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  • Writer's pictureLynn Denton

Smooth Sailing Through the Holiday Season

We are embarking on that six-week period of the year that we seem to look forward to…..and can be apprehensive about…..all at the same time.

What do we look forward to? Celebrations, parties, time with family, dressing up, lots of good food, a busy schedule, shopping……

And what do we greet with anticipation? Perhaps that very same list.

Much of the challenge around the holiday season comes from living up to our own expectations of how things should be. And/or the expectations of others, and the PERCEIVED expectations of others. How do we make our kids happy, our parents happy, our mates happy, and…….ourselves happy…. all at the same time? It’s a tall order.

So if we can’t be everything to everyone, how can we balance things so that we come out of the holiday season reasonably satisfied and fulfilled?


One of the big potential drains of this season is trying to do for others, based on the expectations we THINK they have. Like cooking certain foods, or going to the Nutcracker each December. Sometimes after a lengthy outing, or a day spent in the kitchen, we come to realize that this is not what our family or friends want. By sitting down with your (kids, families, spouses, parents, friends) and ASKING them what they want, and stating what you want……some old traditions might go by the wayside, and some new ideas might be tried. Or you will get confirmation that an old tradition is still worth the time and energy. It doesn’t hurt to ask, and frustration that can turn into sadness can be avoided.


When we get together with relatives, old patterns of behavior, as well as old expectations emerge. Actually, sometimes we think those expectations are there……and we act accordingly, but of course, they might not be. Again, communication…..a well placed, calm, non-accusatory question to confirm expectations can go a long way. A new tradition, such as all the kids being assigned a small task in the kitchen, can be fun as well as help to reduce the work load. “Mandatory” game time after dinner….can get everyone off their electronic devices for an hour and interacting…..and involved in a family game of Apples to Apples, Taboo, Charades or your family favorite.


What is it about holiday parties that create such a high expectation? There is something about the magic of holiday parties that we expect they will be out of the realm of normal……and sometimes that results in disappointment. It’s really about setting expectations more reasonably. What will make a gathering you attend a success for you? Seeing one or two old friends and having a few quality conversations? Seeing lots of people for a few quick words to catch up? Indulging in a favorite dish the host cooks every year? Communicating with your spouse/partner in advance about how long you might want to stay? By thinking in advance about expectations are can help you to come away more satisfied.


Here’s an idea for something fun and easy to do at home. Take a festive bowl and set it on the kitchen table. Put a sign on it called “Bowl of Fun.” Take slips of paper……one color for “stay at home” activities, and another color for “go out” activities, and write various activities on the slips, fold them up and place them in the bowl. Home activities can include: making “real” popcorn on the stove and watching a holiday movie, baking cookies, or inviting some friends over to make individual pizzas. Going out activities might be visiting the Zoo lights, seeing the downtown holiday windows with hot chocolate in hand, the winter display at the Botanic Garden, dim sum in Chinatown, and volunteering at a soup kitchen. Every few days, have someone at home pick out an activity and do it! Yes, there might be some groaning..…but there will likely be a lot of laughing too!

SO… to help insure smooth sailing for the holiday season? It is likely in the simple things – time with people we enjoy, good food that hasn’t taken all day to make, time outside to enjoy the out-of-doors, a musical event or a play, a good movie or book. And some good, basic, authentic communication to help insure that everyone is on the same page. HAPPY HOLIDAYS!

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