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  • Writer's pictureDeb


Wanting the perfect family experience is wonderful. But … whether you’re wanting a holiday season filled with Santa and reindeer fun or one filled with meaningful religious activities, burnout can become a problem regardless of your best intentions.

So, how do you choose what to do? And, what do you do if you’re already starting to feel holiday burnout?

I was lucky to grow up in a very laid-back family. Here are some tips I learned from my family and other tips I discovered through raising my own children that help me avoid holiday burnout:

Don’t worry about Christmas cards.

Among my brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles, some send out Christmas cards and others don’t. We all enjoy receiving Christmas cards and newsletters, but we don’t worry about who sends or doesn’t send Christmas cards.

I finally went to writing a digital Christmas newsletter and emailing it to my relatives in a group email. One year, a Christmas newsletter didn't even get sent. My family still loves me.

Enlist your kids’ help whenever possible.

It makes the whole holiday more special and less stressful when everyone’s involved. To me, baking Christmas cookies is much more fun with kids or grandkids, a Christmas meal is more enjoyable when we’re working together in the kitchen, and decorating is better without a doubt when done as a family activity.

I remember family gatherings growing up as being a stress-free time of daughters and daughters-in-law bringing dishes for the family gatherings and mothers and those same daughters and daughters-in-law working together to create a feast.

Don’t worry about having the best decorations.

As lovely as holiday decorations can be, don’t worry about having the best ones. I have a tree with a hodgepodge of ornaments that are meaningful to our family and a number of simple decorations. I make sure the house looks pretty and Christmassy, but that’s it.

The point is that it really doesn’t matter if the decorations are perfect every year … or ever. It does matter that I love decorating with my kids (and now my grandkids)!

Decide which traditions are essential, and don’t worry about the rest.

When my kids, Will and Chrissy, were growing up, our traditions for Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Eve, and Christmas Day were fairly uniform. I tried to keep those no matter what. All the other wonderful pre-Christmas and Christmas activities we could choose from varied a little or a lot from year to year.

The fact that we could vary our Advent activities gave us the ability to enjoy more activities over a few years than we probably would have otherwise. It also helped me enjoy the holidays more. I didn’t have so many “shoulds” – just things I loved doing with my family. And we could choose what we wanted to do each year. If there’s something you’d like to do but don’t have the time or energy for this year, it’s fine to save it until next year.

Choose some activities that are fun and relaxing for you that will create wonderful memories for your family.

For us, reading together and watching movies together were always some of our very favorite activities. Reading a Christmas book each day was simply a fun and relaxing activity for me. So it was easy for me to read a Christmas book each day in December.

We also loved watching Christmas movies throughout the holiday season. That again was fun and relaxing. At the same time, it created many happy memories and a wonderful Christmas tradition.

We also enjoyed an Advent wreath and calendar. I love the idea of handmade ones, but we purchased ours together … and that worked for us. It still felt like we experienced the beauty of Advent and Christmas through our activities without worrying about having the perfect activity.

If you’re planning to buy gifts but find crowds stressful, shop online.

I don’t buy a lot of Christmas gifts. My family had a tradition of drawing names so that gifts weren’t expected for everyone. Now, I do most of my shopping online. When Will and Chrissy were growing up, there wasn’t an online, so I did a lot of shopping through catalogs like my mother always did. When Will and Chrissy were growing up, it was fun to go Christmas shopping together … so we always did some of that.

Find your own rhythm with activities like shopping, card sending, and baking.

I’m never the first one finished sending Christmas cards, buying gifts, or baking Christmas goodies. If you enjoy Christmas more by having everything completed early, then that’s what you should do. It’ll be less stressful for you.

But if you’re like me, you have to be surrounded by the Christmas season for a while before you feel ready. And that’s alright, too. And, sometimes, things just don’t get done.

There were years when we said after Christmas, “Gee, I guess we didn’t make our pressed cookies this year. Maybe we can make them for Valentine’s Day.” I don’t think it made Christmas any less special – and it was certainly more special to not be stressed out over Christmas baking.

Don’t worry if your Christmas schedule doesn’t follow the calendar.

We loved using an Advent calendar, but we were sometimes at a big skating competition in early December. Then we missed days of opening our Advent calendar doors while we were at the competition and opened a number of doors when we returned home.

We might celebrate St. Nicholas Day on the 10th of December and just talk about the fact that St. Nicholas Day was on December 6. Surprisingly, changing our calendar didn’t make the events less special.

If you feel overwhelmed or don’t have enough time for a tradition, discuss it with your family.

You’ll probably be surprised at how accommodating your family can be. If I didn’t have the time or energy for an activity we had done before, we just had a family discussion. Will and Chrissy usually said it was fine with them to skip it that year. When we did the activity again another year, we all appreciated it more.

Take time for yourself.

Take time to rejuvenate yourself, even if it’s only 5 to 30 minutes. I think that’s more important during the holiday season than ever. And exercise will help you feel better, too. I always find I feel happiest, healthiest, and sleep best by keeping my normal exercise routine no matter how busy I am.

So. It's okay to step back. Find your rhythm. Make whatever changes you need to feel happiness rather than stress this holiday season.

Living Montessori Now Blog

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Hundreds of December Holiday Activities for Kids (Just choose the ones you feel drawn to do, or have your kids help you choose.)

Free Winter Playdough Math Pack (with links to free playdough math packs for each season)

Free Decorate Do-a-Dot Phonics Printable (and a gallery of free do-a-dot printables – at least one for each letter of the alphabet)

Free Gingerbread Cutting Strips (and a gallery of free, themed cutting strips)

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Deb Chitwood is a certified Montessori teacher with a master’s degree in Early Childhood Studies. She was a Montessori teacher and Montessori school owner before homeschooling her two children through high school. Deb is now a Montessori grandma and author who blogs at and She designs printables with her daughter, Christina Chitwood-Parkin.



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