Expectations of the Holidays

This year has been difficult for many and as we go into the holiday season you may be very anxious and even sad when you think about how different this year will be. Family gatherings will be much smaller or not at all. Gift giving is stressing you out due to finances or just what to do in these confusing times.

Before we get into the gift ideas, let's talk about expectations. The holiday season is often fraught with anxiety, depression, and disappointment as our expectations of what we want or think we should have for the holiday season does not come to fruition.

So, how can we curb our expectations?

Changing our expectations is about being realistic about what will happen based on the decisions we make. Yes, we have control over all of this.

We celebrated Christmas when I was younger, many people around the world have different holidays that they celebrate at this time of year. Christmas was such a big deal in our family, big stockings, gifts overflowing into the middle of the room. A huge live tree with all the lights and ornaments. We had a small family so there were always friends included for Christmas dinner. As a child it was wonderful.

As I grew up and started my own family, I realized how stressful that all was. Going broke, all the perfection, all the work for a few days of seeming “perfection”. One of my breaking points was the year we moved on the 10th of December into a 6 bedroom house, it was huge, larger than I had ever lived in. I won’t get into how that happened as it was not my choice to move there. 

However, we moved on the 10th of December and each year we held an annual open house on Christmas Eve. It was for friends, family, and co-workers, especially for my husband's business, as that was an expectation of the work he did.

I unpacked the house, I decorated for the holidays, I made the food for the open house, baking and cooking for days. I dealt with a toxic family member during all of this, I had 2 small kids, worked full time, and was in school part time. Can you say overwhelm!

I had been taught that this level of perfection was the norm. That open house was our largest with over 150 people coming through the house over the course of the afternoon and evening.

And the next morning we had a family breakfast at our house to open gifts. So everything had to be cleaned up and put away before I went to bed. That Christmas like all the rest I got sick on boxing day and was out of commission for a few days. Well, as out of commission as you can be as a mother of littles.

That was the year I finally had a bit of a wake up call. January was tough, we were over extended on all the credit cards, some bills had to be put off, I was exhausted and didn’t want to keep this cycle going.

It took a few years of cutting back slowly, and then when my mother died at Christmas I quit Christmas all together. I just couldn’t do it anymore. 

And the reason I tell you this story is it is all about expectations. The expectations in my family was to overdo Christmas, make it a big todo, and I now know that my mother was always so worried about what others thought, not that she didn’t love the holidays, but the look and the entertaining and all of that was for others, not for herself.

In turn I grew up with that expectation that the holidays were about everyone else. Making sure everyone else had a great time, wonderful gifts, and I was not a concern at all. I now wonder if my mother dying at Christmas was her way of letting go of that expectation or allowing me too. 

I had to work at changing my expectations of the holidays, and in turn that affected my children's expectations of the holidays. One clung to the past, the overdoing, the other agreed it was too much to continue.

My expectations of the holidays are very different now. My kids are grown and have their own traditions, but we also make sure we spend time together. It doesn't matter what day, as long as we get together over the holidays we don't worry about it being on Christmas day. 

I love Christmas lights so we have mini lights around our condo now year round, and we do put up a tree full of lights.

I really enjoy making gifts and sending snail mail cards, making homemade gifts are enjoyable for me. However I do decide how many I want to do so that I do not become overwhelmed, and I usually try something new each year. Sometimes I make cards, sometimes I buy cards. I usually buy them in January so I always have a good stock of beautiful cards that did not cost a fortune. I also buy some beautiful ornaments in January as last minute hostess gifts for the upcoming year. You can get beautiful glass ornaments for 75% off in January.

Our favourite things to do is to drive around to see the lights. We do this sometime over the holidays, not on Christmas eve or Christmas day as it is too crowded with all the people who must see them those days.

Gift giving is also very different, after the grandkids were born, we decided that getting together was more important than going broke so we stopped gift giving for the adults. The kids get a fun thing, a practical thing and some clothes. Their parents do stockings and a present each from Santa. My partner and I only do stockings as that is our favorite part of Christmas morning. Anything else we want we buy throughout the year, we often buy gifts for each other just because. No more going broke at the holidays.

So, how do you change the expectations of others?

You don’t! You change your expectations and they fall into line or fall away. You must decide what is the most important for you. What do you love about the holidays? Maybe nothing right now because all it brings up is ideas of overwhelm and spending money you don’t have for people you don’t necessarily like or even if you do they don’t appreciate what you get them.

Knowing that this year you may not be able to be with your loved ones during the holidays, what are things you can do to make it special for you?

I am including a worksheet for your holiday bucketlist, what are the things that would make this holiday special for you? Write them down and then start checking them off (you have to do them to check them off).

Here is a list of things I have done over the holidays in past years

  • Deliver food and baking to the homeless
  • Give out blankets, jackets, and other supplies to the homeless
  • Walked our legislative ground light show
  • Driven down Candy Cane lane (a  neighbourhood of lights and decorations)
  • Driven through the raceway light show (animated light decorations that you drive through)
  • Sung Christmas carols with friends (this year we are doing it on zoom)
  • Used the social room in our building for a craft day (maybe not this year, but you could do it via zoom)
  • Deliver turkey dinner to family and friends (we did this for our Thanksgiving)
  • Anonymously drop off cards and/or gifts to people we know.
  • Pay for coffee for the person behind me in the drive through (I often do this throughout the year)
  • Pay for some seniors' meals on Christmas eve at a restaurant.
  • Deliver cards from my kids (now grandkids) to random people in a seniors center
  • Visit seniors (maybe not this year) they are often lonely during the holidays
  • Make gifts
    • Chocolate covered spoons and cocoa bags
    • Stuffed sock gnomes
    • Ornaments
    • Baking
    • Coupons for get togethers later in the year
    • Created a recipe book of all our family favorites (this was a super popular gift)

There is no end to the possibilities of what you can do, if you want to give gifts. If gift giving is not on your list, you do not need to give gifts.

The most important part of the holidays is deciding what will make you happy and doing that. Does it make you happy to see others smile? There are a lot of things you can do without buying expensive gifts to make someone smile.

When I asked a group of women what their favorite part of the holidays was, they all said family time and the cosyness. Cosy can mean different things to different people. Maybe curled up with a good book and a hot cocoa, maybe a wine party with friends via zoom, sitting in front of the fireplace (or heater) with a puzzle or watching holiday movies. You decide what that is for you.

Family time may be a bit different this year, but making sure you reach out to those you cannot be with. Zoom, Facebook Messenger, Facetime, use the technology we have to bring those you cannot see in person closer. My granddaughter has started calling to read me a bedtime story, it helps her learn and it is time for us to spend together.

Print out the list and start your holiday bucket list.

This week I will be releasing a video on making sock gnomes, they are so cute and all the rage here this year. The video will be up on Thursday on our YouTube Channel, make sure to subscribe so you don’t miss out on any of our great content.


Have an Amazingly Creative Day,



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