There it was, the first sign of Christmas — a billboard advertising where to buy your ham, turkey and prawns for this coming festive season. Instantly, the feeling flooded in, and it wasn’t euphoria like I expected. It was hustle folded into its own kind of Christmas feeling, the one that instantly accelerates that beloved stress release to make us sure we feel unprepared, while running through mental lists of all we have to do, buy, cook, plan, wrap, host, make, celebrate and organise. The December hustle: It’s awful. The older I get, the more I make deliberate steps to remove myself from the pressure and rushing the season brings.
For those who have been reading along here for a little while, you know I take Christmas to the moon. I love it, and that love has me constantly reevaluating exactly how it is I want this heavenly time of year to feel for me and my family. Years ago I was all in for all the things and inevitably, I ended up on Christmas Day feeling like everyone else felt on Christmas Day: Exhausted and wired. I did all the things because everybody else did them, and because I’d be less-than if I didn’t do them, too. Now, I consciously carve out an approach that allows me to find more soul during the season, and to create slow, meaningfulness that flows on to how our family celebrates this time of year.
Here are 10 ways to help make your December slower, more soothing and more soulful.
1. First of all, like always, I highly recommend music! Music is so transformative. Last year I had Tracy Chapman’s “O Holy Night” on repeat almost every night and it instantly transported me into another world. I put together this playlist a couple of days ago and it will be our December soundtrack this year as we go about our days and nights together. Slow, soulful hymns and devotionals that connect me to a God I can believe in, soothing me in a way that makes me feel exactly the kind of peaceful and reverent this time of year should. Feel free to play it in your home as well! O Holy Night is my absolute favourite Christmas song, hence the three different (and all very different) versions in the playlist.
2. Use candles. I always get a couple of beeswax candle kits for one of our day’s advent activities – it’s so easy for kids to do and the glow of a candle during the day, or a table filled with them during dinner instantly transforms the experience to something a little more soulful, a little more reverent.
3. Organise in November. In November, I buy all our presents, spend time brainstorming and getting together advent ideas, table settings, outfits, party details and menu plans, so we can then spend December enjoying it all, rather than racing around getting supplies, buying gifts and generally battling all the rushy, shopping crowds. No, thanks.
4. Speaking of shopping: Online ALL. THE. WAY. Aren’t shopping centres so agitating? I can barely stand them anymore, and this year, about 80% of our gifts and supplies are being purchased online, while I listen to my O Holy Night playlist, sip spiced tea and burn my balsam fir candle. No hustle. No loud music. No bombardment making me feel like I need to buy all the things. I make a list of all the people we gift at Christmas, spend time thinking about meaningful and thoughtful gifts for them, then hop straight online to purchase that specific thing. Cuts out a lot of the stressful consumerism already rife this time of year. (I have put together some sweet, meaningful gift guides for little ones and I’ll share them next week if you’re in need of some inspiration.)
5. Create some soul space in your home — Some kind of soothing nook, or peaceful, quiet ritual that will slow you down. For example, try waking earlier than your family in the morning to sit by the tree with a coffee, listen to soft music, or read poetry or a soulful book. I often do this in December since the sun rises at the most ungodly hour. I’m awake anyway, so I get up and use the time to sit in the quiet and ground myself before the day begins. At night, you can dim all the lights, light a bunch of candles, switch off the television and do the same.
6. Spend time brainstorming meaningful ways you and your family like to spend the festive season, specifically slow things you can do at home, and use that as a base for what you lock in or commit to. Crafts, Christmas puzzles, hot chocolate and movie nights, baking, writing Christmas cards — there is plenty you can do together at home that keeps everyone bonding and encourages that calm, slow, cozy Christmas mood.
7. Which bring us to the social side of Christmas. Don’t fall into trap of committing to all these social engagements just because there is stacks on, and every woman and her cat are exclaiming, “We need to catch up before Christmas!” Work drinks, mum’s nights out, Christmas parties, there are so many things we feel pressure to go to. However: IT’S FINE TO SAY NO. It’s fine to know your limits. You don’t need to go to everything you’re invited to.
8. Only do what you enjoy. This goes for social things as well as those Christmas activities we feel pressure to do like baking and crafts, Elf on the Shelf and party hosting. If you genuinely like to do these things, great, take it to the moon and suck the very last bit of joy from it, but if you don’t – you won’t be “failing Christmas” if you leave them behind. Do not worry one little inch what other people are doing. You do you.
9. Avoid crowds. This goes without saying, right? Over the years we’ve stopped doing things that are just swamped with people, feel frantic, and take away from the peaceful joy we’re trying to cultivate. We don’t go to Santaland anymore since it turned into a screaming, chaotic mess of technology. (Nothing says Christmas like a hundred kids playing with nerf guns and playstations, O SANTALAND WHAT HAPPENED TO YOU?) I love my people at Christmas, but other people? Can I say no?
10. Make your home a haven. Visually, things feel more soothing when spaces are clutter-free and beautiful. Be mindful with your Christmas decorating. You might want to put out and drape all the things and of course, everyone’s taste is different, but perhaps keeping it simple and erring to the side of less (says she who is Mrs Extra) is better. I use mostly greenery, wicker and twinkle lights to create that cosy Christmas feel I love, and even though I make every room festive, from our bedrooms to the kitchen, I still aim to keep it soothing for my senses to take in.
Happy Christmas planning!