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5 Tips for Making the Most of the Holiday Season

It’s a complicated time of year – certainly not all rosy noses and mistletoes. How can you reignite the Christmas spirit and make the most of the holiday season?

For many years now, Christmas has consistently been a source of anxiety for me. When I recall my fondest memories of this time of year, I think of sleepovers with my brother and sister in the bunk beds of my childhood home. I remember how we would wake up in the wee hours of the morning and tip toe through the kitchen and into the large family room with the cold marble floor, high ceilings and large bay window facing out at our small town street. Some years, it was too early and Santa had yet to shimmy down the chimney. Other times, we’d walk in to find stockings bursting at the seams by the stone fireplace, and gifts galore perfectly wrapped and placed beneath the tree.

But it was never really about the presents. Or at least that’s how I like to remember it.

I’m a child of divorce. Many of my memories from this time of year are split between two homes. They’re still good memories – for the most part – but they’re different than they used to be. Often they are tainted with arguments at the dinner table, or the guilt and stress that comes with the desperate desire to be fair and please everyone involved. Unfortunately, negative memories tend to be more vivid than positive ones. But to be completely honest, I wouldn’t trade them in.

Even if I could, I wouldn’t go back to the holidays pre-divorce. What happened was meant to. In fact, I can’t imagine any other Christmas than the one spent juggling the diverse agendas of my blended family, trying to figure out what dates and meals work best for everyone.

For a long time, my family has had to learn to adapt. We’ve discovered it’s not about the day – Christmas celebrated on the 23rd or 28th is equally enjoyable to us. In fact, if my Dad had it his way, we’d probably celebrate Christmas mid-July. It’s not about the turkey dinner – we’ve found beef stroganoff can be equally, if not more, delicious this time of year. It’s not about the gifts – even though we all tend to get caught up in the glamour of the shiny new electronics, cozy knitted scarves and sparkling jewellery.

Every year brings new transitions. Now, I’m married, and I have another family to sync calendars with. My shopping list grows longer. And this year, my husband and I are actually playing host and hostess, with a full meal and the whole works (did I mention our dining room table can only seat four?). The anxiety continues.

Although it has never been easy, it is most definitely worth it. You just find a way to make it work. I thought I’d share some of my best tips for surviving the holidays, hoping you may find them relative to your own complicated celebration.

1. Be Flexible.

This one may be a given, considering my long-winded intro. Flexibility goes a long way this time of year. You have to be open to change, because there will be a lot of it. Millennials are going through all kinds of family transitions at this time in our lives. We have to be willing to adapt.

2. Embrace New Traditions.

Winter activities like sledding or skating can become a nice new tradition.

Sometimes we become so caught up with the familiar, we neglect to realize how amazing the “new” can be. What worked in the past may not work anymore, and that’s OK. Embrace it. The sooner you learn to do this, the more enjoyable your holidays will be.

3. Be Forgiving.

We are all aware things don’t always go as planned. Instead of holding a grudge when someone falls off the track recognize the problem and look for a solution. Otherwise you’ll waste a lot of energy dwelling on comments you could have let slide, and who doesn’t need every bit of energy during the holidays? Guilt also has a way of creeping up this time of year – apply the same rule. If you manage to avoid a dinner table argument because of it, even better.

4. Be Generous.

As we get older, we seem to lose a bit of the magic associated with Christmas time, but maybe this is because we are looking in the wrong places. Going out of your way to be kind to a stranger or help communities in need can ignite a fresh spark within. It’s amazing how good it feels to give.

 5. Remember to Breathe.

The holidays can be busy – to an overwhelming extent. Take some time for yourself. Put down the smartphone, and be present in the moment. Don’t waste your time with small talk – try to have meaningful conversations with people. After all, this only happens once a year. You might as well own it.

Do you have any experiences to share? How do you make the most of the holidays?


Charlotte Ottaway

Charlotte is Co-Founder and Managing Editor at The Reply. She is a writer, blogger and amateur photographer with interests in positivity, creative muse, generational differences and the future of work. She has written for Canadian Business, Zoomer Magazine, The Globe and Mail, The Huffington Post Canada and other Canadian publications. At her company, Web of Words, she helps solopreneurs and small business owners create real human connections online through blogging and social media. Better known by family and friends as Carly, she currently resides in Newmarket with her husband and dog-child. To learn more, check out her website at charlotteottaway.com and follow her on Twitter @charlottaway.