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Give the gift of time this Christmas

We are all guilty of it – rushing through Christmas to the point of missing all the joy that the season brings. We focus on endless shopping lists, parties, pageants, decorating and baking, hoping to give our family the “perfect” Christmas. We believe that seven kinds of dainties, colour-co-ordinated decorations and amazing presents will ensure every-one’s happiness. But after the food is gone and the gifts opened, we can’t help but feel like something is missing. We forgot to give the gift of time.

Finding simplicity in the holiday season isn’t always easy, but it is the key to making time for what is important. With a young family, I try to make Christmas as special as possible. I don’t want to miss out on all of the wonderful moments, just because I am too busy. Here’s a few ways I have found to simplify our festivities.

Start by limiting your commitments. It isn’t always easy or possible to say “no” to everything, but cutting back on some events will give you more time for your family. Choose which outings are priorities, and try to make most of your commitments family oriented.

Shorten your “to do” list. Guests aren’t coming to see your newly renovated bathroom, they are coming to see you. Bake ahead of time and freeze your Christmas goodies. Cut back on your food preparation. No one will notice if you only have three kinds of dainties instead of nine. A picture-perfect Christmas isn’t special if you are too busy to enjoy it.

Recruit help. Even little ones can help with small tasks. Divide the meal preparations between guests and have everyone bring something. Don’t try to do it all yourself and if disposable dishes save you time and work – use them!

Simplify the gifts. Every year we strive to find the perfect gift for everyone on our list. As nice as the gifts may be, nothing replaces the time you spend with the person. Shop early and then stop. Don’t rush out for those last-minute things that you don’t really need.

Spread your Christmas celebrations out. Christmas is only one day on the calendar, but that doesn’t mean every gathering has to be that day. One Christmas when our kids were quite small, we fit in three celebrations on Christmas day. Big mistake. By the third event, our kids were tired and not interested in seeing another gift. That wasn’t fair to them or the people who had put so much effort into buying those gifts. Planning one event per day will save everyone from “Christmas burnout.”

Don’t set your expectations too high. We all envision these perfect Christmas card moments, but soon realize they aren’t always realistic – especially with a young family. Your toddler might be terrified of Santa’s lap or your kids might fight over who gets to hang the star on the Christmas tree. But what is really important are the memories that you make. Relaxing about the small things makes the season much more enjoyable.

Make memories. If you have young children, let them teach you how to celebrate. Get caught up in their excitement. Count down the days, decorate cookies and build a gingerbread house. Take a family drive around town to look at the Christmas lights. Go for a walk together on a snowy evening. Build a snowman and then sip hot chocolate beside the Christmas tree. Most of all, just cherish the time with family and friends. Earlier this year, my last remaining grandparent passed away suddenly. Now all of those special times we shared with her mean more than anything to me. The memories we make now are what remain with us forever.

Each year I strive to make the holidays more meaningful and teach my children the true reason for the season. I’m trying to focus on what is most important – giving my family a gift they’ll remember… the precious gift of time.

– Tanya Unrau writes from

Boissevain, Manitoba

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