How to Survive Christmas

How to Survive Christmas

Ice and snow were predicted for Wednesday. Yikes! If that happened, what could I do to protect myself and finish as many tasks as possible?

In our family, there are some traditions that are simply carved in stone. Family gatherings for one thing, and decorations, christmas cards, presents, and at least one but more likely several family meals. There are five family birthdays this month. Those birthday people MUST have different presents, not just their gifts from Christmas.


Decorations come first. Find them, get them out, and begin putting them around in the places where they were before. These things are not likely to be innovative. Tradition, even in this house where I live, is important. This is my third Christmas here. Already there are traditions to be maintained. I look at photos from last year to see how I did the lights, what I put on the table as a centerpiece, and how I decorated the mantels. I miss my assistant Marci every day but now I REALLY miss her. (and her organizational skills)

Tiny lights on tiny trees decorate a mantel.

Lights are a huge part of making Christmas BRIGHT! They make me happy. The variety of types and colors is staggering. Years ago, all lights for outdoors looked alike, with color being the only variable. Our house was very untraditional when I was growing up because my mother preferred having only blue and green lights. For our tree the “vibe” was very cool and beautiful. But, no orange, red, white, or yellow. Today the colors range from lavender, fucia, lime green, to turquoise and everything in between. There are big fat ones, thin ones, and tiny ones embedded in their own wire. They blink or are on timers. They may plug into an outlet, or they may run on batteries. Some are even solar, though those work very poorly. Once the lights are up on the house and bushes, it is time for the tree.

My Christmas tree is outside on the terrace. I no longer have one in the house. This saves a lot of space indoors. I can see the twinkling lights outside my French doors. It is festive and cheerful but no greenery is shedding on my floor. Outside my door the roofline is also lit with a pleasant glow of rainbow colors. The back of this house can be seen from a road far in the distance because it sits on a hill a couple miles away. Without a doubt my favorite part of decorations is the lighting. The front of my house glows. On the mantels there are tiny trees with lights, ditto my centerpiece for the table.

relaxing to music with dogs

The Internet provides hours of free Christmas music played by the best orchestras conducted by the very best. It makes the house a cheerful place and sets the mood. Music provides one of the best antidotes to Christmas stress. The older I am the more I cherish music.

Tonight I am still aglow with the feeling of peace and happiness from listening to a young man play the piano at a friends small gathering. What a wonderful break in my preparations. It renewed my energy and my positive attitude toward the whole ‘Christmas magic’ thing. Even though the music was all classical and NOT traditional seasonal music, I am relaxed and thrilled at the same time by the way the piano spoke to me, my inner self, my soul. How blessed I am to have had the private concert by this young Russian student from UVA.

Here is what I wish I had remembered from years past:

Start Early!

  1. Arranging for Christmas cards early (preferably in November) and getting them ready to send during the second week in December keeps away that panicky feeling of ‘overwhelm.’ Buy stamps early and have them ready. Check your list for changes of address all year. Do NOT wait until it is time to address envelopes.

2.It really helps to prepare presents during the summer months. If presents are monogrammed or personalized in some way that makes them special and unique. Every year I wonder why I didn’t do more in the summer. And 8 decades later, I STILL get caught with not enough time to complete tasks.

3. Decide early if you are going to have a party during the Holidays. (not at the last minute, like I do almost every year.)

4. Do not go to an expensive store and complain about the prices. JUST DON’T GO. There are plenty of other stores. And don’t forget the consignment stores. I haven’t had a chance this year, but sometimes I have found the BEST presents there! Charlottesville, where I live is full of them.

5. Write a list of what you need to do and stick to it. Cross off things as they are accomplished. I often don’t make the list until AFTER. This is crazy. Make your list ahead of time. Gifts to give, parties, cards to send, places you will go each day. Since I have five children it is hard for me to visit all of them on Christmas eve and Christmas Day, but I try.

6. Try to have a private time with each of your children to talk and learn about their lives at holiday time. This can be a gift to yourself. You deserve it.

7. Use the week between Christmas and New Years Day to recharge your batteries and reflect on the year. Write down goals for the coming year. NOT resolutions. That does not seem to work very well. Write down your dreams for the coming year.

What you concentrate on is what you become. Remember how powerful you are.

Merry Christmas! Happy New Year!

Copyright©. 2022 Bonnie B. Matheson

3 thoughts on “How to Survive Christmas

  1. Bonnie, this is the best one yet. I love the frivolity, the memories, the to do list, the music, and making time for goalsetting and children. I can imagine your life as a child in your families, beautiful home, the chaos and the love. I love that you revel in memory, make your own end stick with tradition. Thank you for sharing!

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