Monday, November 29, 2010

Holiday Manifesto

I’ve confessed before that I have a knack for making things far more complicated than necessary. It’s a trait that often leaves me scrambling and my husband tearing out his hair. “Why can’t anything just be simple around here?” he’s been known to ask. Though I’ve balked at his question over the years, I have to admit that my husband is right: simple is better than complicated.

Yet it’s easy to make things complicated, without fully realizing I’m doing it. Perhaps this is no more the case than when it comes to the holidays. Holiday schedules fill up too quickly, the gift budget gets stretched, the dinner menu keeps growing and the days seem to morph into one another, sometimes becoming one frenetic blur.

To help keep us focused on the simple things we enjoy, we’ve revived our manifesto idea from last summer and created a Holiday Manifesto. Together, we’ve made a list that will help us to be intentional with our time and money and to savor the best of the season.

List suggestions for our manifesto run the gamut from traditional activities, such as sledding and making snow angels to more unique ideas that include making super hero ornaments and homemade peppermint ice cream. At the urging of our stick-obsessed four-year-old son, we plan to play broomball on a local pond. We’ll also work on building a snow fort and roast marshmallows in our backyard.

Like our summer list, the suggestions our children offered tended toward the simple (except making super hero ornaments, perhaps). And almost all of the ideas we compiled will cost virtually nothing.

When my husband suggested we add “have a slumber party by the gas stove” to the list, for example, the kids got so excited that I thought they’d jump out of their skin. Their excitement had me recalling my own childhood memories of camping out on the living room floor, of waking up and seeing the twinkling lights of our Christmas tree. Dragging out sleeping bags and sprawling out on the floor couldn’t be simpler, but it’s very likely that we’ll be making memories that last a lifetime.

My own contributions to our Holiday Manifesto include sending out Christmas cards (the first time I’ve done so in more than 11 years), making candy bar hot chocolate with real whipped cream, and decorating our home with natural elements we already have or that we can forage from our property.

Some other items that made the list include decorating cookies, singing Christmas carols, and baking an apple pie. Perhaps my favorite suggestion came from my six-year-old who thought we should make sleeping in one morning a priority. For parents who almost always get woken by the sound of four pairs of stampeding fit, sleeping in would indeed be a welcome treat.

The point of our list isn’t to put pressure on us, but to give us a visual reminder of how we really want to spend our time this holiday season. To make your own list, you might try taking stock of what you did last year. What did you truly enjoy? What activities seemed to cause chaos and stress? What did you want to do but didn’t?

With answers to these questions, you can craft a list that will help you to prioritize how you want to spend your time and your money this year.

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