One week left until Christmas! Are you excited? Looking forward to the holidays? Or stressed out already? As Christmas is approaching I see more and more posts on my newsfeed talking about “how to survive the holiday season” or about how stressful Christmas is… and I know it gets busy and stressful, but I’m just thinking, when did Christmas become about stress and survival? When did the most magical time of the year become something you need to “cope with” and “survive”?

Christmas is supposed to be the celebration of love, and it should be about just that: love and appreciation for one another. Not about trying to get the coolest presents, because we “have to”. We don’t have to; even if clever commercials are trying to convince us that we absolutely need that product, because that’s the only thing that will make our loved ones happy. Not about stressing how we’re going to make six varieties of appetizers, desserts, and that Christmas dinner we saw on Pinterest. Not about running around like crazy trying to do everything we are “supposed to” do, only to become utterly exhausted by the time Christmas actually arrives, wishing it was already over.

How about doing it a bit differently this year? Here are some ingredients for a truly happy Christmas:

  • Let go of perfection

Nothing is perfect; and that doesn’t just mean your family members, but also the house, the tree, or the Christmas dinner. What if you don’t make the trendiest appetizers of the year? What if the turkey is burnt? Or heaven forbid, the potatoes are soggy? Can you still have a nice Christmas if you don’t follow the recipes of celebrity chefs? How dare you, right? Wrong. Chances are, apart from the hostess, nobody else cares about those potatoes. Do your best, that’s all you can do. And if you know you’re not a good cook, buy as much of the dinner prepared as you can. I’m a huge advocate of cooking from scratch; but sometimes it’s better to buy those appetizers from the shop to save yourself time and effort. You can also buy gorgeous desserts to suit any budget. If you’re a good cook, if you have time to prepare things yourself, do that. But if it means endless stress then do yourself a favour and buy them ready made. And always have frozen pizza in your freezer as a back up: if all else fails, and sometimes it does, you can have a good laugh about it and have a pizza night. Awesome. It will be great a family anecdote.

  • Plan ahead

Do as much in advance as you can. Wrap the presents after you buy them and put tags on so you don’t mix them up later. Make a meal plan and start getting the ingredients early so you’re not rushing around last minute. Prepare ahead and freeze all you can: meat balls, pasta sauces or curries for example freeze very well. Delegate all tasks that don’t need to be done by you. Shop online for the heavy stuff and have it delivered, so you don’t need to carry too much. Both you and your partner are working non-stop until Christmas Eve? Or there’s a new baby who takes up your time? Zero time to cook? Delegate to the whole family: everybody can bring one dish each, and it will add up to a feast. No chance of that happening? Have the whole dinner delivered ready from a local restaurant. Oh yeah, people do that.

  • Buy less presents

Christmas has become so commercialised it’s unbelievable. Crowded shopping centres where everybody is after the coolest products and the latest deals. People taking out credit cards to get the most fashionable gadgets and toys that will be forgotten in no time. How about not taking out a pay day loan or push yourself into debt, but instead buy less presents? Talk it through with the family: agree that you only buy one small present each. Everybody will be relieved. The kids might not be thrilled at first; but if the family is stressing less over the money that’s been spent that will allow more room for love and laughter: and that’s exactly what the family needs.

  • Take it easy

Nobody will have a nice time if the hostess is stressing and the tension in the house is tangible. Make time for yourself and relax: have a bath, light candles, snuggle up on the sofa with your loved ones, watch a nice movie. That’s what Christmas is about, spending time with the people you love. It’s okay if the living room is messy, or the house is not spotless. This is the time to enjoy yourself, enjoy your family, and enjoy the company of the people you love.

Have fun this Christmas. Do your best to ensure the family is having a great time and join in on the fun. Be kind and loving to everyone, including yourself. Many of us tend to forget that. Make more room for joy. Keep it simpler this year: less stress, less presents, less fuss; more laughter and joy. That’s the recipe for a happy Christmas. Enjoy!