For me, the holiday season starts in mid-October and continues through the first week of January. When I was a kid it seemed like whole years passed between Halloween and Thanksgiving. But in more recent years the 4th quarter feels like one giant megalopolis of holidays. I think of it as Hankmas, which includes Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years.
When my kids were younger this was a hectic time. Too hectic! As a young mother I found myself unable to pass by any of the celebrations thrown my children’s way. And I dove right in and participated full blast. But I gradually began to realize that no one in my family was enjoying the holidays. I felt overwhelmed by all of the places I had to be and the things I had to bring with me. And on Thanksgiving and Christmas I spent the whole day buried under intricate and time-consuming gourmet recipes making the perfect holiday meals.
Instead of delighting in all of the great events we were running to, my kids were crabby. I didn’t get it. When I was a kid we were let out the door on Halloween in whatever costume we could scratch up, and we ran all day, covering as much ground as possible. The goodies we collected in our grocery bags would have to last a long time because my parents had us on the indentured servitude plan—we all had chores to do and we didn’t earn an allowance.
I was sure I would have loved to attend multiple Halloween parties in my classroom, at the local Y, and the church, and go to a neighborhood costume parade with goodies, too. And then go trick or treating! But my kids were tired and whining to go home after knocking on only a handful of doors.
One night our bedtime book was “The Berenstain Bears and Too Much Birthday.” It told the story of crabby bear cubs who were tired and over-stimulated by way more activity than they could handle at birthday time. And I got it! No one in my family was appreciating the holidays because they had become a mass of obligations with too much food, too many treats, and too many people and places. And that included me, even though I was the family event planner. So we started paring down our holiday preparations and appearances and enjoying the moment more. For Halloween we cut back to the classroom party and trick or treating, and spent a few days beforehand making costumes, carving pumpkins, and baking pumpkin seeds. It was much lower key and I found we laughed more.
We took a similar approach to Christmas, streamlining our decorations, attending one pre-holiday event per week, and simplifying our Christmas Dinner. Thanksgiving Dinner was simplified too. I found I’d been preparing some dishes just to carry on a family tradition, but that no one missed them when I left them off of the menu. And easier recipes were just as delicious as the complicated ones. I had a better holiday with the pressure off in the kitchen because I could enjoy my family and our guests. And I think they liked the new me better than the frazzled perfectionist host I’d become.
In fact, I realized that most of our days were happier when we didn’t over do anywhere, including in the food department. My epiphany inspired me to write my first two Easy Weekly Meals cookbooks. I spent 10 years perfecting the system of healthy meal planning and food recycling that appears in those books.
But I really wanted to do something for the Christmas holidays to help others enjoy lots of fun and good food without overwhelming, time consuming recipes. So I just published Complete Christmas Cooking 25 Easy Recipes For Every Christmas Occasion. It’s loaded with great ideas, recipes, and beautiful pictures. I’ve used every single recipe to provide appropriate food for all kinds of Christmas events, from classroom parties to open houses, to Christmas dinner and beyond. The quick and easy results kept the whole family happy. I got good reviews on the food, too! Like my other books, this one is an e-book, downloadable to all smart devices.
I’ve kept the price really low to make it accessible to as many people as possible. And although I like to take my holidays in order, one at a time, I want to get the word out for people who must plan their Christmas season events and menus in advance. I’m finding that small business owners want to use it as an inexpensive Thanksgiving gift to their clients, too, because it tends to make them stand out from the Christmas gift crowd. E-books can be gifted to anyone with an email address, and a personalized virtual gift card arrives with the gift notification. Amazon makes free Kindle apps available for all smart devices, too.
Simplifying my family’s holidays by honing down our activities, traditions, and food have made them much happier. If you feel overwhelmed by holiday obligations, I hope a little honing will help you enjoy your holiday season, too.
And now, it’s time to get ready for Halloween! Watch my blog and visit my Facebook Page for some Halloween fun.
Photos Courtesy of Easy Weekly Meals