Creating a Memorable Christmas

By Tara Struyk on 28 November 2011 (Updated 12 November 2012) 2 comments
Photo: Howard Lake

A Christmas memory that usually makes the rounds each year at my house is the story about the time we all watched as the entire, glistening Jell-O mold slid off its platter and settled, intact and jiggling, onto a horrified guest’s lap. If you think about the moments that stand out for you around the holidays, chances are they don’t revolve around an expensive gift or how perfect the dinner table looked. Instead, what we often remember are the unexpected moments that just, well, happen — perhaps in spite of our efforts to make everything go according to plan. Unfortunately, when it comes to planning for the holidays, we often focus on the gifts, the dinners, and all the other grand gestures we feel are expected of us. This is probably because they are just so much easier to produce on demand. So how can you let go of the commercial side of Christmas in favor of creating something of real value? Here are a few ideas. (See also: How to Save Money on Christmas This Year)

Focus on Fun

Rather than focusing on giving the perfect gift and making sure your house looks just so before guests arrive, lighten up and focus on making the day fun. If you are hosting a holiday party or meal, this applies to both you and your guests. Bring out some old family photos, give some gifts with a sense of humor, or set up a game. Rather than thinking of the holidays as some of kind of precious moment, consider it a party; whether you’re throwing it or attending it, do your best to make sure it adheres to the #1 tenet of any good party — it’s fun.

Toast to Traditions

Traditions help make the holidays memorable and give everyone something to look forward to every year. Whether it's making gingerbread cookies or engaging in some winter sports before dinner, this is a great way to put the focus on people rather than presents. If you don’t have a tradition yet, start one.

Forget Perfect

Martha Stewart may lay a beautiful table, but rumor has it she sleeps only a few hours each night! Perfection comes at a cost, both to you and your wallet. Focus on the things that are really important, recruit your family members for help, and accept that life is not a magazine; in many ways, it's better.

Give Great Gifts

An amazing gift isn't one that costs a fortune, but one that makes you truly excited about bringing it to the recipient on the big day. Don't trudge to the store and buy things because you feel you have to. Instead, find or make gifts that have meaning for you and those who receive them. Most importantly, forget about cost and worry about choosing small gifts your family and friends will truly use and enjoy. This is definitely more work than buying big, flashy presents, but you’re likely to feel better about thoughtful gifts you can really afford. Chances are, those who receive them will too.

Be Realistic

Problems and conflict with family often weigh on us during the holidays because we think it's a time when those issues should just disappear and be replaced by love and goodwill (like on TV!). It's not gonna happen, and you're likely to enjoy your holidays a lot more if you adjust your expectations accordingly.

A lot of emotions are wrapped up in the holidays. Maybe that’s why we so often strive to make things just perfect, no matter the cost to ourselves or our budgets. As for me, I’ll be hoping for a little disaster. After all, if no one drops the Jell-O, what will we have to laugh about next year?

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Meg Favreau's picture

...so you're saying I should put Jell-O on people? Heehee.

It's slightly different, but I haven't been able to go home for Thanksgiving for several years. The thing I miss the most isn't the food; it's making the meal with my mom.

And I totally agree that traditions are lots of fun. In my family, we make a meal full of finger foods on Christmas Eve and then watch a movie. It used to be a Christmas movie, but now anything goes. It's one of my favorite parts of the holiday.

Tara Struyk's picture

Ummm ... maybe just that the holidays don't need to fit into a traditional mold? :-P

I also like the idea of finger foods - maybe we'll try that!