This website is called Lifehack, right? Tips for Life. Well, let me share the best principle I know to hack your Christmas.

Christmas is getting very complicated: gone are the days of a family dinner and a few presents. Now, Christmas includes:

  • Family dinners (sometimes several)
  • Christmas parties (for work or service organizations)
  • Community Christmas events, like concerts, parades and fundraisers
  • Children’s Christmas events, like concerts or visiting Santa
  • Church/Religious events (concerts, special services, etc)
  • Travelling for family/social events (driving or flying)
  • Taking a Christmas vacation (usually somewhere warm)
  • Giving gifts to close family
  • Giving gifts to others
  • Holiday decorating
  • Holiday baking or special cooking
  • Socializing informally with friends
  • Special entertainment events
  • … all the organizing the above events/activities
  • … all the legwork for the above events/activites

Of course, included in “giving gifts to close family” is shopping (which can take up a lot of time), and deciding on the gifts (which can be very stressful), buying (which adds money pressure) and wrapping. In fact, each item on the list above has a whole slew of complications that can arise, and I’m sure you are familiar with them all. The great part is, you can “hack” your Christmas using this principle:

Keep what you like, and ditch what you don’t.

Contrary to what you may think, you don’t have to do everything associated with Christmas. You can opt out of any part of it at any time, for any reason: for your sanity, because you are simply too busy, or because your in-laws are unpleasant, unkind people. For any reason at all, you can just decide to say no to any part you do not enjoy, find inspiring, or have time for. I know this might sound overly simple, but it really can be that straightforward. Which parts of Christmas do you like? Which aspects stress you out? What things excite you? Which parts are just plain unrealistic?

As someone who grew up without Christmas, I believe I am uniquely qualified to talk about leaving things out. The religion my parents belonged to didn’t celebrate Christmas, or any of the mainstream holidays, so I grew up without any of the trappings of the holiday season. Although I now celebrate this time of year, I am lucky that I have no baggage about what to participate in and what to leave off: I celebrate Christmas in my own unique way.

If you think you might take a little flak from others when you opt out of something, just think of me, growing up without any Christmas at all. Was I teased at school? You bet. Was I the weirdo? Big time. If you choose to opt out of a Christmas event and someone bugs you about it, at least be glad you aren’t the weirdo of the school! Let the critical person say what they want to say, listen, and ask yourself this:

  • Is this person really important to me?

If you answered *no*, then smile sweetly and say something like “well, however you choose to celebrate the holidays, I hope you have a lovely time.” Don’t debate or discuss your decision—it’s really none of their business!

If this person is *somewhat important* to you, then you may choose to elaborate a bit, giving some reasons for your decision. Don’t let their feelings influence your decision, however. You have to live your own life and make your own unique way in it.

If you answered *yes*, then you need to consider why this person is reacting so strongly/badly. Is it because:

  • they are just generally stressed out? Stop everything, and show them that you care. Reach out, give them a neck rub, offer to do something to lighten their load or simply remind them you love them.
  • they are surprised by your decision? Apologize for this coming “out of the blue” and explain why you need to simplify Christmas. Listen to what they have to say.
  • they are under stress from obligations or others’ expectations? Talk about it. Remind them that they can say “no” to things too—we always have options. Reassure them that you want to support them, but you also need to be true to yourself.
  • they have some valid points/reasons for doing the things you want to ditch?Listen. Try to put your personal biases aside and truly listen. Use this opportunity to connect more deeply with this person, and come to a compromise.

If you want to propose a major change to your Christmas schedule, it is best if you don’t shove it on your spouse/family at the last minute—that is always more stressful. Dropping a bomb on someone is not very considerate, and using the “but I gotta be me!” line is not going to go over very well then. Try to bring it up well in advance, and when there is time to discuss it further.

I offer one last caution: don’t use this as an excuse to withdraw from everything. At this darkest time of year (literally, around the winter solstice), getting together with friends is important to keep depression at bay and help the days to pass. Good luck hacking your best Christmas!

Featured photo credit:  Waiting for Christmas via Shutterstock

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