I’m done baking till 10 pm, and I’m done fighting for car spaces at the mall in the pre-Christmas sales. I’m over plastic decorations, and traveling to-and-from relatives all Christmas day — just to wind up feeling sick. I’m done busting a gut until the ‘office shuts’, and I’m done with schedules that leave our kids in blubbering messes because they are too tired.
Dear family, friends and loved ones, I need a slow Christmas.
Some people thrive on the busyness around Christmas. They are energized by all the hype and activity and usually fall into the ‘loving Christmas’ camp. Their tree is up on the first of December and preparations for the big day begin in September.
My introverted, highly sensitive nature requires much less stimulation – even (or especially) at Christmas. To be able to really enjoy and participate fully in our Christmas I need lots of white space and very little external commitment.
This has sometimes been difficult in the past. Church involvement and a large family has meant the day has been chaotic and taxing. And then there are the internal pressures I put on myself and that feeling of exhaustion as I collapsed into bed at the end of the day. I had been too focussed on clearing all the wrapping paper and having the food ‘just so’ to be present for my children. Unfortunately, this feeling of exhaustion is one of my only memories of this particular Christmas.
So next year, I’m officially bowing out.
How to Enjoy a Slow Holiday Next Year
Everyone’s version of a slow Christmas will look different. But here’s what mine will look like.
1. Create space
Christmas time often means busy schedules and extra activities. Especially if we have traveled across the country to family or if we have visitors staying with us. It also means normal routines and rhythms get lost. But in order to stay sane and keep my kids from being constantly exhausted, next year we will put some boundaries in place that allow us more time and space.
Firstly, I’m aiming for a guideline of no more than one planned activity per day. Including weekend days. It doesn’t seem like much, but the idea is that we will have extra time to relax, and have space for spontaneity. And spontaneous activities are often the most enjoyable ones.
In short, we need to stop thinking we have to fill all the spaces. Holidays can wind up just as stressful and full as the rest of the year if we are trying to do all the things. Let’s learn to be okay with empty space.
And can we please remember that friends and family will still be around post-Christmas?! People get stuck in thinking they have to catch up with everyone before Christmas, as if the world will end on the 25th December. I’m voting for a less apocalyptic approach to winding down this year!
2. Less (fancy) food
Baked ham, eggnog, turkey and stuffing, Christmas pudding, there’s no shortage of incredible food to create at this time of year. (Even though my family lives in the Southern Hemisphere, meaning our Christmas days usually involve barbeques, there is still a tendency to go overboard.)
The trendy ‘foodie culture’ tells us that our Christmas day won’t be complete without a grazing board followed by a four-course meal. But this often involves one or two martyrs spending most of the day in the kitchen preparing and cooking.
Next year I’m choosing to cater Christmas dinner or pick a couple of traditional recipes that can be done in advance. The rest will be a collaboration of simple dishes that the entire family helps prepare and cook. And for those that don’t cook? Their time in the kitchen will be served after we’ve eaten.
Next year you can choose to do less. Choose to only eat two meals on Christmas day. Go for a family walk instead of a family lunch. Serve at your local community meal instead of carving a turkey.
3. More intentionally slow activities
And finally, next Christmas we will be filling our days with more slow activities. For those in the northern hemisphere, this might look like snowman building, family board games, hot chocolates, and toasted marshmallows over a crackling fire. For my family, it means berry picking, swimming, and building sand castles. I’ll potter in the garden and hopefully read a few books.
Whatever your slow activity is, the key is to lose yourself in it. Build a snowman, instead of thinking of what you have to do when you get home. Immerse yourself in the board game, instead of planning your work week ahead.
Opt-out of holiday business in advance
Are you ready for a slower Christmas too?
The first step is telling your family & friends now that next year you are opting out and intend to enjoy a slow holiday. Set their expectations this season so there are no surprises next year, then start small. Turn this years holiday’s frustrations into action and take baby steps toward a slow Christmas next year.
As for this year? Search for the present moment, and lose yourself in it. Happiness will be waiting there for you. Worry about the past melts away when we are completely absorbed in the present. Enjoy your holiday knowing you’ve got a game plan!
Meet Emma Scheib of Simple Slow & Lovely. Emma gained her Masters in Psychology in 2013 and has since worked full time in corporate research positions for government agencies. She recently gave up her ‘dream job’ to pursue being a (happier) mum, living a slower pace of life. She is dipping her toes back into her long-lost love, creative writing on Simple Slow & Lovely. Connect with her online here: Blog | Facebook | Instagram