Three Steps to Having the Best Holiday Season (for YOUR Family)

Now that Halloween is behind us, we are officially in the holiday season. Thanksgiving is right around the corner and Christmas comes on its heels. This was my favorite time of year as a child, and I still love it—but now as a mom, I understand how much work goes on behind the scenes to make the magic happen. In fact, we can get so bogged down by all the details of the holiday season that we are robbed of the joy of it.

Every year I am tempted to do ALL the holiday things. And the temptation is almost unavoidable: everywhere I look other families are doing fun things, there are new ideas and activities to try, new traditions to start that promise some of that holiday magic. At the heart of it, I just don’t want to miss out on something amazing (or something better than what I usually do!)

But I know from experience that trying to do it all and trying to ensure The Best Holidays Ever is the quickest way to exhaustion and that restless feeling that your holidays aren’t magical enough. To resist our culture’s constant pressure for more and better, it’s helpful to be thoughtful at the outset, to set intentions for what you want your family’s holiday season to look like. 

Before our actual preparations for Thanksgiving and Christmas, we can take some time to visualize what we hope this holiday season will be like for our families. Here’s what this simple three-step process looks like:

3 steps to having the best holiday season for your family

Pick a word (or two) to set the mood

What do you want for your household in this season? We often pick a word for the new year, but consider picking a word to guide these next two months. How about…

Joyful

Peaceful

Together

Easy

Spontaneous

Spiritual

Crafty

Adventurous

Whimsical

Quiet

Generous

Service

Novelty

Excitement

Memories

Tradition

Choosing this word or two will help live intentionally during this holiday season!

Let your word(s) determine what you add to the calendar

Sometimes we get stuck doing what we’ve always done instead of evaluating whether it’s serving our family in this season. After the COVID Christmas of 2020, we may be eager to pick up every activity and tradition. And that’s GREAT if the words you picked to set the mood are: excitement, fun, novelty, spontaneous, whimsical. If, however, you leaned more towards these words: easy, quiet, peaceful…you may want to be more selective about the holiday parties and activities you add to your calendar!

Ultimately, your word (or two) will help you filter what you say Yes to and what you say No to. It will help you make the best decisions for your family.

Pick your priorities

There are a thousand versions of Christmas bucket lists out there. I love all of the ideas, but it makes me queasy thinking about doing them all. This is when it’s helpful to think about what you want to prioritize (if your kids are old enough to have strong preferences, involve them in this process!)

What do you want to make sure you do this holiday season? What traditions/activities are so important that you would be sad if January rolled around without having done them? Naming these priorities will help you be prepared. 

Is being crafty important to you? It’s time to take stock of your supplies. Is sending a family Christmas card important to you? Schedule the photo shoot now. Are matching Christmas pajamas your thing? Order them soon.

But don’t let what other families are doing distract you from your priorities and the mood you want to set for your family this holiday season.

The main thing

The truth is, it’s so easy to get distracted by our consumerist culture that tells us we need more and better to be happy. It’s too easy to compare our holiday with someone else’s. But taking the time to determine what kind of holiday season you want to have will help you keep your main thing the main thing!

PS: Is celebrating Advent one of your priorities? Check out these ideas for hands-on Advent activities for kids, and 9 meaningful Advent devotionals for you.

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*Feature Photo by Paige Cody on Unsplash

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Sarah K. Butterfield is an author, speaker, and ministry leader who has a heart for empowering women to grow in their faith and be intentional with their time. She and her husband and two boys live in San Diego, where she writes about pursuing a deeper relationship with God in the midst of motherhood.

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