How to have the best Christmas EVER (yes, really!)

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2020 has been a challenging year. Hello, understatement, right? Even though some of us would like to settle down for a long winter's nap and wake up in 2021, we've still got quite a bit of year left and the holidays are fast approaching. Here are some tips on how to have the best Christmas ever…yes really.

How to have the best Christmas EVER (yes really!)

Here are some ways to make the most out of your holidays this year. I hope you find something that speaks to you and that you really do have the best Christmas ever.

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1. Get into a positive mindset

2020 has been called a dumpster fire, a train wreck and all sorts of other bad things.  Someone even suggested that the Baby Shark song, which garnered popularity last year opened up some sort of portal to an underworld and caused all the strife the world has experienced in 2020. If your mind needed a rational explanation for 2020, maybe that's it.

I am not trying to minimize anyone's losses or hardships with my Pollyanna outlook. I know this year has been tough on everyone in some way. If you think 2020 can't be your best Christmas ever then it probably won't be. Believing it can be is where you start. No matter how terrible 2020 has been, we don't get do-overs on any of our days on this planet and we only get one life.

Getting into a positive mindset is challenging for me personally, especially when things aren't going the way I want them to. But, I've chosen to realize that I have a lot to be thankful for. My kids are looking forward to Christmas with typical kid excitement and after some of the things they've lost and missed out on this year, I've decided they deserve their best Christmas ever and that starts with my attitude and mindset.

2. Set a budget

Best Christmas ever doesn't mean “Most presents under the tree ever.” If you typically overspend during the holidays or if your funds are more limited than usual this year, sit down with some pen and paper and map out your budget. Include things like food and baking ingredients (these always end up being way more than I expect them to be), decorations, outings, such as Christmas light displays or festivals, and of course, gifts. 

This might require some expectation management from other family members. If Christmas is going to be leaner, be honest about it so your kids aren't disappointed and then look for creative ways to make up for it.  

3. Set rules for socializing and social distancing

I know everyone has different thoughts on this and that rules can vary based on location. And, we all know by now that everything can change on a dime making planning a gathering extra stressful.

If your plans include parties or gathering with family and friends, start thinking about how you want to handle that. If you're uncomfortable going to someone's house, how soon do you need to let Cousin Carol know that you won't be coming to the annual family gathering? Do you need to practice extra distancing in order to spend time with a medically fragile family member of the holidays? How are you going to handle talking to your child about a party or event you're not going to let them go to?

I don't have the absolute answers to any of this but I do recommend thinking through some situations that are likely to come up during the holidays and how you'll handle them. Talk honestly with relatives about why you're not comfortable spending time with them this year or ask what they need from you to make them feel comfortable spending time with you.

Everything is weird right now and most of us are faced with making some sort of adjustments for how we interact with others this year.

4. Do something different

This could be anything from “Have turkey instead of ham” to going camping instead of doing a traditional Christmas at home.

Do something different at Christmas could mean forgoing your gifts to your family and treating another family to Christmas – buy their tree, their gifts, their food.

It could mean not sending Christmas cards or sending Christmas cards when you haven't sent them in 10 years. 

It might mean organizing a virtual chip in for your child's teacher in virtual school that you've never met. Even something simple like buying a gingerbread house kit and decorating it.

Shake it up a little. It's good for you. 

5. Change up your menu

This is a great year to change up your holiday menu. If you always have the traditional turkey dinner, why not switch it up and have Italian or Indian? If this won't work for your holiday dinner purists, consider switching up your main – have brisket or salmon instead of turkey or ham – or try some different sides. Add a new appetizer or have an appetizer buffet on Christmas Eve.

My mom is diabetic and that's a new situation this year. 2020…enough said. Her dietary needs have changed so we are looking at doing some different, healthier dishes. That's our changeup for this year and I'm honestly excited about lightening things up and including some lower carb options and more plant-based options.

You can change up your menu or just add a new dish. You can also consider adding in an “Italian night” at some point during Christmas week or a “Turkey Curry Buffet ala Bridget Jones Diary” after Christmas. This is a really good year to stretch your culinary legs. 

Changing up your menu can mean anything from trying a new recipe or flipping your menu completely. 

Related: Gifting your homemade goodies? Use these free printable mason jar labels to spruce things up.

6. Look for ways to give back

Look for small ways to give, whether that's donating food, adopting a family (I hate that term by the way) or giving money to a charity. You can also participate in Random Acts of Kindness, by paying for someone else's coffee, doing something nice for your child's teachers or leaving gift cards on random car windshields in the parking lot of Target or Walmart.

You can also think outside the box and ask your neighbors if you can help them hang lights or set up a Christmas tree. Something that seems so basic for an able-bodied person might be a struggle for someone in your community.

Help a single mother. If you have a single mother in your circle, ask if you can take her kids Christmas shopping for her.  Ditto for families with deployed service members. There are opportunities all around to give. 

And, if you're the one in need this year, don't be afraid to tell someone. I know from experience this is hard and uncomfortable. Pick one person you're connected to that will speak out for you or start googling for charities and find out what their requirements are to receive food basket donations, get on the list for and Angel Tree, etc. 

7. Take something off your plate

What do you not want to do? Think about it. There's probably something on your “have to do” list that you don't need to do. Look for ways to trim your obligations and be unapologetic about it.

If ever there was a year to say “Not gonna” it is this year. Put yourself first. You can't take care of your family if you're stressed and maxed out. Make sure you're putting your family's needs in front of any external stuff that seems to pile on this time of year, even during a pandemic.

I used to sign up for everything, always say yes when I was asked to do something and set unrealistic expectations for myself. That was the year I volunteered at the school's holiday bazaar, decided we needed to go to four different holiday events in December, and told myself I HAD to bake six different kinds of Christmas cookies and make two different varieties of Chex mix. I was stressed out and you know what? My family probably wouldn't have known the difference if I'd done NONE of those things. 

8. Unplug and play games with your family

Have a game night, a game day or challenge yourself to try some new board games over the holiday. You can easily do this without spending a ton of extra money. Ask friends if they're interested in swapping board games or scout out your neighborhood Facebook and Next Door groups for freebies. 

Even better? Start a thread proposing a board game exchange and see what other people are playing. Here are a few board games my family is loving right now:

And yes, I know there are lots of great computer and app-based games but they're no substitute for putting those devices away and gathering around the table with your family for games. Some of my best memories from my childhood involve board games and I'm trying really hard to pass that down to my kids.

9. Have a Christmas movie night…

…or two. Or more.

Christmas movies are rolling out early this year and that's alright with me. Make a list of your must-see movies and block of some time in your planner. Put those devices away and pop some popcorn – or make some other snacks – and make it a double feature.

And yes – I think Apple pulling Charlie Brown Christmas this year was kind of jerky. I mean…couldn't they have waited a year? 

Here are a few Christmas movies I think are “don't miss.” 

It's a Wonderful Life

White Christmas


Home Alone

For my full list of Christmas movie picks, go here.

10. Chill Out

If ever there was a year to just let things go, it's this one. Your kids are little beasts during your holiday photo session? Let it go. Better yet, buy the picture where everyone is making a horrible face and put it on your Christmas card. 

So not EVERYONE is making a horrible face but I'm so tempted to put this on our family's card…or frame it.

This is the year to not worry about how clean your house is, how well your gifts are wrapped (or if they even are wrapped) or whether you bake cookies from scratch or buy those little pre-cute sugar cookies with the Christmas tree embossed on them. Those are pretty darn good, by the way.

Make this your best Christmas ever by focusing on people versus things and being in the moment versus expectations. Be open to trying something new and balance branching out with your favorite traditions. And just maybe, it will be the best Christmas ever.

Looking ahead to the new year? Grab this free 2021 printable calendar here:



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