How to create joyful Christmas memories without the seasonal stress

How to create joyful Christmas memories without the seasonal stress

Throughout my life, Christmas has been a mixed bag of emotions and I’ll start with the worst. One year my mother held a knife to my throat on Christmas Eve. Several years later my daughter was born on Christmas Eve and 6 months later I made the tough decision to place her in a family for adoption. These memories are part of my history. They will never go away. 

This year is completely different. We started celebrating last Wednesday when my niece came over to give Bryan (my son) and me haircuts. Then we enjoyed dinner and dessert together with a movie. Later, I’ll tell you what we have scheduled for this Wednesday…which I think you’ll love. 

As you can see, the holiday season has changed and believe me, it didn’t happen overnight. Some of it is due to luck. Yet I believe most of my luck comes from being intentional and making different decisions. Read on to see what happened and how Christmas is now better with less stress.

Studies show how people enter the holiday season filled with anxiety. According to, this time of the year has 69% of people stressed by lack of money and 51% feeling pressure to give or get gifts. Instead of celebrating God’s big gift, people get overwhelmed by commercialization.

 I know. When Bryan was 12 years old, my then-husband Beau (who also had a son) and I overspent our budget to make Christmas memorable. Unfortunately, by February, when I asked the boys if they remembered what they got, neither could recall so much as one present! 

I decided to look at Christmas differently and place more emphasis on experience. The next Christmas, instead of lots of gifts, we did one little gift with a stocking…and took a trip in our RV. One year was Disneyland, another was Magic Mountain. Picking a different location each year made it more memorable. 

Now with what my current husband Scott, Bryan, and I do for work, Christmas travel is out. But we have a tradition of making Wednesday night our family night. You already know what we did last week. This coming Wednesday is even better. We are going to get hot chocolate and drive around to see the lights. And there’s a bonus. My friend Kathy who lives in Utah just had shoulder surgery. Thanks to technology, she will have hot chocolate at home and Bryan can put her on a video call so she will “travel” along with us.

Believe me; this beats the heck out of “present pressure.”

I have another friend who feels she competes with the other grandparents due to comments made by the grandchildren. It’s a losing situation for everyone. I mentioned the Scavenger Hunt I have planned for Bryan’s next birthday.* She loved the idea and is doing one for her grandkids this Friday. Let the other grandparents buy as much unforgettable stuff asthey want. She will be the grandmother who creates memories that will last. 

You know, ‘presents’ and ‘presence’ sound exactly alike, yet they are worlds apart. Don’t’ get me wrong – it’s wonderful to give presents. But relying on stuff, even the things kids say they want can be a short-term blessing. 

If there’s one lesson we’ve learned from Covid this year, it’s that our time and experience together is a valuable gift. By creating memories, you get to share precious moments with those you love. Give the gift of a memory and you’ll find this season to be less stressful and more satisfying for everyone.  

*More about that in a future blog.


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