Simple Reminders for the Holiday Season

Simple Reminders for the Holidays

I love this time of year. I’ve always been the girl who unabashedly starts listening to Christmas music in November, sings while walking down the street by myself (even if strangers give me funny looks), watches the same movies over and over again, and feels like a kid on Christmas Eve and morning. I’ve filled three mugs with hot chocolate and taken my brother and sister on a tour of displays since they were kids. And I still marvel at how a single string of white lights can warm up a room.

Now in saying all of that, I will still admit that the holidays don’t feel quite the same as they used to. As a family, we’re trying to figure out what our new traditions are, and I imagine it’s going to be a little different each year now that we’re older, my parents aren’t together and we won’t all be in Victoria. The fact that we no longer exchange gifts actually helps, as it takes a lot of pressure off and makes the holidays so much more meaningful for us all. But it still takes a little more effort to feel the same spirit I used to.

So when Laura asked if I’d consider writing something about the upcoming holiday season, my first response was no. But the more I thought about it, I realized that most people feel some amount of stress this time of year. While you might not be able to relate to mine, specifically, I can appreciate the chaos and anxiety that gets stirred up by all the shopping, spending, parties and obligations. It’s not always as easy as some people make it look. If anything, we should help ease the stress from one another.

If that sounds like what you need, here are a few simple reminders for the holidays:

  1. You’re allowed to shop and give gifts – just don’t let that be the core of what your holidays revolve around.
  2. Spend your money mindfully – that means knowing what you’re buying, how much you’re spending and, most importantly, why.
  3. You don’t need to buy kids stacks upon stacks of gifts. When I look back at my childhood, there are only a few gifts that I even remember receiving. And at the end of the big day, I only went to bed with one: the new books.
  4. Your presence is the best present.
  5. The second best present is making someone laugh.
  6. Play and have fun! Centre the holidays around artwork, games, movies, music, light tours, etc.
  7. It doesn’t have to look perfect to be perfect. Your home doesn’t need to be decorated a certain way and gifts don’t need a certain wrapping paper or bow. Your home is a home; it is meant to be lived in and loved in. How it looks shouldn’t represent you or how you treat the people inside it.
  8. The mess you make in your home – in the kitchen, around the table, under the tree, etc. – is one of the best messes you’ll make all year. Don’t clean it up too soon.
  9. Eat and drink mindfully – that means enjoying some of the goodies in front of you, but continuing to make the good decisions you make every other day of the year.
  10. Remember the holidays aren’t a happy time for everyone. As Garrett suggested last week, try to bring gratitude and compassion into every interaction you have.
  11. If the holidays aren’t a happy time for you personally, please reach out to someone. A friend. A family member. A stranger. Ask for their company, for a hug, for an ear to listen, or for whatever else you might need. Humans are hardwired to help, and connection is the best way we can do that. <3
  12. Try to see every challenge as an opportunity to spread the holiday spirit. Like Kara said, throw kindness around like confetti.
  13. Open doors for others. This is the simplest thing you can do, but is extra helpful this time of year.
  14. Tell someone how you feel about them. I wish I could remember who said it, but I recently heard someone on a podcast describe how her father wrote her a letter expressing all the things he was proud of her for each Christmas. That’s a tradition I need in my life, and I think I’ll start it with a few friends this year.
  15. Slow down. Linger in bed for a few extra minutes. Chew a little longer. Walk a little slower. And for goodness’ sake, don’t speed on the road.
  16. Remember that it’s ok to say “no”. The holidays can be stressful enough without a full calendar. It’s ok to take some downtime for yourself and your family.
  17. Do what you can with what you have – in all areas of your life.
  18. Don’t compare your gifts or traditions to anyone else’s.
  19. Accept the holidays for what they are, not what they should be.
  20. When in doubt, go outside.


  • What a wonderful reminder for the holiday season! If we were all more gentle with ourselves and others, we could truly enjoy this time of year!

  • These points are so important for me to read, this year more than ever. Like you, I’m a big Christmas lover, but this year we’re “not doing Christmas” in our home. We’re renovating and getting our house ready to sell, so there’s no extra money for gifts, and no space for decorating. It’s my son’s second Christmas and this makes me so sad. But you’re right, there are so many other aspects to focus on! Thank you :)

    • I would imagine it’s actually a blessing that it’s only his second Christmas then, Klara – easier to do things in an untraditional way without him thinking there’s anything strange about it! Plus, if it’s possible, a string of lights can go a long way. :)

  • Beautiful reminders. With two little kids, the holidays are so much fun but also so tiring! Simply acknowledging this and not feeling like I need to “have it together” at all times is very freeing.

    This year we are excited to take the kids to fun holiday events, but also trying to find ways for them to serve others. We are also planning a trip to a local nursing home to hand out cookies and visit with the residents. And I’m trying to find out if I can take my older one (he’s five) to help at a “Christmas shop” for low-income kids who have earned “dollars” through an after school program. Kids are so inclined to think the holidays are all about them giving gifts, and we want to show them that it’s more, although I think it’ll take years for that to actually sink in!

    • Your plans sound wonderful, Kalie – and I imagine those *will* be the things they remember about the holiday season. And if you do it every year, it’s tradition. :)

  • I completely identify with the struggle to create new traditions. It’s our first Christmas in our home and we’re trying to figure out what we like to do for the holidays. We set up our first Christmas tree while listening to Christmas music, so that was really exciting!

    Thanks for these little reminders. It’s so easy to get caught up in unnecessary stress during the holidays. They’re designed to be a time to appreciate the people in your life–not giving the most elaborate gifts!

    • Setting up the tree will always be my favourite part. I usually turn on the 1964 version of Rudolph. <3

  • Isn’t it amazing how the glow of lights changes the feeling of the room?! As I was walking through my house last night, I began to wonder how I could replicate that feeling of warmth beyond the holidays. It just feels so good.

    Great, great list! Giving the gift of your time is the best gift of all, in my opinion.

  • Thanks for a nice list Cait
    Your recent them of kindness and gratitude is carried through in this list and to me is the most important thing we can focus on. As for Christmas itself, it has been tough since we moved out west and we are on our own with no family but we just make the most of it.
    As for lights, Ladysmith is all lit up now !! Yay

    • I was about to say “but at least you have each other”… and then I realized I needed that same reminder for myself. I definitely need to come up and see those lights! :)

  • And, even if your budget is tight around this time of year, you can still give of your time by volunteering. No special skills required.

  • The remember to say no I find especially important. Having young kids everyone wants to see them around the holidays. It can quickly become weeks upon weeks of family gatherings. It’s good to see family but after awhile it becomes emotionally draining. Thanks for the reminder.

    • You’re most welcome! And you certainly don’t need anyone’s permission to say no. If you don’t have the energy, don’t do it – or suggest something easier, like for people to pop-by rather than you have to go out.

  • Wise words. And so true- just hanging up our stockings has filled our apartment with warmth. I love Christmas but this is an off one for us. From the bittersweet emotions around my oldest son no longer believeing in Santa for the first time, to my parents aging and new difficulties arising, to fighting with family over politics and the feelings of general instability in the aftermath of the election. We are trying to focus on keeping everything in check, from spiraling out into holiday madness. The hustle and bustle can be fun in the right situation, but sometimes it the quiet and the solemnity of the season that you yearn for most.

  • I love Thanksgiving more than Christmas because it’s about people rather than presents, but it’s still pretty awesome to see all my family together just a month apart. Maybe we can create a major holiday every month– we’ll see our loved ones, and it will be less stressful because we’ll be more familiar with each other and there’s less pressure. If we make a mess of it we can try again soon instead of waiting a whole year.

  • Absolutely true, thanks for this list, in the years I started to appreciate and enjoy a lot little things….however I love Christmas because Christmas light in town give a magic touch to everything:D

  • LOVE this list Cait. It came at just the right time for me. Trying to get my Christmas shopping done; mostly online because I hate shopping in stores. I have decided that if I’m not sure of what to get someone for Christmas, then they will get a gift card. Then they have the choice. My family and friends that we exchange gifts with spend low amounts so we don’t have any Joneses to keep up with. I’m not going crazy with gifts for my kids. My youngest daughter is 11 and has a birthday in early January so there’s added pressure there. But I’m not buying them gifts just for the sake of having lots of stuff under the tree. As long as the tree is decorated and we are all under one roof, that’s all I want for our family of four. I have all I need. Our oldest daughter (15) who suffers from social anxiety is doing wonderful. She is in grade 10 and has to do Drama as one of her courses this year. In September; I still remember the look on her face; we thought we would have to take her out of it. She couldn’t speak in front of her class of just 10. We promised her a cell phone for Christmas(no she doesn’t have one yet. LOL) if she would just try it for a while. At our Remembrance Day assembly the Drama class took part, and she said her part in front of 200 people! First term report cards are out tomorrow, but I already know that she has a mark of 81 in Drama!! Oh yes, she is getting that phone! (It’s in my dresser drawer. Shhh.) I agree with all 20 holiday reminders. We love driving around looking at Christmas lights and try to watch The Polar Express every year. Even though our kids are getting tired of it. LOL My most favourite movie ever is “You’ve Got Mail.” It has everything you need. Tom Hanks, Meg Ryan, bookstores, Christmas, hope, and love. And remember…The magic of Christmas lies in your heart… ❤

    • So many beautiful reminders in this comment, Shelly! But the image of your daughter reciting something in front of 200 people made me smile the most. That must have been such a wonderful sight to see as her mother. <3

  • As always, Cait, your posts and insights are just what we all need and look forward to. Thank you for the list of reminders as the holiday season rapidly approaches. Thank you especially for reminding us of what matters most – that the holidays are really about the people we care most about. It can be so stressful in terms of all of the expectations and the consumerism – so, your list is just what I need to keep me focused. Happy holidays!

  • Dear Cait

    I love the way your writing improved so much and keeps me connected to your thoughts!
    I would love to interview you for a free Portuguese digital magazine about minimalism and simplicity. Would you be able to to it? It can be everything written. I will translate to Portuguese afterwards.
    Have a wonderful day and thank you for this Christmas reminder!

  • Long ago, I learned the hard way that the holiday family “get together” didn’t need to look like it came out of a magazine shoot. The family holiday needed to “feel” that way. I don’t always “follow my advise;” but I do try. Great reminders!!

  • No 11 reminded me our church had a “blue Christmas” service for those who were feeling low. I didn’t attend but the fact it exists is reassuring.

Comments are closed.