December is around the corner and it’s usually a month where people run around like headless chicken.
Finding presents for their loved ones.
Getting the right tree and decoration.
Preparing and decorating the house.
Planning dinner.
Finishing the year off on many levels.
Make resolutions

As you may have guessed, I am not part of that crowd anymore.
Because I came across this quote some time ago and it spoke to me on so many levels.

All the issues, sadness and difficult situations I’ve had in my life could always be drilled down to trying to stick to the picture in my head of how things were supposed to be.
The happy family with Mommy, Daddy, 2 kids, a house, a dog and a goldfish.
The perfect job that one is passionate about and loves every day.
Best friends forever since childhood.
The perfect Christmas with loved ones on a big table, amazing food and great fun.
The ideally shaped, flawless body.

The problem with those pictures is that they were formed by other people. Education, magazines, history, tradition, movies… They all show us something we seem to want to copy.
The problem is that hardly anyone manages to do that, to live that picture perfect life. And trying to run after such a picture, living someone else’s picture, takes a lot of energy and effort. And even if you do succeed more or less, you are not any happier.

So here’s to creating your own picture for a stressless Christmas!

1. It’s all in the timing.
I start buying and ordering gifts months ahead of Christmas. It’s hassle free, cheaper and allows you to engage in the pleasant anticipation for the holidays for much longer. You will also not be stressed to run around the shops with thousands of other crazy people in the weeks of December. Here are some ideas for gifts if you need inspiration.

2. A ‘gezellig’ dinner.
There is no real translation for the Dutch word ‘gezelligheid‘. For me it stands for a lovely evening with friends and/or family, good talks, some laughter, maybe some tears, music, food and drink and no stress. That’s what I want for Christmas, but also for any other dinner.
Who says you have to serve foie gras, oysters, stuffed animals and a complicated dessert? Where’s the fun in that if you spend your whole evening fretting in the kitchen (not to speak about the weeks of planning that come before!).
So my dinners are a mix of simple recipes, potluckraclettefondue, or ordered food.

3. Somewhat personalized Christmas cards.
I order Christmas cards in September via Vistaprint. I pick a layout, choose a photo of my boys or my boys and me, add some text. Done.
Everyone gets the same card. Sometimes a word or two, sometimes nothing else. It’s the thought that counts and the personalization is in the photo.
You are of course allowed to skip Christmas cards all together! Yes you are!

4. Home shopping.
One year I wanted to comply with the picture of an elaborate home cooked meal. I went food shopping in a large mall. And I completely, totally freaked out. I could not find things, they did not have all the exotic ingredients that I needed, there were tons of annoyed people pushing me around, it was noisy and messy. And I swore to myself: never again!
Now I shop online for my holiday groceries and I either pick it up or get it delivered. Sure, they don’t necessarily have the exotic stuff online either. But remember, I don’t do exotic anymore 🙂

5. The Tree.
We have a plastic tree. Had it for years so it’s by now as ecological as a real tree. It’s small, easy to store and doesn’t mess up the house.
Last year we had a real tree. In a pot. After Christmas it got planted in my Dad’s forest and lives on happily ever after.
You can also rent one.
But who says you need a tree?! Look at these Christmas Tree Alternatives and I bet you want to have one in your home next year!

6. New habits and traditions.
Besides the food, the presents and the tree, you can change YOUR picture of a perfect Christmas by starting your own habits or traditions.

Kids (and adults) usually love things no one else does! Go start that!

7. Skip it.
More and more people are skipping the traditional Christmas and go on holiday instead. Or on a retreat.

Remember: What screws us up most in life is the picture in our head of how it is supposed to be!

Nothing is supposed to be anything. And you get to change that picture.
It is definitely not easy for the big pictures we have grown up with. But if we start small, we’ll get there eventually.