Not that I've completely succeeded, mind you. I found myself wandering around a thrift store at 5:30 this afternoon with the vague purpose of finding wool garments to re-purpose as bags and random fun things for Anya to play dress-up with...not exactly a priority 4 days before Christmas, but there you are. At least I wasn't at the mall.
Anyway, for what it's worth, I present to you my list of Five Ways to Keep the Holidays As Stress-free As Possible:
1) Skip the cards. One week from tomorrow I will celebrate my 33rd birthday (with cake and maybe I'll get to see a movie??? in a theater???) and I have yet to send out a Christmas card, electronically or otherwise. It's just too much work. If you're family, you get emails every once in a while with cute pictures of my kids, and if you care, you follow this blog, and if you're neither, you're probably not worth it. Sorry. Tough shit. I know I sound harsh, but those who don't read, won't know, right?
2) Skip the baking. I remember a conversation a few years ago with some women a few decades my senior, in which they proclaimed boldly and proudly that they were cutting back on the holiday baking that year. There was a brief pause as they waited for the collective gasp. So? I thought to myself. There is a complete and total overload of sugar at the holidays anyway, who's going to miss another batch or ten of cookies? What's the big deal? To these women, though, this was a big deal, perhaps because the tradition of baking more cookies and fruitcakes than one family could possibly consume was so ingrained in their idea of the holidays, the thought of not doing it was a small rebellion (and a relief). I mean, if you enjoy it, go for it, but if baking is a source of stress, skip it. It's okay. (Full disclosure: I did commit to baking 60 cookies for Daniel's KG class to decorate in a party this week, but I did actually enjoy myself. And that's all the baking I did.)
3) Shop local. I'll save you my soapbox spiel about how shopping at local businesses instead of big box stores is better for the community and the economy. If you care a fig, you probably know this already, and if you don't care, I doubt I'll be able to convince you here. But how about this: going to smaller, locally owned stores saves you the stress and the lines and the Xtreme Parking of mall shopping. That's worth something, if you ask me.
4) See a live performance of something. A couple weekends ago, I went to see the WCO performance of Handel's Messiah. The main reason I went was to see my friend Julia sing the soprano solos (she was fabulous!!), but I ended up really enjoying the whole thing. This was a professional performance, not a sing-along, and I thought it might get a little, well, boring, to sit through a two-hour long oratorio. But it was great, and festive to boot. As corny as this sounds, good music can really help make the holidays special. Also, supporting your local orchestra/chorus/ballet company (one of these days we'll go see The Nutcracker) is a good thing.
5) If you're going to knit socks for someone who wears a size 12 men's shoe, you might want to start sooner than 7 days before Christmas. Need I say more? Some lessons I'm still learning...