Best way to plan the holidays? Chart your course early, with this exercise to identify your family's holiday values.
What do you really want for Christmas? Our ideas may differ in the details, but most of us want much the same thing: a seasonal celebration focused on faith, family and friends.
We want the excitement of the season without the disruption that too often comes with it. We want to draw closer to those around us, not to be thrust apart by hectic schedules. We want to enjoy as well as to prepare, and to keep the Christmas season in a manner that is joyous and spiritually centered.
Problem is, it’s easy to get caught up in the seasonal whirlwind! Tradition, the media, family expectations and the economy lean on our decision-making, each with a different agenda. Unconscious forces can distort our celebration for reasons that have nothing to do with what we truly want from the holiday.
Lavish Christmas magazines raise décor standards out of all reality. Husband and wife may bring different expectations and traditions to the same holiday. During the Christmas season, we're easy prey to forces that open our wallets and eat our time, as well as to those that touch our hearts and open our souls.
Solution: focus on holiday values before you begin to plan the season’s activities. Knowing where your values lie allows you to set a path to true holiday happiness, and to avoid the minefields that culture and commercialism will throw in your way.
Ask the question! When you shop or cook or bake or decorate, what values will you serve? What result do you hope to see for your family’s seasonal expenditure of energy and resources?
Try these exercises to focus on the true meaning of the season:
Sit back and bring to mind last year's celebration, then open the Christmas Notebook, and answer these questions. To make it easy, use our free printable Family Values Worksheet:
1. What went well for your family last year? Did you make innovations that made you more organized, calmer, and more centered?
2. What stresses did your family face? Were there too many activities on the calendar? Did household systems fall apart with the season's faster pace?
3. Was your family spiritually invigorated by the holiday celebration? Did you participate in appropriate service, worship or giving activities?
4. Did inappropriate influences enter your home? Were decorating, clothing or gift-buying decisions motivated by competitiveness or insecurity? Was the celebration over-focused on gifts and getting? Did the hectic pace of the season take precedence over family closeness, family values?
5. What would you have done differently?
Pondering last year's end sets the goals for this year's beginning. File your answers at the front of the Christmas Notebook, then take a day or two to review the notes you made.
Don’t be alarmed if your list contains more negative than positive entries; this taking-stock exercise naturally focuses on areas that need work. Becoming aware of the seasonal misses will help you hone this year’s activities to the holiday hits.
For the Family
After you think through your own conclusions, take the questions to the household as a whole. At a relaxed moment, such as a weeknight dinner or a long car ride, ask family members these questions:
- What do you remember most about last Christmas?
- What did you like best?
- Was there something you didn’t like about the holiday season? How would you change it?
- If we could only do three things to celebrate Christmas, what would they be?
Prepare to be surprised! Chances are, family members will bring a new perspective to the question of “What’s the right Christmas for us?” Nobody can be quicker to puncture the limp balloons of worn-out traditions than the very children who’ve outgrown them.
Listen, learn and let the family lead the way. The surest path to a stressed-out season is to insist on giving life-support to traditions that have run their course, so call an end to ho-hum activities that don’t make the cut for anyone.
Focus, instead, on those activities that brings the family closer—however silly, however small. Better a family Movie Night with popcorn and pajamas than a forced march to the Nutcracker, neckties dragging. Put your energies where the meaning is!