answers.
Plan and Throw a Halloween Party
I know that throwing a party can be challenging, that it requires creativity, preparation, and a lot of work. Still, it’s a great way to spend time with friends, grow closer together, and get into the spooky spirit.
Do you need a creative name for your ghoulish gathering to pique your friends’ interests? These scary, clever adult Halloween party names should spark your creativity!
Tell Some Ghost Stories (or Listen to Some)
Ghost stories can be fun. Just keep in mind what level of scary your audience can take. My Beer Thursday co-host and I recounted a few if you don’t have any ghost stories to tell. We also interviewed a paranormal investigator! Check out these episodes to get your haunt on!
- Do you believe in ghosts? In one of the most frightening rounds of Beer Thursday History, we celebrate National Paranormal Day by sharing some of our own ghost stories.
- Gather round the flashlight, True Believers. This episode is the first part of our heroes’ conversation with a real-life paranormal investigator! Enjoy Conversations with a Paranormal Investigator, Part 1, if you’re not too scared!
- Get psyched for Halloween with the 2nd part of our paranormal investigation conversation with NTParanormal’s lead investigator, Ashton Rogers. Give Paranormal Investigations (Part 2) a listen.
- Our scary heroes continue to get their Halloween fright on! Fear the next part of our paranormal talk and “The Case of the Haunted Toaster!” Check out The Case of the Haunted Toaster
- Your heroes of horror are back to creep you out even more as Paranormal Investigator Ashton Rogers reveals his creepiest experiences with Time Slips and Spacial Distortion. Creep on over and listen to Time Slips and Spatial Distortion
- Will hearing conversations about a “ghost trap,” Marfa Lights, ghost photos, and graveyard demons get you in the Halloween Spirit? Your fearless heroes continue their fascinating discussions with a paranormal investigator. Check out The Ghost Trap, if you dare!
How to Get the Most Out of Thanksgiving
- Start a daily gratitude practice.
- Enjoy some Thanksgiving humor.
- Throw a Thanksgiving party.
- Play a little Thanksgiving trivia.
- Treat yourself to some Thanksgiving treats.
- Take a trip.
- Enjoy intentionally skipping Black Friday shopping!
Start a Daily Gratitude Practice
Gratitude is the reason for the Thanksgiving season. I know many people who post daily posts on social media during November. Each day, they post a short message about something they’re grateful for. Gratitude is an excellent practice!
Gratitude and resilience are essential elements of building happiness. Make gratitude easy by spending a few minutes each day writing briefly about something you’re thankful for. Want to improve your well-being with a quick daily pastime? This giant list of gratitude journal prompts will jumpstart your happiness and creativity!
Enjoy Some Thanksgiving Humor
Laughter is always great medicine. Have some ready to smooth over those rough times during the holidays, especially at family and work gatherings!
I recommend adding sage, pepper, and hilariousness to your holiday stuffing! These funny Thanksgiving puns will tickle your turkey with chortles!
What does Thanksgiving make you think of? Gratitude? Nope. Jokes! These funny Thanksgiving jokes for kids will make you the life of the party.
Throw a Thanksgiving Party
Whether you want this to be your annual gathering or if you want to have a Thanksgiving party in addition to your usual gatherings, spend lots of time with friends and loved ones. Time with loved ones is probably the best thing you can do to enjoy any holiday.
Want to max out the fun with your loved ones this holiday season? These Thanksgiving party games for adults and kids will entertain and engage everyone!
Play a Little Thanksgiving Trivia
You can enjoy a little Thanksgiving trivia on your own, at your party, or any gathering. Are you looking for something better than football and politics to serve with your feast? Delight your guests with these 89 Thanksgiving trivia questions!
Before we get to the big holiday, please allow me a few words with an old friend.
How to Fully Enjoy the Christmas Season
Christmas provides so many customs passed down from our ancestors. While these traditions provide myriad opportunities for spending quality time with loved ones, they also provide plenty of opportunities for stress and depression.
Before we get into all that, I’d like to offer some advice to a friend of ours.
A Few Words for Your Elf on the Shelf
Our elf’s name is Holly. That’s her hiding in the plant above. Every year, I have a conversation with Holly.
First, I tell her how glad we are to see her and that I hope she’s had a lovely spring and summer chilling in the North Pole with Santa. Then I tell her…
“Holly, we’re just glad you’re here. No matter what you do or where they find you, the kids are just happy that you’re here. Don’t stress about this or overthink it. Just have fun. You can play in any room in the house. You can even feel free to hide. The kids will have fun looking for you.
Help yourself to any of our toys, books, appliances, or utensils. There are lots of toys here for you to interact with. Have parties, concerts, or fights. Climb shelves, swing from lights, write messages in spilled flour to the kids.
Mi casa es su casa.
Don’t worry about being too creative. Sure, some of the other kids’ elves–especially some on the Internet–assemble elaborate and generously created scenarios.
Don’t worry about them. It’s not healthy to compare yourself to Internet famous elves. They don’t look nearly as good without all those fancy Instagram filters. Remember, you only see their elf on the shelf highlight reels, not their everyday Elf on the Shelf struggles.
Good ideas will come to you. Sometimes an idea you think isn’t that great will be adored and memorable. Sometimes your most brilliant ideas may not warrant a second look.
The important thing is that you show up and have fun.
Fun is what it’s all about.”
That is the conversation I have with Holly every year.
22 Ways to Boost Your Holiday Spirit
I let this slide too long. I posted this post in 2016. In 2018, someone kindly and candidly brought to my attention that I didn’t offer any actionable advice for getting into the Holiday spirit. I’m correcting that now.
For all of these suggestions, please comply with what is safe for others and for yourself. Consider where you will be and who you’ll be with. Don’t give Covid for Christmas!
- Start Early.
- Finish your Christmas shopping in September.
- Wrap the presents you purchase.
- R.E.L.A.X. during the holidays.
- Send hand-written letters to loved ones.
- Make your own Christmas cards.
- Learn About the Holidays Your Friends Celebrate.
- Enjoy loads of Christmas puns!
- Watch some Christmas movies.
- Challenge yourself (and your loved ones) to Christmas trivia questions.
- Admire the public decorations.
- Participate in another culture’s celebration.
- Have a few small parties (not one big one).
- Go see the Nutcracker, especially a smaller, local ballet troupe.
- Put up some lights (decorations).
- Participate in an angel tree.
- Sip a holiday beverage alone in a cafe
- Meet some friends for holiday beverages in a cafe
- Drop some money in the Salvation Army bucket
- Go to the crazy shopping areas and help someone with something. Balance packages, reach something on a high shelf, put someone’s trolly in the corral while they put their kids in the car.
- Buy the coffee/food for the person behind you in the drive-through.
- Otherwise, don’t go through the drive-through. Sit inside, enjoy your meal fresh, and enjoy the restaurant’s decorations.
- Watch “Elf.” Yes, Again.
- Go to the theater and watch new Christmas movies.
- Invite friends over for drinks and games. No gifts, no fancy meals. Just enjoy the company.
- Drive around looking at Christmas lights
- Attend a tree-lighting ceremony
I don’t mean to switch to that radio station that starts playing Christmas music on November 1.
I mean get the shopping out of the way and prepare to R.E.L.A.X.
Finish Christmas Shopping Early
Finding the perfect gift for that special someone is definitely not “as easy as Christmas.” Here are surefire ways to always have the perfect gift.
Spoiler alert: There may be something in there about embracing imperfections.
Erika’s Advice on Christmas Shopping
For more specific gift ideas, check out The Ultimate Broke-Ass Creative’s Holiday Gift Giving Guide. It is the best advice on gift-giving I’ve ever seen. Other than, perhaps, give the presents of presence.
Finish as much shopping as you can by September. Fall gets busy, starting in October. Finish shopping before everyone else even starts to think about it.
Nobody wants to unwrap a box of presence under the tree.
Start early, though. Don’t wait for December to start shopping! My goal–and my advice–is to finish Christmas shopping before Thanksgiving. That means before the Friday after Thanksgiving. I’m not even saying the name.
Then instead of going shopping during all the madness of December, you can go helping.
Help others shop. Help others in stores who can’t reach things on top shelves or who can’t navigate their trolly and their pram (their shopping cart and their stroller) through all the crowds and tightly packed store aisles.
Sandy’s Stocking Stuffer Ideas
Don’t forget the stocking stuffers!
I always forget stocking stuffers. Then I’m making last-minute runs to the crazy stores in search of items to stuff.
If you find yourself in this situation, just like I have once again, check out Sandy Kreps’ stocking stuffer ideas. She’s got some great ideas!
Wrap The Gifts You Purchase
A gift’s wrapping can be as much of a gift as the gift itself! Here’s everything you need to know about gift wrapping.
What about gift bags, though? Holiday shopping is stressful enough, and now you’ve got to wrap the gifts?! Let’s unwrap the wrangling of gift bags vs. gift-wrapping.
How to R.E.L.A.X. During the Holiday Season
Start this early too. My friend Danielle published this beautiful and insightful post, How to R.E.L.A.X. this Holiday Season. It is excellent advice on enjoying the holiday season.
“The holiday season is for enjoying, not spending yourself until you’re exhausted.”
– Danielle Bernock
Send Hand-Written Letters to Loved Ones
My friend Alicia T. Rust gave me this great idea!
Give a Sincere Gift of Happiness at Christmastime. This is one you’ll want to start a little early. Alicia suggests giving words of gratitude. Write a few letters in November when you’re preparing for Thanksgiving and gratitude is front of mind.
Writing letters won’t just be an excellent gratitude exercise for you. The letters will mean so much to the people who receive them. You’ll spread happiness and holiday enjoyment!
Make Your Own Christmas Cards
Making your own Christmas cards is an excellent alternative to hand-written letters. Store-bought Christmas cards can be boring and full of cliches. Spread holiday cheer and laughs with these unique and funny Christmas card sayings!
Learn About the Holidays Your Friends Celebrate
I have a friend who is Jewish. It means so much to us when she wishes us a Merry Christmas! If you don’t know which of your friends are Jewish, just get to know them better. Don’t be creepy and ask everyone what holiday they celebrate. Just get to know them, and you’ll find out.
Hanukkah isn’t on December 25th.
While it’s usually earlier in December, it sometimes starts in November. In 2024, Hanukkah starts on Christmas Day and lasts into January.
Google When is Hanukkah this year, and then you’ll know when to start wishing Happy Hanukkah. Here are the next few years, so you don’t have to look it up:
- In 2022, Hanukkah will be Sunday, December 18 – Friday, December 26.
- In 2023, Hanukkah will be Sunday, December 7 – Friday, December 15.
- In 2024, Hanukkah will be Sunday, December 25 – Friday, January 2.
If you know someone who celebrates Kwanzaa, wish them Happy Kwanzaa. Kwanzaa is celebrated from December 26 – January 1. If you know someone celebrates it, wish them Happy Kwanzaa!
Those are the only ones I know of.
If you know someone who doesn’t celebrate any holidays, or if you just want to play it safe, just go with Happy Holidays. If you don’t celebrate any holiday specifically, go with Happy Holidays.
Don’t get offended if someone wishes you the wrong holiday.
They don’t do it to be mean. They’re wishing you wellness and happiness.
If someone gets offended because you wish them the wrong holiday, apologize and ask them what they celebrate. Then wish accordingly.
If they’re still offended and upset, just move along. You can’t force someone to be cheerful. Happiness isn’t something you can give, much less force on someone. The best we can do is be a good example. The worst we can do is let their moods affect ours.
Let’s just enjoy the lights, music, parties, and time with friends and hope for a disaster that we’ll relish retelling for years to come.
Please share some endearing holiday disasters. What’s more diverting than others’ suffering? If they can laugh about it now.
Enjoy Loads of Christmas Puns
Hesitant about gatherings (and shopping!) this holiday season? Laugh your way into the holiday spirit with these delightful Christmas puns!
Watch Some Christmas Movies
Looking for entertainment while shut in this pandemic holiday season? Better yet, do you want to enjoy a few laughs listening to a couple of dudes talk a out Hallmark Christmas movies? Consider cozying up to your television to enjoy a few Hallmark Holiday movies!
Want an entertaining and easy game for your holiday gathering? These 101 Christmas movie trivia questions will boost your guests’ Christmas spirit!
Challenge Yourself (and Your Loved Ones) to Some Christmas Trivia
Want to enjoy engaging fun for the whole family? Test your knowledge with these 99 Christmas trivia questions (and answers) for kids of ALL ages!
What is one of your most memorable holiday disasters?
What is your favorite way to get into the holiday spirit?
- Don’t know what to get that special someone? Check out How to Find the Perfect Gift
- Here’s why you should appreciate Gift Wrapping.
- We don’t really need perfect holidays. Look Beyond Imperfections.