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How to make the holidays matter
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Lets fall in love with the holiday season again. Forget the One-Woman Mom Show and make the holidays more meaningful by involving family, adjusting expectations and leaving room at the inn. - photo by Connie Sokol
Although Ive loved the holiday season for many years, at one point in raising seven young children, I didnt. One September it hit me that October was soon to arrive and a sort of anxiety attack came over me.

That was it. Knowing it was time for a change in my approach, I listed, eliminated, experimented and ultimately wrote a book on how to "Simplify & Savor the Season." Here are a few tips from it that worked for me and my family and might work for yours.

1. Get the family buy-in. Make it a family experience by involving all able members from the start. We typically hold a family night in early to mid-November and make our very simple three-step Holiday Plan. The first thing is to focus on a feeling what feeling do we want to create this holiday season? Is it gratitude, joy, peace, contentment, service-mindedness? Once we figure out the feeling, then we choose the activities that create and support it.

The activities typically go in two main categories: Untouchables and Enjoyables. The first column includes our brainstormed traditions and activities that truly make our holiday experiences fulfilling. Each person gets one activity that, for him or her, meets that criteria. We know this year the service straw manger, Secret Santa and Temple Square are all on the must-dos. The second column is for those wonderful, exciting and wouldnt-that-be-fabulous activities we may or may not get to but wont feel guilty about.

2. Adjust traditions to fit family needs now. Each Christmas will be a different experience depending on financial issues, health problems or family situations. Adjust to the needs you currently have. Dont fit yourself into old traditions that could stress you out with this years dynamics. In an early married time of life, my friend shared that she and her husband gave each other homemade gifts, forgoing typical seasonal delights they would have enjoyed.

Now that our children are mostly older rather than younger, I find we prefer to read the nativity rather than act it out. We find ourselves doing more service-minded activities as well as memory-maker trips rather than gifts. Because of this some of our traditions have shifted, changed or been eliminated.

3. Leave room at the inn. When we leave space in our schedules, we find more room for spontaneous service, to be more present and discover new traditions that bless and connect us in joyful ways.

Last year by chance I saw a hideous on-clearance Santa boot. Immediately, it hit me a new tradition! We filled the boot with goodies and cash, encouraging the recipient to pay it forward in some way. This new tradition was so fun weve already purchased this years Tacky Elf Shoe (and its a whopper). Move over, Ugly Christmas Sweater competition

These are a few ideas; you likely have more of your own. Whichever way you work it, applying a few key tips can return the joy and simplicity of the season for your family.