How to Make Christmas & the Holiday Season More Fun

The holiday season and Christmas (if celebrated) is a time often filled with joy, cherished traditions, and a wonderful way to bring people together. However, amidst the sparkle, the holiday season isn’t always an easy time for many people. Festivities can trigger stress, loneliness, and other challenging emotions.

Not everyone enjoys Christmas and the holiday season. There can be very personal reasons relating to pain, loss, or family histories. Some people experience stress around this time of year for a number of reasons. For example, spending a lot of money on gifts, decorating, visiting, and expectations that are challenging to meet.

Material items are the most visible aspects of Christmas – how many times have you heard people talking about how many gifts they still have to buy or been asked this yourself? When the emphasis of celebrating Christmas or other festive events is on things, it can reduce the holiday to a commodity that needs to be bought and paid for. This approach makes some people happy – especially children – but there are other ways the holiday season can be approached that can make it more enjoyable for people of all ages.

Some the people who enjoy the holiday season the most are those who make connecting with others central to celebrations and don’t get overly stressed trying to meet the expectations of others. Giving and receiving gifts while indulging in treats is usually fun, however when the focus is on strengthening relationships without high expectations for an impressive celebration is the most important part of the holiday, it can be much less stressful and more enjoyable.

If you would like to try celebrating festive celebrations in a different way, consider the following ways you could approach the holiday:

1) Talk with your family about how you would like to celebrate

Most families have different traditions, customs, and attitudes for how Christmas and other festive celebrations are celebrated, whether this is as a religious tradition or a secular holiday. The majority of these could be wholesome and enjoyable, but most people have at least some elements of celebrations they aren’t very fond of.

Any group celebrations require personal concessions around certain activities, because the there are many people and factors at play. But sitting down with your family and friends to discuss particularities around the gathering can help make the holiday more fun for everyone.

This approach can bring out positive conversations. For example, there could be something everyone was doing because they thought the rest of the family enjoyed it, but discover it was not a highly valued tradition. Alternatively, learning how much other family members like certain traditions can give you more energy and enthusiasm to participate in them. Communication is key, and it can be helpful to ask the question of family members: what does celebrating the holiday season look like to you? This way, it is possible to gain some insight into differing perspectives, as well as your own.

You and your family could also consider new traditions you would like to try, such as giving at least one homemade gift, watching a movie as a family every Saturday in December, or having an unconventional meal.

Some people find that the holiday is much more meaningful if they incorporate giving back to the community through things like volunteering at a homeless shelter, helping prepare meals for vulnerable families, or shopping for gifts to donate. You and your family could discuss if you would like to start donating money and/or time to charitable organisations as a part of your holiday traditions.

Choosing how you celebrate can make what you decide to do much more fun and meaningful, and giving some things up can remove stress and make it easier to have a good time.

2) Avoid getting stressed about preparations

The holiday season may become stressful if there is pressure to meet high expectations – your own or from other people. This could be spending a long time visiting or hosting (potentially with some family members you struggle to get along with), preparing elaborate meals, buying a lot of gifts, and more. 

Any break from routine can be challenging, however, you can remove some unnecessary stress by keeping things simple, delegating tasks so efforts around celebrations are shared, and considering minimising your own expectations and also not taking on board unnecessary expectations from others.

What makes someone feel stressed can be largely based on personality. Someone who is extraverted and likes being busy is less likely to be stressed and overwhelmed by parties and visiting, while a creative introvert may be stressed by visits but is happy decorating and baking.

Because the festive season is celebrated with people, it is important to consider how decisions impact others – most people don’t like wrapping gifts but are unlikely to give an unwrapped gift because that would take away a lot of the fun.

Respect your boundaries, but also consider how much it costs you to do something and how much joy it brings others.

3) Choose to make Christmas about relationships

Relationships can be strained or awkward during the holidays and Christmas period when you gather with people you have not seen for a long period. No matter what the season represents to you, this time of year can be a valuable opportunity to reconnect with people you don’t see often, spend meaningful time with your loved ones, create lasting memories, and practice family traditions.

However, the material aspects of Christmas and the holiday season can easily dominate. This isn’t to suggest that you can’t have a meaningful family and friends gathering that’s about relationships and connection if you buy expensive gifts, have big indulgent meals, and put up lots of decorations. However, feeling like you have to spend a lot of money and make elaborate preparations for the holiday to be enjoyable can take the fun out of it and add stress.

If you feel stressed because of how much you’re expected to spend and do, then you might benefit from intentionally shifting your energy away from preparing a good holiday and into being present and enjoying time with the people you care about.

There are different ways to encourage connection, such as asking people to give up their phones for a time, exchanging personal gifts, or deciding not to do some things to have more time and energy. Some people, even if they don’t consider themselves religious, enjoy incorporating religious or spiritual customs into their celebrations.

There are likely already things you do that put the focus on relationships and connections. Recognising these for what they are and what they mean can make them more special. There’s no right or wrong way to celebrate the holiday season or Christmas; there are so many ways people invest and enjoy this time.

4) Have fun with gift-giving

Setting guidelines around gift-giving can take the emphasis off finding the perfect gift if this is part of your celebrations.

These suggestions aren’t for everyone – some people would be much more stressed at the idea of making a gift than buying one – so think about what you and your family would enjoy most.

You could:

  • Have a secret Santa instead of everyone giving everyone a gift
  • Have spending limits – to make for silly gifts set a very small amount
  • Offer services like doing chores, giving a massage, or childcare
  • Buying second-hand
  • Giving something homemade

Some people could dislike the idea less gifting, especially for children, however, other people in your family could like the idea and be relieved that they don’t have to spend as much. In this case, some families only buy gifts for the children.

5) Accept that not everyone will have the same ideas

There will likely be different ideas about how to do group celebrations. It is important to accept that different ideas are not necessarily a negative thing. If you do want to try something new, explain your motivations and what you’re hoping to achieve. For example, you want to have more time for your family and want to minimise stress around certain elements, whether that is around food preparation or gifting.

Making changes could require setting some boundaries, which is often difficult but can be even more challenging when they relate to traditions. However, good communication can often lead to the appreciation of different ways of celebrating – people tend to value shared memories and connections in the long-term.

This is also why it’s important to talk with the people involved in holiday celebrations and any changes you propose – when you know what others family and friends expect and value, you can be confident that you’re making the best decisions for everyone, not just yourself.

Introducing changes and figuring out what will make you and other people happy can take time – and there’s always next year.

A gingerbread family smiles together
By making the holidays about what matters to you, you can have more fun

The holiday season doesn’t need to be defined by excessive spending, stressful commitments, and meeting other people’s expectation to be enjoyable. Focusing on connecting with the people you care about and strengthening relationships, while removing sources of stress, can make the festive season a more meaningful and fun time of year for you and your family.

The team at Wiser Ways wish you, family and friends a peaceful and joyous period of time during the season’s celebrations. We hope you have a safe and prosperous time and may this continue throughout 2024.

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