Tis the season of mistletoe, Christmas cookies, holiday cheer… and also the season of family scuffles and holiday stress. Tensions often run high at this time of year, between frantic family gatherings and high expectations, which can take away from the Christmas-y magic that’s supposed to encapsulate the time post-Thanksgiving through December. I’m a big fan of Christmas-y magic– yes, I’m that person belting carols while wearing a (not ugly) holiday sweater, counting down the days to Santa’s big scene, and hoovering cookies before they even get to the frosting/sprinkle part of their life cycle (sometimes, before they even get to the “baked” part of their life cycle). I get warm and fuzzy and cheesy, and get more excited about fresh snow than any normal person probably should– I guess it’s a good thing I live in Michigan! For me, the holiday season is a special block of time set aside each year to slow down, enjoy, and appreciate the world around me– something that’s easy to forget to do.

While I completely advocate appreciating the world around you for all 365 days of the year, I think there’s something extremely special about the holidays that amps everything up a notch. The unfortunate fact of the matter, however, is that the holidays also become a time with really high expectations. The last thing anyone wants is to spend such a magical time praying for it to all just be over, because who wants the stress of needing everything to be perfect… or the inevitable disappointment when something goes wrong (no matter how small)? Letting the pressure to do it big and do it best get to you takes away from the togetherness and joy the holiday season is supposed to bring, and turns it into a big showcase of who can decorate a tree best or make the best meal. Celebrating the holidays can be an extremely daunting task if you let it become a competition or a performance.

It’s easy to get wrapped up in the picture of what a “perfect holiday” should be or could be, but stepping outside of that tinsel-covered bubble give you a chance to breathe and focus on what really matters. Sometimes, the cookies will burn or a strand of lights will go out, but it’s probably not the end of the world… even though it can feel like it is when you have 25 aunts, uncles, grandparents, and cousins on their way expecting decorations to the nines and a warm frosting-covered snowflake to bite into upon crossing the threshold. Step back and breathe– they’re still going to love you, even if it takes another batch (or another trip to Meijer) to get things in working order. I work hard to make sure my holiday season is never be a time to dread or a time to demand perfection or stress out; I try hard to focus on the snow angels, hot cocoa, family time, (too many) holiday desserts, and that special sparkle each season brings, like the days when I swore I could hear reindeer on the roof announcing Santa’s arrival. When we’re small, we don’t know anything but that sparkle… the trick is holding on to it no matter how big we get.

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