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  • Writer's pictureSarah VanderMeiden

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year?

Updated: May 2, 2023

A wreath made of pine cones and decorated with a red ribbon sits on a light green chair in front of a red background.

It's the most wonderful time of the year!

Playing in the snow. Meals by candlelight. Holiday parties complete with swanky, sparkly dresses. The Nutcracker. Finding that perfect gift - on sale! The classic, adorable photoshoot with Santa - and bonus - only had to wait 5 minutes in line! A REAL tree, perfectly decorated. The heavenly scent of baked goodies. Snowflakes. Sprinkles. Sparkles.

Cut to the news story of the latest brawl in aisle 10. The woman devoting her entire savings and only days off to a dreaded trip home for Thanksgiving to visit people who never bother to call her during the rest of the year. People spending money they don’t have on gifts that may or may not be appreciated. Regrets over too much to eat, too much to drink and what was said after having too much to drink. Running on fumes as you finish the decorating, the shopping, the wrapping, the cooking, the baking. Stress. Screaming matches. Silent treatments.

Happy Holidays!


It’s hard to understand how a season that proclaims joy to the world finds so many experiencing such misery.

Sometimes I find myself wondering how many of us actually live the holiday fairy tale portrayed in the commercials: The perfectly decorated home, the warm family gatherings, the true spirit of the holiday season. Personally, I have experienced way too many holidays that were, quite frankly, a much different kind of fairy tale - a charade that, for a little while, masked the dysfunction, conflict and lack of joy in the family system my father brought into my life after my parents’ marriage fell apart.

Maybe you’ve got it all figured out and experience the holidays of your dreams in the spirit of true joy. If so, I say good for you!!

But if you are someone who drags themselves through holiday traditions with a smile on your face while silent screaming how much you hate the stress, the expense, the insanity, the feeling of obligation - I see you. And yes, you are a real trooper and I commend your dedication.

But I have to ask, dear reader, if you feel this way….why are you doing it?

Now that I am all grown up and have a family of my own, I find myself in the wonderful position of being able to more closely create the holiday of MY dreams. Of course, I am not the only one in the picture here so I don’t necessarily get to have everything I want (which, by the way, involves traveling to a tropical location to spend time together, sans gifts) but I have spent quite a bit of time thinking and talking with my spouse about what is important to us and our family all year round and then translating these values to our holiday celebrations.

So, if you are interested in leaving the insanity behind to create the holidays of your dreams, I have a few questions for you to consider. Grab your favorite hot beverage, cozy up in a quiet spot and treat yourself to some time to reflect.

First, what are your values? What is really important to you? What matters - not just during the holiday season but all year long?

Next - What is your purpose for the holidays? Is it to observe and celebrate religious and cultural traditions? To spend time with cherished family and friends? To shower gifts upon those special to you? To express your artistic or culinary creativity? To enjoy some well-deserved time off? If “all of the above” is your answer, selecting one or two as priorities may help bring more focus, and joy, to your holidays.

Once you’ve clarified your values and purpose connected to the holidays, its time to consider expectations of your family and friends. Perhaps you’re ready to ditch the gift exchange while your spouse thinks it’s all about the presents. Is there room to negotiate on the number of gifts exchanged? Maybe you’re willing to give in on the gifts but only if there is agreement on dialing back the decorating. Don’t hesitate to have these conversations and negotiate to where everyone is somewhat satisfied or maybe even consider relinquishing your dreaded holiday responsibility to the family member who wants to keep that particular tradition alive.

Another question to consider is what do YOU really want? Are the holiday traditions you pursue what YOU want or do they just seem like a good idea? True confession time here - years ago, I had a friend who devoted herself to needlepointing gorgeous Christmas stockings for each of her children. She spent hours upon hours and many late nights to be sure the stocking for her most recent arrival was complete in time for Christmas. So when I had my daughter, I just HAD to go hunting for the perfect needlepoint Christmas stocking kit. I got as far as sorting out the yarn. And there it sits…10 years later! I stopped beating myself up over this several years ago.

It might be a fun and eye-opening discussion to simply ask your family “If you could create the holiday season of your dreams, what would it look like?” You may be surprised to discover that a time-consuming holiday tradition you simply don’t like doing isn’t really noticed or appreciated by your family anyway.

I want to give you a healthy dose of perspective with this next question. What completely stresses you out during the holiday season? Friends, life is precious and we only get so much of it. If something is stressing you out that much, is it really worth giving it your energy and attention?

Finally, dear reader, what would bring you true joy this holiday season? Your answer might be a great place to start when considering how to focus your time, energy and attention.

When it comes to the holiday season, taking steps to maximize our joy and minimize our stress can truly make it the most wonderful time of the year! Warm wishes to all for a happy and blessed holiday season!

Has this article motivated you to reduce your stress and increase joy in your life? Take that first step - Contact Sarah to arrange your free consultation!

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