This Year I’m Replacing Holiday Excess with These 5 Things, Instead

From the moment I became a mom, each year when the calendar turns to October, I begin to think about the holidays. I start making mental and written lists about all sorts of things: gift ideas for my kids and extended family members; possible locations for a family photo for our Christmas card; meal options for Thanksgiving and Christmas; travel prospects and house decorations. 

It’s all a bit much.

This year will give us an opportunity to slow down and shed the unnecessary. (Twenty20 @MargJohnsonVA)

Every year I promise to do less during the holidays

And every January, as I stack the storage bins and dusty boxes back in my garage, I seem to find myself making promises that our next holiday season won’t be so hectic. That we won’t buy so many gifts. Or eat so many big meals. Or send out so many cards. I tell myself that this coming year I will focus more on joy, and less on trying to do it all.

But this year, which has been so utterly surreal in a myriad of ways, is going to provide us all with the opportunity to do what many of us have annually pledged to do and have not done — slow down, rest, and shed the unnecessary elements of “the most wonderful time of the year.”

This year, I am giving myself permission to let go of many of the “should” endeavors. Those obligations and traditions really don’t bring us true joy or peace, which ironically are the sentiments we wish upon our friends and families during the holidays.

Five things I want for the 2021 holidays

1. I want this winter break to be about comfort.

We have all experienced plenty of discomforts this year, and we have had to deal with cancelations and separations.

Some of us have dealt with physical sickness and the intense pain of losing loved ones. We have all grappled with the emotional discomfort swirling around in our minds.

This year my only “decorative” holiday purchases will be some cozy blankets and an outdoor heater, so that we can socialize as much as possible outside. 

2. I want this winter break to be about giving.

But not the giving of expensive or elaborate gifts to each other. My husband and I have decided that rather than giving gifts to each other and to our two young adult kids we are going to individually choose a meaningful charity to donate money to. We also plan to volunteer some time in our community, giving to those who need assistance far more than we need material gifts.

3. I want this winter break to be about rest. 

It feels like no matter what I have been doing or trying to accomplish during the past seven months, I have battled with a nagging feeling of distraction. Like there is continually something I could be doing better, or more efficiently.

I think this has been my brain’s way of dealing with disruption, and I think this has been a common refrain. Tackling daily life in survival mode for months on end has been exhausting.

I know that my family needs to re-group and rest. 

4. I want this winter break to be about simplicity.  

We have all had enough complications this year, so I will not be spending time scouring Pinterest for extra Thanksgiving side dish recipes. I won’t be baking and freezing dozens of cookies. I will not be trying to find the perfect stocking stuffers for my kids, nor a sparkly new blouse for New Year’s Eve.

I may even forgo the hard copy holiday cards this year, a downshift that I have been contemplating for a while. I will be deliberate and conscious about what activities truly bring me and my family joy. 

5. I want this winter break to be about gratitude. 

Because we’ve all lost some pretty big things these last two years — and we are lucky if it has only been normalcy, large celebrations, and time with extended family. Many have lost so much more. But we have also gained clarity and focus.

We know for certain what is essential to keep moving forward and what we can live without. And this year, like never before, we need to acknowledge and voice our appreciation for the people that have seen us through our struggles, have guided us through our turbulence, and have helped us keep faith that there is always goodness and light in the darkest of days.

This winter break, we all are being gifted with a unique opportunity to accept this slow-down. And to make deliberate choices about how we want to spend our time together. I am choosing to embrace the fact that we are being provided with an ideal excuse to discard the unnecessary holiday excess. 

If an activity or experience does not provide you with peace or enjoyment, let it go. Just because you’ve held on to a tradition for years, is not a reason to continue it if it does not nourish your soul. Bake if you really love to.

Hunt stores and sites for the perfect gift if you genuinely enjoy that experience. Write and send holiday cards if that brings you happiness.

But if the thought of a particular holiday experience induces negativity or stress, acknowledge that you’ve had enough stress this year. Give yourself permission to release it.

People will understand, and if they don’t, that’s their issue, not yours. Let winter break be an actual rest — for your body, mind, and spirit.

Are you the parent of a tween or teen? The Grown and Flown book is in paperback. Makes a great Christmas gift, too.

Grown and Flown paperback

More to Read:

Gifts That Your Teens Will Love That Cost Nothing

Teens, I Promise Not to Be a Pain About the Holidays

About Marybeth Bock

Marybeth Bock, MPH, is Mom to two young adults and one delightful hound dog. She has logged time as a military spouse, childbirth educator, college instructor and freelance writer. She lives in Arizona and thoroughly enjoys research and writing - as long as iced coffee is involved. You can find her work on numerous websites and in two books. Find her on Facebook and Instagram

Read more posts by Marybeth

Don't miss out!
Want more like this? Get updates straight to your inbox.