A Guide to Reclaiming the Joy of the Holiday Season

I love Christmas and the holiday season. Decorating, getting my house ready for family and friends to gather, holiday baking, greeting cards, the holiday socials – all of it. Holiday traditions are super important to me AND.. with my enthusiasm for them, historically I have tried to do too much. My endeavours to make everything perfect and make sure all the people in my life felt special over the holiday season consequently often turned Mommy Santa into Mommy Grinch as all the prep piles on.

All this in the context of a busy career and working life when client deadlines are often at a peak and end of year planning is the buzz phrase of the season. Wanting to get everything done before the calendar turns over into another year puts pressure on everyone. As a professional woman, balancing the demands of work with the spirit of honoring holiday traditions can be challenging. Us ambitious overachievers don’t stop at the office holiday party – this style of being often plays out at home and in most areas of our lives.

Professional woman enjoying the HolidaysAm I right?

So what to do? In this Guide to Reclaiming the Joy of the Holiday Season I recommend making ALIGNed choices so your holiday season can be filled with joy, not just for the people you are bringing it to, but also for you.

So instead of FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) let’s reclaim JOMO (the Joy of Missing Out) and fill your calendar with what’s meaningful to you and your loved ones, vs. doing all the things just because they’ve always been done that way.

This guide offers valuable insights on managing holiday celebrations, prioritizing work commitments, and reimagining traditional holiday activities. This year, let’s navigate through the festive season with meaningful choices that spark more holiday joy for your family, and for YOU..


Reevaluate Festive Traditions for Less Stress

Growing up in a small city with a very large extended family, you can only imagine how many invitations and holidays traditions we attempted to include over the festive season. As a young girl I loved it all. Of course I did. I was an extrovert, loved having people around me, loved to eat all the holiday baking and all I had to do was show up. I was the child.

I can’t even imagine how my Mother did it all. I do know she got very little sleep those couple of weeks leading up to Christmas morning. And once Santa had arrived, it did not stop. Every day between Christmas and New Year’s was filled with dinners, lunches, breakfasts, evening parties, afternoon tobogganing or skating parties and and and……the annual events just kept piling on.

The thing was, when a new tradition was started, the old ones weren’t canceled. We just had more added to them.

Does this resonate with you?

Which traditions are still relevant for you and which ones can you ‘take a pass on’ this year? Which ones fill you with JOY and which ones do you dread? Attend or prepare the ones that fill you with JOY first – and the ones that fill you with dread? Find a way to add more joy for you or better yet, don’t do them at all. Chances are you aren’t the only one who doesn’t love it anymore.


Reimagine Traditional Holiday Celebrations

Inflatable Santa - Holiday TraditionsAs the children in my house have become young adults, the pressure of the Santa surprise and keeping them occupied has shifted. Now they’re (metaphorically) tucking me into bed as they head out to socials of their own. However there are still plenty of things the little girls in them look forward to – and are essential to keep.

A few years ago, we had a real tangle between the younger one enjoying the giant inflatable Santa on our front lawn while the teenager in the house was so embarrassed to have her friends see how silly her family was over the holidays. Take a look at this post from that time as I called out to my community to see how they integrated their holiday traditions with their children.

How do your traditional holiday celebrations need to be reimagined with your growing and changing family in mind – let alone you. What do you wish the holidays could be like and what’s one step you can take TODAY to make the holidays something that fills you with more joy vs. dread?


Celebrate Holiday Traditions with Purpose

This year, as a family we have the opportunity to completely redefine how we celebrate the holiday season. For those of you who have been following me you’ll know that my husband and I with our two daughters are on a “family gap year” away from our regular lives while we live and work in New Zealand for a year. We brought a few Christmas decorations with us, but for the most part. It’s a clean slate! Not only that, we’ve moving just before the holidays, so upon the writing of this blog post, the house is not decorated as we have not even moved into it yet.

Christmas in New Zealand is during the heat of their summer. So large scale dinners turn into summer barbecues. Merchandise is extremely expensive over here so when gift-giving, people think along the lines of one or two gifts vs five or six. People head off to their summer places (which we don’t have here) so we’ll be enjoying surf and hike time in the local area. And New Year’s Eve? Think pizza oven in a backyard vs. fancy dress – or ski suits. The focus here is on activity and the outdoors vs food and gifts. Regardless, we will gather with friends and family – it’s just what and how we’re gathering will be different.

How can you put the meaning of your holiday traditions back into how you’re spending your time this year? What could you change up? What part of your holiday traditions are aligned for what you want for the season – and what ones really aren’t anymore? Sit down with your family and make sure you have something on the calendar that everyone is looking forward to – and check with them before boycotting an important event. We don’t want to cause a family rift in the process!


Communicate Changes to Holiday Traditions

communicate during holidaysI was having a casual conversation with a friend not too long ago who described her passive aggressive approach to “getting out of” hosting a large-scale family dinner. She just didn’t do it. She didn’t call people up. She didn’t invite them. And she didn’t hear from them either. No one else stepped up to the plate to host. So she and her husband had a quiet meal at home and then carried on with their day. A few days after the holiday, she heard from a family member who asked how she spent the holidays this year. She answered that they didn’t do anything. Silence. “Oh.” was the reply…. Ouch.

Without being too formal about it, what would it be like to have a candid conversation about how the family celebrates the holidays? If you don’t want to do it anymore – or even have a break for a single year – what would it be like to communicate this need with those you have graciously hosted for years? Beware, you will also have to be open to doing things differently. There may be a turkey loaf in your future instead of the actual turkey. Or maybe there isn’t a big dinner at all and you gather in a different way with a different focus.

What part of the traditions are meaningful for you and which ones do you enjoy participating in? If you need things to be done differently to avoid building resentment or they don’t fill you with joy anymore, change it up! If it is meaningful to someone else – and meaningful enough – they will have to step up.


Celebrate Holiday Traditions

However you celebrate – how can you redefine how you spend your time to bring more joy into your season? What’s something you’ve been longing to integrate into your traditions and what can you not wait to dispense of? Maybe this is the year you actually ask for what you want – or just make it happen – so the season can be meaningful for everyone.

And if you find yourself in the thick of a conversation you really wish you weren’t having? Take a read of last year’s blog about navigating difficult holiday conversations.

Happy Holidays! May you find time for more JOY in your holiday traditions this season. With your new, aligned decisions in place, you will be empowered to stress less and enjoy more.

To your success,

Susan Elford

Susan Elford is a Leadership Coach and Business Mentor who especially loves to work with women who want it all: a fulfilling career or business while living a full and satisfying life. Through powerful career coaching and business mentorship to get their career or business to the next level, Susan helps her clients get real about their strengths and celebrate and promote them so they get more of what they want: success at work; success in business & success in life.


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