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Deck the Holidays: Conquering the Chaos to Enjoy a Simpler Season

If you’re haunted by ghosts of Craziness Past, look toward ways to deck the holidays: cut out the complications, slow down, smell the apple cider and enjoy your children.

No doubt you’ve heard the words to the traditional English carol, “Deck the halls with boughs of holly, Falalalalalalalala.” Simple translation: “Decorate your house.” However, there has been many a December when it feels like mom’s the one being decked - in the modern sense of the word. In the quest for the picture-perfect Christmas, women across the nation exhaust themselves baking cookies, searching every store in town for red ribbon, hunting for the ideal gift and generally driving their families crazy. Sound like anyone you know?

The wonder of the season is: Did you really enjoy it? Or did it sweep past you while you were rummaging in a box looking for that special something to add to the experience? Were you too busy trying to make it ‘perfect’ that you didn’t enjoy making memories with your kids? It’s enough to make anyone say, “Bah! Humbug!”

Here are some shortcuts that will lead you to a simpler season of good cheer.

Décor. Keep it straightforward. A pretty wreath on the front door and a few strings of lights will do wonders for your home’s curb appeal. While it might not win your neighborhood’s light display awards, it will be festive without wearing you out. Plus, it will be easier to include the kids in the project if it is not a major production.

Inside, choose one color scheme such as white, red or gold. Thread it throughout your home in the form of candles, bows, fancy pillows and sparkling lights. Allow your children a voice in the placement of different items. Resist the urge to redecorate. Incorporate into your décor any holiday projects or crafts they have made. They’ll love it and will feel like a part of the celebration.

Greetings. Rather than purchasing elaborate and expensive greeting cards and photos, combine them into one easy mailing: a postcard. Not only will this save time in writing shorter notes and not stuffing envelopes, your postage costs will also be significantly lower. Companies like can take your custom design and produce dozens of great cards for a low price. Let the kids help by sticking on stamps and signing their names.

Matching gifts. Buy the same item for everyone on your list - at least those outside of your immediate family. Buying one thing in bulk will give you fewer details to keep track of. A cool new board game (let the kids help choose!) and a few fancy snacks make a fun present for anyone: families, students, singles and grandparents alike. Gift cards to restaurants are also a simple and fun treat. The amount doesn’t have to be huge, especially if you choose a casual place.

Wrappings. Don’t feel like you need to have an assortment of boxes, bags and bows. Choose one style, such as red bags with white paper, or even brown paper packages tied with white string. Both are easy for children to help in the wrapping. Plan ahead and have white index cards and colored markers handy for the kids to craft cute yet simple tags. Authentic kid-print will bring a smile to almost any recipient’s face.

Food. Plan a month of meals ahead of time. Include menus that can be made in the crockpot, premade and stored in the freezer, or made with convenience items such as rotisserie chicken and bagged salad mixes. If the budget allows (or Santa brings an early gift), try a visit to a meal prep kitchen. There you can assemble several weeks of meals at one time, without the hassle of shopping or chopping.

Effortless entertaining. Rather than planning elaborate dinner parties, assemble an appetizer pantry. You know kids love snack foods! Purchase an abundance of olives, cheeses, chips, crackers, dips and frozen hors d’oeuvres as well as a few bottles of bubbly juices and waters. Stock a supply of festive napkins and cups. You’ll be ready for a fun cocktail party or drop-in visits from neighbors and friends.

Just desserts. Purchase several varieties of cake mixes (white, vanilla, spice, chocolate) and a bundt pan. Stock up on the basic ingredients (eggs and oil) as well as powdered sugar for dusting the finished product. In less than an hour, you can prepare a yummy yet elegant dessert. Bundt cakes are easy and quick and so accessible for the kid-size bakers in your home to help in the process. For variety, serve cake slices with flavored whipped creams, warmed pie filling or hot fudge sauce.

Watch a festive flick. Prepare a stash of holiday movies to watch with friends and family. Stock up on movies that fit your preferences. Purchase them or reserve them from your local library ahead of time for the best selection. Some favorites include: The Grinch Who Stole Christmas; It’s a Charlie Brown Christmas; It’s a Wonderful Life; The Christmas Story; White Christmas; and, of course, Dickens’ classic, A Christmas Carol. Remember to watch them with your kids. They will enjoy making memories as you take the time to sit and cuddle for a while.

With a little planning, a few deep breaths and a small degree of self-control, you, too, can have a Merry Little Christmas. Make this year the one in which to relax a little more, laugh a little longer and enjoy making memories with friends and family.

May God bless you, everyone!

Jessica is a wife, mother of six and freelance writer simplifying the season in her new home. She regularly writes about family fun, frugality and the pursuit of a clean house at


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