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Get real about the holidays

Posted November 6

 (Deseret Photo)

The holiday season is intended to be full of meaning and joy. Yet the reality, especially for women, can be a hurry-up and finish-it experience. Instead, we can get real about what is best for our family and how to make it happen using tips from my "Simplify & Savor the Season" book.

1. Get real with yourself. Ask yourself, right now, what does the holiday season look and feel like to me this year? One woman shared with me that the parties, events, gifts and planning all felt like one word: work.

To shift that, I encourage women to ask, “What does a real holiday season look and feel like?” They consider what feels authentic and paced, and write it down. Then they discuss those thoughts with their spouse and children, choosing a few key words to describe the ideal holiday experience for their situation. Words could include peace, joy, simplicity or excitement. Once a family has identified the desired feelings, it’s about wisely choosing the events and experiences to create them.

2. Get real with your family expectations. With an out-the-door list of marital and familial traditions to choose from, moms can be faced with unrealistic expectations. This year, as a family choose the top five to seven activities or traditions that will bring meaning and joy. These are the must-dos, the things you look forward to.

Over the years our family has occasionally attended "The Nutcracker Ballet." It’s not essential but it’s enjoyable. However, this year one of our daughters will dance in the ballet so now it becomes highly meaningful. It’s not simply a check-off tradition, it fits with what we want our season to include.

This isn’t a time for comparing or FOMO (fear of missing out). What is meaningful will differ between individuals and families. One family will feel meaning in attending a powerful "Messiah" sing-in, while another family will feel it from a festive neighborhood sleigh ride. We decide what’s best to feel closer to each other and the holiday purpose.

3. Get realistic, and keep the meaning. I joy in simplifying the season. As we are intentional about our celebrations, we can pare down what is fluff and focus on the real.

To help with paring, I encourage women to practice the “in the hopper” rule. I avoid last-minute errands, stress and forgetting with on-hand meals, gifts, cards, etc. Typically, I have hazelnut cocoa cans, chocolate oranges and Krusteaz Pumpkin Bread mixes readily available in the house. It’s perfect for those Oops-I-forgot moments or simple gifts.

I also have three to five easy meals and their ingredients on hand for a quick meal that feeds a fair amount of people (even if it’s just our family). These crockpot and easily assembled meals eliminate the what’s-for-dinner stress on a busy day.

While simplifying is good, it’s wise not to make efficiency king. Whatever we choose to do, we need to keep the meaning. There may be a few traditions that at first glance we don’t want to do, but for your family they’re definitely worth it (i.e. that special haggis).

For example, recently a friend of mine asked me about curbside groceries where you pre-order, they pack and you pick up. I shared that while I love the concept, right now grocery shopping with my daughter is our mom-daughter time. We laugh, talk and learn life skills together. At some point I can do curbside, but right now that efficiency would lose the meaning for me, whereas, 10 years ago, where was that in my life?

One of my greatest joys in the season is to help others simplify it. For more tips and ideas, enjoy three free videos. As we are intentional and thoughtful about how to approach the season, involve our families and savor the process, we’ll have a memorable holiday experience.

Connie Sokol is an author, presenter, TV contributor and mother of seven. Contact her at connie@8basics.com.

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