Here’s how to make Christmas a success, no matter the challenges

Christmas doesn’t have to be a non-stop marathon that leaves even the strongest exhausted.
Christmas doesn’t have to be a non-stop marathon that leaves even the strongest exhausted. AP

Just a few days til Christmas and all sensible people are asking that age old question: “How do I get through the holidays without going quite insane?”

The children, usually a joy to spend time with — most of the time — are jumping up and down requesting, no demanding, toys that shouldn’t be brought into any home without medical supervision.

You, on the other hand, have a list of errands to run that makes Santa’s look scant and undemanding.

Rejoice! There is a way to keep all of the fun, joy and love in Christmas without celebrating the new year with a breakdown. Trust me, would I lie to you?

Stretch the holiday out:

The main problem is that we all spend weeks, even months, rushing around, making plans, trying to make everything just perfect — and then the big morning comes and in 20 minutes and a shower of multicolored tissue paper, it’s all over.

What a letdown!

Instead, make every day a celebration. Celebrate all 12 days of Christmas.

Our family always celebrated the journey of the Advent people to the manger, where there’s a supply of hay or straw. Whenever a child does a good deed, they get to put a straw in the manger.

The journey started with shepherds and sheep on a high shelf, and the wise men came from the back bedrooms. Each day they would move a bit and we’d talk about it until finally, on Christmas Eve, they all came together at the stable.

If yours is not a religious celebration, try the Elf on the Shelf — a small figure of an elf that is moved each day to a new place for the kids to spy. Go to daysoftheyear.com and pick a holiday to celebrate, or create your own.

In our home, on Christmas Day, the children received Santa gifts, and presents from grandparents. The other presents were reserved for “days of Christmas” when they could be enjoyed.

In our house, the second day of Christmas was often a book day — everybody received books. On the third day of Christmas, you might try a trip to a play or a museum. It’s important to choose something that’s the right fit for your family.

Then, on the fourth and succeeding days, we enjoyed gifts that would have been lost in the shuffle of tissue paper. That way, you don’t lose small parts or user’s manual.

One day of Christmas can be a very small thing. Some days might be giving days. Read “The Giving Tree” by Shel Silverstein, and perhaps volunteer as a family at a food bank or a mission.

Finally, on the 12th day of Christmas, we lit the lights one last time, and each enjoyed one last gift that we unwrapped one at a time and admired. This way, we had time for songs and stories, trips to parks and museums, an opportunity for creating lasting family traditions.

Create your own support group.

Humorist Patt Schwab reminds us that not everyone is part of a traditional family. She suggests creating your own Christmas support group, which will get together to celebrate.

Her group has a craft night where they make special ornaments from found objects for their own celebration. She shared light switch plates covered with pieces of broken jewelry, so that they’ll sparkle when the light comes on.

The important thing is to do something together, and then have something to carry home so the celebration continues.

Give yourself a gift of love.

Someone said, “Those ideas are very nice, but what if you don’t have a family to move the nativity set around with?” In that event, try this. Make yourself a gift of love. You do it this way:

Find a sturdy box. Wrap it in Christmas paper. Make it pretty. Cut a slit in the top just like a valentine box. Beside it, place a pencil and some slips of paper.

Every time you see evidence of the Christmas spirit — something you read or heard that speaks to your heart, or when a friend does something special, or you see a TV program that makes you laugh — clip it out or write it down and put it in the box.

Whenever you feel down, or sorry for yourself, reach in and pull out just a slip or two and read.

We do all receive many gifts every day, but often we allow them to pass unnoticed. On Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, settle down and give yourself plenty of time to enjoy everything in the box. See how rich you really are.

When traditions end, start over with something different.

Don’t try to do what you’ve always done. Sometimes it happens that during the year, a loved one has been lost, and suddenly the traditions can’t work any more.

In our family, we’d spent years creating the perfect Christmas. My husband played the organ and we had a procession to bring the Holy Baby to the manger. We’d sing and he read the prayer at the Advent wreath.

So the Christmas after he died, we simply didn’t know how to celebrate Christmas without him. We went to an earlier Mass, and had dinner out at a nice restaurant. That didn’t work.

The next year, we went to the children’s Mass, ordered pizza and watched “Raiders of the Lost Ark.” That was better. It took awhile, but eventually the right celebration will emerge.

Dorothy Wilhelm is a professional speaker and writer. Follow Dorothy’s blog at itsnevertoolate.com. Contact her at P.O. Box 881, DuPont WA, 98327. Phone 800-548-9264, email Dorothy@itsnevertoolate. com.

‘24 Days to Christmas’

Email Dorothy@itsnevertoolate.com to receive a free copy of “24 Days to Christmas,” an e-publication that lists two dozen ideas for family fun and celebration during the Christmas season.