Making the Most of Holiday Gatherings

I love this time of year, with fall in full swing, the weather crisp and cooler, the anticipation of the coming family gatherings and holiday cheer. But that doesn’t mean the holidays are not without stress or concern or just plain tiredness from all the activities. Here’s how to get through the holiday season without being overwhelmed.

Decide now what you’ll do—and what you won’t do. Figure out how much will be too much for you and for your family. For those with small children, you might want to schedule only a few outings or events with family and friends. For those with older children, you might ask their input for what they’d like to do.

Focus on making memories over checking boxes. In other words, don’t feel you “have” to do something just because it’s expected. Think more about what your family enjoys doing as a family—that’s what this time of year is really about—and put those things on your calendar.

Think about giving, rather than receiving. How can you incorporate giving back to the community, to your family, to your neighborhood, to your friends, to strangers this season? For example, we have the opportunity to host international college and graduate students for a Thanksgiving dinner prior to the actual holiday, which all of us (including our four children) enjoy doing each November.

Don’t be afraid to come late or leave early. When the kids were young, we often arrived at holiday parties on the early side, then left well before ending time in order to accommodate their sleeping schedules. By doing that, we were able to enjoy the party and not have too cranky kids on our hands.

Take time to slow down. If you feel yourself becoming exhausted or overwhelmed with your to-do list or activities on the calendar, see what you can eliminate. There’s no sense running yourself ragged just because the list says you have to. Take ownership of your time and put the brakes on when it gets to be too much.

How do you keep from becoming overwhelmed during the holidays?

7 Ways to Be Thankful at Thanksgiving

With the ever-encroaching Christmas season threatening to overshadow the humble Thanksgiving holiday, here are seven ways to recapture the true meaning of Thanksgiving.

  1. Focus on praise. Giving God praise can take the spotlight off of ourselves. Scripture commands us to praise God. Use Bible verses, such as those from Romans 5 and 8, and Ephesians 1, to prime the pump of praise.
  2. Expect things to go right. How many times do we approach Thanksgiving and Christmas thinking about all the things that could go wrong? Reorienting our thinking can make the season less stressful and more meaningful. “
  3. Write thank-you notes. Use November to write letters of thanks to those who have done something for you that you appreciated. Even children can find this activity rewarding, and you may be pleasantly surprised at what they are thankful for.
  4. Have a prayer of thanksgiving before meals. Asking God to bless our food and families might seem like a no-brainer, but can be one of the things lost in our busy days. It’s a daily reminder of our many blessings.
  5. Hold off on Christmas decorations. Don’t put up Christmas decorations until after Thanksgiving. When you pull out the holiday decorations before carving the turkey, you can be tempted to overlook Thanksgiving.
  6. Count your blessings. Even if things are less-than-ideal now, most of us have things—both big and small—for which we can give thanks. Going around the table and saying what you’re most thankful for can set the right tone going into the Christmas season.
  7. Give of yourself. Whether it’s helping out a neighbor or fellow church member in need or volunteering at a soup kitchen, serving others “makes our time more fulfilling and meaningful,” says Christie. Even if you can’t give monetarily, giving of your time can be a blessing to others during the holiday season.
Image courtesy of nongpimmy/
Image courtesy of nongpimmy/

Putting Thanksgiving in its proper place can help us to enter the Christmas season with a more joyful and relaxed attitude. We need to embrace Thanksgiving as our own, making as special and important as Christmas. We should remember that even on our worst days, most of us have more than many others in the world around us. Let’s remember to set aside some time to say thanks for those blessings.

Happy Thanksgiving!