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!)
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.
Let’s return to perfect parties after a brief discussion about…
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.
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.”
“The best way to have perfect holidays is to let them be imperfect.”
Like Gerard Way said, Look Beyond Imperfections.
I’d even take it a step farther and embrace imperfections. Seize them, even!
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
- R.E.L.A.X. during the holidays
- Send hand-written letters to loved ones
- Learn About the Holidays Your Friends Celebrate
- 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
Shayne’s Advice on Christmas Shopping
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!
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!
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.
It’s earlier December. It sometimes starts in November.
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 2020: Hanukkah is Thursday, December 10 – Friday, December 18.
- In 2021, Hanukkah will be Sunday, November 28 – Monday, December 6.
- In 2022, Hanukkah will be Sunday, December 18 – Friday, December 26.
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.