Antique Village Christmas

Christmas decorations are displayed throughout Sanctuary Park in the Denham Springs Antique Village.

With the holidays right around the corner, it is decision time. How do you want to spend Christmas this year? I have talked to some people who claim they don’t feel they have a choice regarding how to spend the holidays. The truth is, there is always a choice. Even a choice between a rock and a hard place is a choice.

What gives us the illusion that we have no choice is the lies we tell ourselves. “We always go to (fill in the blank) for Thanksgiving!” Always having done something a certain way does not create a reason to keep doing it. There is value in tradition, but I am also a realist. Even if you’ve already made Thanksgiving plans for this year, this is a great time to set in motion plans for Christmas or even next year. If family tradition makes you miserable, create a new tradition. If you don’t like your family, and a surprising number of people do not, have a Friendsgiving. Spend the day giving thanks for the people who support and appreciate you. Or plan a trip during the holidays. Friends of my sister used to go on a cruise every Christmas. They celebrated the holiday and enjoyed beautiful decorations and delicious food, and spent special time with each other. Family expectations and traditions could not hijack their holiday when they were on the cruise. I know families who, in one year, celebrated Christmas four and five times, covering hundreds of miles. If you haven’t seen these people all year, does it make sense to jam visiting them into the busiest time of the year? I have a friend who visits part of their family at Thanksgiving and the other part at Christmas.

I am not a Scrooge. I love celebrating the holidays with my family and friends, but I am careful about filling this already busy time with obligations in the name of Christmas. The Holiday Litmus Test can help you evaluate your holiday plans. Ask yourself the following questions:

1. Are the people I am going to see people with whom I enjoy spending time?

2. Is the time spent preparing, participating, and recovering from the event worth the joy the event will give?

3. Is there a simpler way to celebrate with the people I love?

4. Is there a better time of year to travel to this location?

5. Who will I hurt if I don’t participate? Am I in their will? (Just joking!)

6. Do I look forward to this event with excitement or dread?

7. Why am I doing this as part of my holiday? Is there a better way to achieve the same result?

8. Can I decline the invitation without damaging the relationship?

9. Can I stay home and blame Covid?

10. If this were not a tradition, would I think it is a good idea?

I hope your answers to these questions make it easier for you to evaluate the best ways to celebrate the holidays. Review your holiday activities, do what you love, and eliminate those activities that do not make you smile.

If you love spending hours in the kitchen preparing the holiday meal your mom used to make, go for it. If not, order a delicious holiday meal from somewhere to reduce the labor involved in food preparation. If you like preparing certain dishes, but not the entire spread, go potluck. Have everyone sign up to bring a dish or two. You will have a great meal without anyone having to work too hard. Because everyone prepares a part of the meal, you will have a nice spread without anyone doing too much work. I highly recommend asking for volunteers to help set up and clean up. I like the rule that whoever helps clean up gets first dibs on the leftovers. That rule will ensure that you will have enough volunteers for your clean-up.

Plan a fun activity. Our family always did a White Elephant Exchange. It was so much fun that everyone looked forward to it. Your exchange gift was something you had that had value to someone, but not necessarily to you. A few people would go to garage sales during the year to find the perfect “treasure” for the exchange. Over the years, we have seen some crazy “gifts” from paintings on black velvet to kitchen gadgets and kitsch. One of my favorite Christmas games takes a little bit of planning but is great fun. Each participant brings $10 and a new gift that they would like to have themselves. Set a value limit around $25-$35. Everyone arrives with their “gift” in a plain brown grocery bag. Each participant leaves their bag, gift inside, in the designated area, and puts their $10 in the hosts’ envelope. When it’s time to play, the host numbers the gifts and sets them in the center of the room, each participant has a sheet of paper with the name of everyone who is playing. Players take turns selecting a bag and opening it. Everyone guesses whose gift it is by writing the gift number next to the name of the person they think picked that gift for themselves. The person who correctly identifies the most gifts with their owner wins the money. It’s great fun, and everyone gets to go home with a gift they know they will like. Playing the game after dinner and clean-up makes the clean-up happen a little faster.

The holidays are an excellent opportunity to feed your spirit. Taking your kids shopping for gifts for the less fortunate teaches them how good it feels to give and lets them see how blessed they are. Serving the homeless holiday dinner at a shelter or soup kitchen on Thanksgiving or Christmas is another way you can give to the needy. Be sure to sign up in advance if you wish to help at a shelter so they can plan on you being there.

I have seen how powerful an impact we can have on those less fortunate. My office adopted a needy family one year, and it was moving to see the joy and gratitude on the family’s faces. They had recently lost their home to a fire, and we made sure to give them some practical things they needed, as well as toys and some things they wanted. Many charities collect money to feed and buy gifts for needy families if you are thinking about donating money. A good charity will stretch your donation in a way that blesses the most people. Catholic Charities is one I can recommend without reservation. Does your favorite charity do a great job making Christmas brighter for the needy? Send me their name in an email, and I will include them in an article about giving.

Make the holidays memorable for yourself and those you care about most. Whether you choose to spend the holidays at home, take a trip, or find adventure, be sure to make it unique. The one thing we don’t have enough of is days that make us feel special!

Cami Miller is a business coach. She partners with leaders on every level to develop strategies for success. Contact her at camimiller54@gmail.com.

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