It is official. Halloween is over and the holiday season has begun. If you are anything like me there is a lot of planning, organizing, counting (people), shopping and cooking. I get tired just thinking about it. I have decided to simplify my holidays this year. Here is the plan:
This is important because if done properly many decisions will already be made. Here are the questions I ask myself:
- How many parties do I want to have? Can I afford? Have the energy for?
- How many people will be in attendance? Thanksgiving dinner? Christmas dinner?
- What is on the menu? Thanksgiving? Christmas?
- What treats will I be making this year? How much will I be giving away? How much do I need for the family?
- What family activities do we want to do? Sledding? Baking? Caroling?
The goal here is to decide which traditions are most important and which activities are more stressful than enjoyable.
It’s Party Time
While holiday parties can be a lot of fun, they are not mandatory. The only consideration when deciding to have a party is: Do I have the emotional, mental and physical energy to do this? If the answer is “No” then do not have one and do NOT feel guilty. We are all busy and stressed during the holidays and do not need to do anymore than we have the energy for.
If the answer is yes, one party is usually enough (unless you are an over achiever). The one thing to remember when throwing any party is: It does NOT have to be perfect. While this would be nice, life happens so go with the flow. The K.I.S.S. (keep it simple stupid) method is always best.
Traditional Holiday Treats
We all learned how to make all the holiday treats growing up, but to simplify (and have a less crowded kitchen) my family assigned people as “specialists” in certain things. This way everyone gets to participate, there is not a lot of chaos and you do not have to do everything. This works really well and can be tailored to any family or group.
My specialty was fudge. I learned how to make it when I was in my early teens. Over the years I have developed many variations: dark chocolate, mint chocolate, peanut butter, white chocolate, peppermint, chocolate/peanut butter swirl and some that didn’t work out so well. It is an easy recipe that is on the back of the Kraft Marshmallow Creme.
I have multiple siblings so we had quite a variety of goodies growing up. My older sister made divinity. An older brother made caramel. Another older brother made English Toffee. My grandmother made peanut butter balls. We all made cookies and the younger kids helped.
This was great family bonding time and many memories were created. There were times when things didn’t turn out so well. The caramel was hard as a rock or had to be eaten with a spoon. The divinity crumbled or didn’t set. The fudge crystalized. Things burned and got spilled. But successes were celebrated. Pans were scraped and spoons were licked. Much tasting took place.
This is something that we have done as a family a lot over the years. It can also be somewhat overwhelming if you have a long list of people you want to give treats to. Remember, the idea is to simplify so a little creativity goes a long way.
Pick ten people for whom you want to make home-made treat plates. Place goodies on a colored paper plate, wrap in plastic wrap, put a bow on top and a tag. I let my children take these around because they enjoy giving things they have made.
For all the others you would like to remember, a small and simple gift is all that is necessary. A bag of candy, hot chocolate mix, chocolates, etc. Just add a small note and you are done. All they need is to know that you are thinking of them this holiday season.
Potluck is Not Just For Picnics
When my siblings and their families gather we have very large groups. Anywhere from 4 to 73 people depending on availability. That is a lot of food for a lot of people. So that no one person has to carry the load of preparing all that food we assign out dishes. The host usually cooks the turkey and dressing. Sometimes a second or third turkey is assigned out. Each family is assigned to bring something: salads, side dishes, rolls, pies, etc. We always have plenty of food and everyone is a lot more relaxed. I actually prefer the larger gatherings because then I don’t have to make all the different dishes that we usually have at holiday dinners.
Well, this has gotten a lot longer than I had intended and has spawned at least two other holiday “how to” posts so I will end here. Remember that the holidays should be something to look forward to. Cut yourself some slack and remember to keep it simple.