A Conscious Christmas: Enjoying the Festive Season with Little Stress and a Full Heart
This time of year is so beautiful and the buzz and excitement that comes with it is easily noticed. It also naturally brings deep reflection, a strong sense of contemplation and even some emotional triggers. It is the end of year, the finalising and getting things sorted before a fresh year, and before most businesses take a much needed break. Amongst the beauty of taking time off, connecting with loved ones and enjoying the buzz of summer, there comes an opportunity for choices and approaching things differently and with ease opposed to overwhelm.
There are ways to make things smoother, end the year calmly and make conscious decisions about how we can create a more harmonious and heart filling experience for ourselves and our family. It can be easy to feel the hectic buzz that comes with this time of year. All of a sudden the to-do list seems larger and ‘we must get that done’ before December ticks over to January. Below I share some things I have collected over the years myself, from my family traditions and from listening to others and observing the shift that comes with the end of year. From simple things like Christmas tree decorations and ornaments to making our space feel better to helping out others, there are easy ways to have a feel good Christmas and lighten the load. If they feel aligned bring them into your world and create some gentle shifts to enjoy a more conscious Christmas that is less stressful and more heart filling.
For Christmas tree decorations you can opt for natural choices. There are so many great options now : I’ve chosen tree ornaments made from natural materials like ceramic hearts and angels, glass balls, metal stars, metal stars wrapped in seagrass, paper stars and a woven seagrass star for the top of our tree.
I've managed to find majority at Bed Bath & Table and some at Pillowtalk too. We also got a beautiful 2.25m tree for under $80 from Big W, which I know will get great use for many years to come. There are also great fabric ornaments around as well as European style straw ones which are stunning.
As mentioned in the Kids Crafting section below, there are many fun options online for DIY ornaments too !! Just have a look for some inspo using seedpods, shells (using a fine drill piece to drill small holes), twigs and coloured string, clay do-it-at-home ornaments using cookie cutters for shapes and a hole for the thread. Countless possibilities to get your creative juices flowing.
Something close to my heart is a beautiful ritual my mum has been doing for many years at Christmas. For her tree, which is incredible!!, she has little paper bird ornaments with a little peg clip and ribbon on which she has written the names of the people that have passed in our family. Each Christmas Eve (my family is German so we celebrate at night on the 24th), we each choose a bird and place it on the Christmas tree. This is such a beautiful way to remember our loved ones and have them with us.
Most stores now sell birds like this (I was looking for clients who I had spoken to about this and found them in Bed Bath & Table, Pillowtalk, Target, Myer to name a few). You can also use this idea if you are not near your family to feel like they are being remembered and closer this Christmas. You could also choose a figurine or a little ornament that resonates with that person.
As the year ends it is a beautiful time to connect with your space and check in how ‘it’ is feeling. Our home is a constant support and it needs acknowledgement just as much as living things. Essentially it is a living thing too and it’s health and ambience impacts all aspects of our lives. You can use this time to see what can be positively changed – maybe shifting some things around, decluttering and letting go of some things, having a house meeting and creating some new rules, chore delegation and systems – anything that feels right and will create more balance in your home.
Any items that are no longer needed or wanted can be offered to shelters and op shops or support groups. Animal refuges can use blankets and soft toys or old sheets for example. There are often food and toy collection sites around, especially near supermarkets for those in need and not as abundant as you.
You may feel aligned to dedicate your time to a charity this time of year. There is always something to do and ways to help out, and the feeling of giving back is priceless and is what really makes a difference.
I don’t think I need to say much about the overwhelm gifting at Christmas can bring. From thinking of appropriate presents to the intense consumerism, to the piles of shredded packaging after the gift unveiling, I think on closer inspection we would see that it’s not really what Christmas is about. In an age where we can get most things we would like, whether we have the money to or not, finding that perfect gift can be tricky. Being present and sharing quality time is still one of the most precious things I think, and as the years go on it is easier to appreciate the simplicity of that.
Consider a gift a person could use – something self care oriented, something they could learn from or something you know they need. If it is a larger or pricier item, maybe family or friends can contribute to the purchase. Something meaningful is always a beautiful option opposed to something that will just add clutter to that persons life. For example, if a loved one has just moved into a new space they may need something to make their home more homey.
If my family gifts at all we do a Secret Santa – basically pulling a name from a hat and secretly gifting that person something. It keeps the gift buying easy, less overwhelming but still brings a sense of fun when sharing the celebration of unpacking something.
Gift vouchers aren’t really my choice as they are not very personal, although they do allow the gift receiver to purchase something they truly like.
Gifting an experience is a beautiful idea. Experiences last a lifetime opposed to most material belongings. I think it’s good to know if a particular experience is actually enjoyed by the gift receiver, nothing like gifting someone a horse riding adventure to find out they are scared of big animals.
It may be special to share the experience with the person you would like to gift to.
I’m still a big believer in less is more !!!
For wrapping consider buying or making (simple sewing machine skills needed) fabric bags opposed to paper wrapping.
Opt for natural twine string and a twig or flower for decoration.
For the creative types, you can make your own wrapping paper designs too on blank butchers or craft paper using paint and stencils or making unique patterns with leaves, twigs or flowers. This technique can be used for making small cards or printing on pre-made cards too.
Any wrapping paper that can be salvaged, does. The tape is removed and it gets folded up and stored with the other christmas things for next year. Any ribbons, thread gets rescued too.
Gift tags can be handmade too if feeling crafty or they make some great natural looking ones now out of recycled card with tasteful designs.
A few ways to keep kids occupied and entertained during the holidays connect with your own kids, your nieces and nephews or your grandchildren. I've only added these links here and here just to give you an idea so if you're interested keep searching to see all the fun crafting ideas.
Make wrapping paper using big butchers paper or brown paper sheets and free painting on it then using it in place of traditional wrapping paper.
Painted small canvas frames for their loved ones. I think every grandparent loves these sorts of things!
For entertainment an outside (or verandah with floor protection) space could be set up for crafting and painting. Often rubbish tips have a second hand shop or op shops sell old used canvases. By painting over the old paintings in white a blank canvas for the kids can be made – especially large ones as these can be pricey buying them new.
Making your own Christmas decorations. I found so many great ideas online of beautiful (not tacky) Christmas tree ornaments to DIY. Often it’s just thinking outside the box. This is great for just adults too, although its perfect to get kids involved and get out in nature to see what could be transformed into special art.
This time of year often becomes an endless feast of food. And on closer reflection if you talk to many after the Christmas period, it’s a common theme that people have over indulged way more than they would have liked and are ready for a ‘cleanse’. There is an opportunity to eat less. We can make a conscious choice not to eat that extra plate or snack on another snack or drink another beer. I’ve noticed especially in our Australian culture having more can be equaled to ‘having fun’. There’s not much fun in feeling sickly full, gaining a few extra kilos and feeling sluggish after this time of year.
Lighter foods are a great option. The weather is hot and asks us to eat gently. My family has several warm salads, platters and lighter sweets. We opt for easy to prepare meals so we are bonding more than being in the kitchen, and try to help out as best possible to lighten the load.
The impact this time of year has on our food chain, especially on livestock, is unfathomable. It’s an opportunity to remember that although we live in a time of abundance and choice here in Australia, enjoying things in moderation can create a greater appreciation for where our food has come from to get to our plates.
Keep junk out of the house. Just as any other time of year once it’s crossed the front door it’s in and it is tempting to be eaten. The convenience of packaged foods is easily tempting. Opt for fresh fruits, healthy colourful platters, dips and homemade sweets like nourish balls or cookies are fun, make us feel better and are great to snack on and share. There's ideas and recipes here.
A similar thing goes for alcohol. Although I don’t mind a drink every now and then I’m in a stage in my life where I choose not to drink. Often it’s others that can feel awkward when we ourselves don’t drink or drink 'enough'. ‘Just lighten up, have some fun, one won’t hurt you …..’ Remember that you can make your own choices and if you are enjoying or ready for the clarity and lightness that comes from not drinking much or at all then stay strong in your values and instincts during this time. There are many great non-alcoholic alternatives now including spirits, wine and beer. There’s also fizzy mineral waters and kombuchas that look and taste great in a fancy glass or mocktails are always fun and refreshing too. Ofcourse it’s a time to let your hair down too so if drinking alcohol feels aligned go for it. If you have noticed a pattern of some regret after the silly season then you can use this opportunity of foresight to make some different choices to better support yourself this Christmas.
As mentioned this time of year can bring up a lot. You may feel tired, exhausted or a little uneasy venturing into a new year or a little sad for whatever reason. For some the missing loved ones who have passed or are abroad can be challenging. Often as we move to the end of the year we begin to reflect on what was, what could have been and what will be, or what will never be again. It is ok to feel all the feels. Let yourself be open to these feelings and thoughts. Although it can feel raw and possibly uncomfortable it is real and that is the true art of living.