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Putting the "Merry" Back into Christmas

Do you remember when the holidays were fun? They were simpler, more enjoyable. Is it possible to enjoy Christmas again?

I believe the answer is “Yes”. In this article, I would like to share with you how to have less hassle and more holidays. I believe that the key to enjoying the holiday is two-fold.

First, you must choose to eliminate things that cause too much stress and anxiety.

Then you can choose to enjoy the simple things about the holiday. You can choose to enjoy your family and friends, and the experience of preparing for and celebrating Christmas. They are choices that you make.

Here's some tips to help you make the right choices:

1. It is Okay to Say “No”.

Stress is one of the greatest killers of holiday joy. There are too many people and places pulling for our time, attention, and money. We get so busy trying to please everyone and do everything that we become overwhelmed. As a result, we don’t enjoy anything that we do. Everything becomes a hassle.

One of the things that the Holy Spirit taught us is that it’s okay to say “No”. It’s alright to eliminate things that are too stressful, unnecessary, or cause too much pain. Here are some suggestions of things you might want to reconsider.

1. You don’t have to send Christmas cards.

Most people don’t read their Christmas cards. They are just a Christmas tradition that most people see as a hassle. So if you don’t have the time or the money to send them, don’t worry about it. Let yourself off the hook. It’s okay.

2. You don’t have to buy gifts for acquaintances like the mailman, your hairdresser, co-workers, or teachers.

Although these things became customary when the economy was great, if they put too much stress on you now, just opt out. If you feel like you must give these people gifts, a basket of homemade cookies or candy will be fine.

3. You don’t have to exchange gifts with extended family members.

You hear this all the time: The grandparents or Aunts and Uncles reach an age where they have everything that they want and they don’t really appreciate anything. It is a burden for young families or single women struggling to make ends meet to buy gifts for these people. When the Holy Spirit changed our holidays, He set us free from this tradition. We no longer buy for the extended family. Honestly, it has eased holiday stress.

I can hear you saying, “How did you do it? I don’t want to offend anyone, especially not during the holidays.

The key is honesty. I remember when I first came home from college I had an Aunt who wanted to exchange gifts. I thanked her for her kindness, but I explained that I was not in a financial position to exchange gifts outside of my immediate family. What can people say? If someone gives you a really hard time, tell them that in this economy you want to focus on the children. Who is going to argue with that? My point is, if buying for the extended family is a strain on your holiday budget and an unnecessary stress on you be honest and end it. It’s okay.

4. You don’t have to participate in all the activities at church.

Churches love to over-book their schedules this time of year. They plan tons of activities and make people feel guilty if they aren’t involved in them. Reality is that time is limited. Ask God if He wants you involved in a church activity. If God isn’t telling you to do something, you don’t have to do it. It’s okay to stay home and make cookies with the kids instead of being involved with every church function.

5. You don’t have to attend every party to which you’re invited.

If the party at work is going to be filled with alcohol and it makes your conscience feel uncomfortable, you don’t have to go. If your relatives are having a party and you feel like Jesus would be uncomfortable there, than kindly decline the invitation. If there is too much stress because of unresolved family issues at the family dinner, you don’t have to attend. If your kids are going to be persecuted by unsaved relatives because they walk with God, you can make other plans. You are not obligated to go anywhere. As long as you politely decline an invitation, you have the right to make other plans.

6. You don’t have to do things just because you’ve always done them.

Change is good. Ask God what He wants you to do this holiday and do it. Don’t let tradition or habit become a source of anxiety. It’s okay to abandon traditions that you are worn out and create new memories. This is especially true as families grow and change. You will never get teenagers to enjoy the same things they did when they were babies. Change is growth and growth is healthy.

These are just a few suggestions of things that it is okay to say “no” to. You probably have your own list of things that cause you stress. The point is simple: You don’t have to do anything you don’t want to do. All you have to do is what God wants you to do. If He hasn’t told you that you have to do something, than you have the option of saying “No.” Sometimes that little word makes all the difference in whether or not you enjoy your holidays.

#2 Do what you enjoy and enjoy what you’re doing

After you have eliminated the things that cause you too much stress, plan to enjoy the activities you do. If you are going to make cookies with the kids, than turn off the television and computer and make cookies. Get your hands dirty. Throw some flour on Dad’s head. Enjoy yourself.

Don’t say, “Oh man, I wish I didn’t have to decorate the tree.” Enjoy decorating the tree. Make a night out of it. Even if you are single, you can invite some people over to help you decorate. Choose to enjoy the holiday.

The word “Choose” is very important. You can choose what holiday activities you want to do. After you have made that choice, then you need to choose to enjoy those activities. Make a choice not to look at holiday preparations as a hassle. Rather look at the preparations as an opportunity to spend time with the people that you love making memories.

3. Choose to spend time with people instead of money on presents.

Spending time with your family making memories is more important than how many gifts are under the tree. I remember when we were kids, we loved decorating the tree. Every year we would make different decorations and have a blast while we were doing it. Then we would go and help my grandma decorate her tree. It wasn’t until I was much older that I realized that she must have enjoyed having us come and decorate with her instead of doing it alone.

Another tradition that we had was driving around looking at Christmas lights. Every year we would take my great-grandmother. She rarely got out of the house, but every year we would pack her up and take her out looking at all the Christmas lights in the valley. While we were out, we’d have a milkshake and French fries at a drive-thru. I think these times spent with people meant more to them than any gift we ever bought them. Not only did they enjoy themselves, but we had fun, too.

4. Choose to Cherish the Ones You Love

This was a lesson the Holy Spirit taught me years ago. After I graduated from college, my life didn’t turn out exactly like I planned. I expected that I would be married in college and have a family right away. As the holidays approached, I found myself wishing my life had turned out more like I wanted and less like God chose. Then the Holy Spirit spoke to me and told me to relax and enjoy the holidays. He specifically told me to enjoy the time with my Mom. Thankfully, I obeyed Him and changed my attitudes. I threw myself into the holiday activities that were available and I spent time with the family God had given me—my Mom, Dad and brother.

Quite a few years have passed since the Holy Spirit taught me that lesson. There were at least 10 Christmases that I spent with my family, enjoying all the time I could with them. I loved going shopping with Mom for Christmas presents. I think we had more fun on the days we went out shopping than we did Christmas morning.

Together, we watched all those sappy Christmas movies. We made cookies and gifts for people and decorated our home. Instead of feeling sorry for myself that I didn’t have a husband and children, I genuinely enjoyed the time I spent celebrating with the people God did allow in my life. Now I can honestly say that was one of the best decisions I ever made.

You see, Mom is in Heaven this Christmas. Although I will miss her dearly, I can say that I have no regrets. I have precious memories of preparing for and celebrating Christmas. I am so grateful that God taught me years ago to cherish every moment with the ones we love.

So this year as you are making your holiday plans, choose to spend time with people. Don’t worry so much about everything looking right and impressing the neighbors. Throw off all the things that are causing you stress.

Instead, relax. Enjoy time with your family and friends. Do things that are fun. Choose to enjoy your holiday with the people God has placed in your life. Don’t wish you were somewhere else or at a different place in your life. Accept God’s will and live to the fullest where He has placed you. Love your family and friends, and cherish moment you have with them. That’s how you can choose to enjoy your holiday.

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