Do you dread the hectic holiday weeks between Thanksgiving and New Year’s?  Are your children so hyped up that there’s no “peace on earth” at your house, and your own “Good will” toward everybody is wearing thin?  How can you possible teach your child with special needs the deeper meanings of this wonderful season when our culture demands that you over-eat, over-spend and over-extend yourself for 4 weeks straight?  Let’s slow the pace and re-discover what’s truly important during the Christmas/Hanukah season, and share tips on simplifying the celebrations.  Our own family is going through uncharted waters this year in redefining what is essential to our celebration of the birth of Jesus, and what changes we can make so we truly enjoy each other’s company in a spirit of love and harmony.  Here are some things to consider:

1)  List the top ten things the holiday season means to you

2)  Put a star by the five items that you consider essential – the holiday would feel incomplete without these five things

  • draw a line through two things you could do without this year
  • how can you streamline what’s left?

3)  Try to re-evaluate your traditional holiday activities in order to reduce stress and enjoy more meaningful times with your family and friends.

  • what is the essential spiritual meaning of the holiday
  • make a decision to simplify
  • let go of sacred cows
  • make lists to keep your self organize and delegate tasks
    • decorations to put up outdoors (garlands, lights, wreaths, yard ornaments)
    • indoor decorations (nativity sets, candles, floral/evergreen arrangements)
    • Christmas tree (live or artificial or none this year?  where stored?  who will assemble and put up?  who will decorate it?)
    • annual family photos
    • annual family newsletter
    • Christmas/Hanukah cards to mail out
    • gift list (immediate family, extended family, friends, neighbors, teachers,     therapists); set a price limit for each or make homenade gifts or mutually agree on no gifts
    • church, school and social events – what can you eliminate?
    • housecleaning – what can you delegate?
    • year-end giving to charities (list all; get your donations out before Dec. 31st!)
    • gift wrapping (would gift bags work just as well?)
    • special baking (do you really need 5 kinds of cookies this year?)
    • travel plans, including motels, if necessary
    • hosting guests plans, including menus and where people will sleep (is this the year to rent a retreat center and share holiday festivities in a larger, more neutral setting?)

ASSIGNMENT: With your family, cross off 5 items that are not essential this year and redefine your goals of celebrating together – more meaningful time of spiritual growth?  making memories?  developing qualities of selflessness and helpfulness in your children?