Whether your reason for celebrating is spiritual, secular, or a combination of both, the holidays can be a stressful time.  At this time of the year many of us feel compelled to add so many extra things to our already hectic lives, that if we aren’t careful we will crash and burn on the altar of family traditions and holiday cheer.

Now before anyone gets the idea that I am a scrooge or something, I am not. I love traditions, and the winter holidays are among my favorite, but I have lived the life of the stressed out the Mom who has tried to do everything that could be done to keep up family traditions, while trying to make sure the children had the best winter break possible.

And I’m here to declare that…     It Is Not Worth It!

christmas-1046068_640When I was growing up our traditions consisted of an advent calendar that we kids took turns participating in, counting down the days until Christmas. We always had a real tree for Christmas, and when we were younger our Father would take us out together to pick one out and cut it down ourselves, each of us taking a turn with the saw. We baked Christmas cookies and fruit breads to enjoy and to share with others. Our parents had several Christmas records that they would play for us to enjoy and of course there was Christmas morning with everyone in their PJs gathered around to open gifts and enjoy a special holiday breakfast, which would not have been complete without the holiday sweet roll made every year by my Aunt for each household in the family circle.

When I married, I transplanted my life to Pennsylvania, to a life too far away from our families to easily keep up those well-worn traditions, so we had to start some of our own.

It started out small, with our making our own Christmas cards to keep everyone updated on what our growing family had been up to that year. One of us would design the card, and being the writer in the family I would compose a holiday poem to go in it, a different poem for every year. After a few years, as our circle of friends increased, we started hosting an annual open house on an evening between Christmas and New Year’s Eve.

There would be plenty of homemade treats, with a Christmas movie for the children and mingling and conversation for the adults.  As the children became involved in more and more things however, it became increasingly difficult to continue the traditions we had begun, but I was determined not to let anything slide.

All of my children are artsy, but it was our two oldest daughter’s penchant for dance that really began to complicate our holidays.

The Nutcracker Ballet is at once both wonderful and terrible for those involved in its production.  We have been involved in this family favorite for 14 years, with one year standing out in my mind as being particularly crazy.  Our oldest daughter had been cast in the lead role of the Snow Queen, while our second oldest had several parts to dance in multiple scenes. Our two older boys were also in the production playing non dance roles in the party scene.  

ballet-335493_640After two and a half grueling months of rehearsals, costume fittings for the girls, making costumes for the boys, and a steady stream of fundraisers, it was a relief to finally go to the show.

It was a wonderful production, and I was very moved by my graceful daughter’s beautiful Pas de Duex with the Snow King. Indeed I was proud of all of them. Both of our girls are gifted dancers, and they had all worked so hard, but now I was faced with the reality that every spare moment had been spent preparing for this event and we had less than a week to prepare for Christmas.

Sadly the stress took its toll, and little by little our Christmas traditions began to unravel under the weight of too many good things, until there was little joy or celebration left.

It was a hard lesson learned, and a few years ago we sat down as a family and talked over how we could simplify our lives a bit, not just at the holidays, but throughout the year so that we wouldn’t be so burned out and on edge all of the time.

It turns out we were stuck in what might be called

The Good, Better, Best Syndrome.

All of the things we were doing were good things, but not everything was best for our family in that time and place.

So we decided to work things out on a priority basis, weeding out activities that were taking more time than we wanted to give when set in the balance of what they gave in return.

christmas-cookies-1042540_640Now the only Christmas traditions that we try to do every year are a Christmas Card / Letter, decorating the house, and having a special meal with everyone’s favorite holiday foods. We have other traditions like dusting off my guitar and taking the family out Christmas Caroling, making Christmas cookies, visiting my daughter in New York City, or going to the Washington D.C. Temple that we still participate in, but instead of doing all of them every year we stagger them, some one year others the next. That way we still have those good times together without the burnout and exhaustion that comes with trying to do too much.

There are other ways to relax and enjoy the holidays that you might want to consider as well.

If you have the option, sipping spiced cider or hot cocoa while relaxing together in front of a cozy fire in the fireplace is a great way to be together. We aren’t lucky enough to have a fireplace, but we do have a space heater that is made to look like a wood burning stove. It gives off a nice glow and is a pretty good substitute.

Taking those warm comfort drinks into the dining or family room to play games together is another way to relax and enjoy the holidays. And if you do find yourself feeling a bit edgy or worn out, essential oils in a diffuser, or even a little bit dabbed on your wrists can be the perfect pick me up.

To read more of Denise's articles, click here.

To read more of Denise’s articles, click here.

At our house we like to diffuse them into the air and some of our favorite scents for relaxation are Lavender, Cassia, Sandalwood, and Lemon.

The holidays are a time for joy and celebration, the perfect opportunity to spend time with those you love. So take a moment and put life into a slower gear. Pour a cup of something warm and delicious and bask in the simplicity of it.


                              Hot Spiced Cider

2 quarts Cider                                                                      I Cup Orange Juice

¼ Cup real Maple Syrup                                                    12 whole Cloves

6 whole Allspice                                                                  4 Cinnamon Sticks


Combine the cider, syrup and spices in a large saucepan

Heat slowly until it reaches the boiling point.

Boil for 3 to 5 minutes to allow the spices to incorporate in the liquid

Strain to remove the spices and serve hot with orange slices for garnish

**While the word of wisdom gives us basic guidelines for health, it leaves the interpretation of those guideline up to the individual members. This blog is not intended to replace your medical professional or the divine revelation of the Word of Wisdom, but rather it is practical knowledge that I have accumulated over the years in my own pursuit of a healthier lifestyle which I am passing along in the hopes that it will benefit others.**

About Denise Mastrocola
Denise is a Michigander turned Pennsylvanian, who has been writing stories since Elementary School. Denise won an award at the annual Lansing Youth Talent Show, when she was in 10th grade, for a short story entitled Procrastination is Fatal, but didn’t decide on writing as a career until she was 28 years old. While homeschooling her older children she spent 4 years working through a course from The Institute of Children’s Literature. Through the years Denise’s children have had a variety of health issues, many of which have been linked to various sensitives; having spent more than 20 years researching and trying different things Denise has a boots on the ground view on healthier living. Denise currently writes for 2 blogs and has several books in different stages of completion. She is planning to break ground in e publishing, and hopes to have her first Historical Fantasy book which is set during the renaissance, “Lisa, My Lisa?” ready by the first of the year.

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