Thursday, December 06, 2007

How to have a less stressful holiday season

An old fashioned Christmas can mean many things to many people, but to mean it has always meant a tree trimmed in strings of popcorn and cranberries, round gingerbread cookies decorated with royal icing and deep fried rosette cookies in the shape of snowflakes sprinkled with a dusting of powdered sugar.

I love Christmas, it is a time to gather the family together and enjoy one another's company. But it is also a time of stress. Did everyone get a gift? Were there enough treats made that no one will miss out on a popcorn ball or bit of divinity fudge? Did all of the gifts get under the tree? Has the dog and cat escaped into the yard in these frigid temperatures?

Want to survive with some of your sanity in one piece? Try some of these tips that I have worked out over the years.

Lock the cat in the basement and the dog in the bedroom. That's how I handle them when there is a chance they will be lost unnoticed outside. When the temperature is well below freezing you don't want to have a loved pet stray out when the door is open and get lost out in the yard, so put them in rooms that no one will go into and check on them occasionally to make sure they are doing okay in there.

Steal (or at least borrow) one of Santa's sacks. I had a huge red tablecloth that I never used for anything. It has a nice swirling pattern on it and looks very brightly red and cheery. I folded it in half right sides together, did a straight stitch up one side and down the end with my sewing machine and turned it right-side out. Instant giant red sack that I was then able to fill fill of presents and tuck in behind the Christmas tree to make sure that everything made it to the tree during the holiday season. Starting out as just a decor the tree slowly and magically fills with presents as the days wear on toward Christmas.

Make twice as much. If I know that the fudge is likely to be all eaten up, then I will (if possible) make twice as much as I think I will need. If it gets all eaten then I at least tried, if not, I can either keep the leftovers or (if there is a lot leftover) send some home with anyone that really liked it and would like to take a little back home with them. An idea on this might be to get some little gift baskets or bags and as people are starting to head for home, put the bags or baskets out on the buffet table and invite your guests to take some goodies home. Make sure you also have waxed paper or saran wrap out on the table to wrap the goodies up in.

Present prizes. Can't afford presents for everyone, but want everyone to get something? One year my sister organized a family bingo party for Christmas. Everyone brought something of a set value that was all ready wrapped up and placed it under the tree, then when someone won the bingo game they got to pick a present from under the tree. No time for such a long game? Mark each present with a number and drop corresponding numbers into a container to be pulled out. Each person pulls a number and the number they pulled is the present they get. This can result in some people getting the same gift they brought, so you might want to allow redraws if that happens (provided the present has not been opened). One that can be fun but also cause some disappointment is popular at my local American Legion's parties where people's names are drawn and they can select a gift. Then before they open it they can either keep what they picked out or trade it for one gift already opened by someone else in the room. I've never liked this one myself because of the chance for creating bad feelings if there is one really cool gift that everyone wanted to have, but it is an option.

The most important thing, rather there is not enough fudge, the egg nog spills, no one trades presents or the kids spend half the party under the porch catching the cat ... have fun. Enjoy the holidays and have a good laugh over things that will inevitably go wrong. Some of the better holiday memories can be made from things going wrong, so just enjoy it and keep it as stress free as possible.

Happy holidays!

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