6 savvy tips for surviving the holidays

‘Tis the season to be jolly… and tired and stressed and feeling like your homemade reindeer cookies with red noses and bells around their necks are nowhere near as good as the Santa cookies with hats and beards that Jimmy’s mom made.

The festive season and I have a love/hate relationship. I love the Christmas spirit, carols, the family gathering around the table for Christmas Eve dinner, and I don’t even mind Mariah Carey playing on repeat in the malls.

But this time of year can bring with it financial stress, physical exhaustion and the very real realization that you’ll never measure up to Pinterest. Right now it’s 00:12 and I can’t sleep because of the to-do list running through my head – teacher gifts, nativity plays, Christmas shopping – and it’s only November!

So here are a couple of tips to get through the festive season from a mom who will be taking her own advice.



Have the big traditional dinner on Christmas Eve

As a child we always had our big traditional dinner on Christmas Eve so my mom didn’t have to spend Christmas Day in the kitchen.

Family, friends and anyone else who didn’t have somewhere to go would gather around my parent’s extendable table and we’d feast on turkey, gammon, roast potatoes and veggies.

Then everyone would help clear up and wash the dishes, leaving us with a relaxing Christmas Day dedicated to leftovers, opening presents, and spending the afternoon curled up with the book that was wrapped up under the tree.


Make lists

If I had stuck to this advice from the outset, I wouldn’t be awake past midnight, trying to make a zillion mental notes!

Lists keep you sane and let you sleep at night knowing that nothing has been forgotten. Lists also keep you motivated – there is nothing better than ticking things off your list and feeling the satisfaction of  having everything under control (to be honest, even if I’ve already completed a task, I’ll sometimes re-write it down, just so I can re-tick it off for that accomplishment buzz… I know, #dorkgoals).


Shop for gifts online

It’s a safe, comfortable, easy way to shop and you get to avoid the malls and parking dramas. Why wouldn’t you?



Cheat when you can

One year, when I was hosting Christmas dinner at my house, I wanted an activity to keep the kids busy before dinner. I had grand ideas of baking gingerbread houses for them to assemble and decorate. I scoured Pinterest (because that’s where all the ideas I’ve managed to get horribly wrong come from), found a recipe and made a plan.

Then, at a local Christmas market, I found that someone had already done all the hard work and was selling gingerbread house kits, complete with house, icing and sweets. I bought the kits and crossed it off my list.

Don’t be afraid to buy ready-made aspects of your Christmas festivities to make your life a little easier!


Let the kids decorate

Does it really matter if your house is not Insta-worthy? I guarantee that letting the kids at the box of Christmas decorations is your easiest option and they’ll love it. Christmas will be what they imagine and not what Mom saw online.


Stick to Secret Santa for the grown-ups

The kids in our family get gifts from everyone and we make a fuss about putting out cookies and milk for Santa and leaving white ‘snow’ footprints around the tree.

But for the adults, we set a spending limit and draw names out of a hat. That way each adult only buys for one other adult. It’s worked for us for years and taken a lot the stress out of Christmas shopping.


And lastly, keep it simple. If it’s not necessary and it’s stressing you out (we tried to put on a nativity play with the kids one Christmas – never again), don’t do it. The photos you put on your wall are going to show smiling faces and ugly Christmas outfits, not whether your table décor was perfect.


Keep this in mind when it starts getting a bit stressful, and you’ll remember that Christmas is about time with your family, and that’s what’s most important.


By Samantha van Dijk, mom to Isabel and Riley.