Joyful Alphabet Bags for a joyful Christmas

How to bring the joy back to Christmas: my top 10 tips

Thinking & Thriving
by holly tucker


Here are my 10 tips for a joyful Christmas, with less emotional labour, more fun and a few brand new traditions...

Ready for a more colourful Christmas? Let’s bring back the joy

My main aim this Christmas is simple. I’m here to reclaim the joy — the joy that’s often lost for women who take on the lion’s share of the work at this time of year (the Mrs Claus of the household!). From writing cards and being in charge of all the gifting, to attending the school play, organising Christmas drinks or remembering that Auntie Jean will be on her own this year, how can we change our approach to make sure that we get a chance to enjoy it, too?

In the context of today’s world, it can feel uncomfortable to think about ourselves when so many are facing such atrocities — but don’t we also have a kind of responsibility to do exactly that? To show gratitude for how incredibly lucky we are and make the most of every moment? To spend real time with those we love and to appreciate it, without being completely frazzled? That’s why I’m here to ease the burden on us women at Christmas and to make sure that after putting in so much hard work, you actually get to have fun, too. Here are my top tips…

1. Start prepping for Christmas early

Plan ahead. When you think about it, so much of the stress comes from leaving it late, panic buying from places like *the website that shall not be named* and then hating yourself for it. I don’t know about you, but I can’t imagine any better feeling than knowing I’ve found thoughtful gifts, cards and Christmas decorations that have been beautifully made and that I've supported small businesses in the process. I highly recommend buying yourself a Christmas notebook. That way, you’ve got one place for organising your to-do list, gift lists, festive diary dates and more. Use it to keep track of your budget (if you’re anything like me, you’ll exceed it but at least you’ll be in the ballpark!). By getting organised in advance, you can slow down, take your time and spread the cost. It really helps small businesses, too.

2. Let go of Christmas perfectionism and do it your way

Remember, comparison is the thief of joy. Nobody needs to match the perfect homes on Instagram. Do it your way. When Christmas is on your terms, you can do as little or as much as you like. If you hate cooking, have pizza this year (we have a Pizza Lovers’ Collection if it helps make it fun) and actually spend time with those you love instead. Or if you’re expecting lots of guests, how about creating a New York Potluck Dinner, where everyone brings a dish or element of the meal? That way, it’s about sharing and being together, and the weight of it isn’t on one person’s shoulders (AKA yours!). If this was your last Christmas on earth, how would you love to spend it? There are all kinds of ways to have a magical Christmas, a feminist Christmas or especially a less ordinary Christmas.

3. Remember, choosing to be happy is not selfish but self-full

In his Conversation of Inspiration episode, Mo Gawdat shared his wonderful concept of just choosing to be happy. For many reasons, not everyone is able to but if possible, changing your mindset can rewrite your future. We can’t change what happens to us, but we can change our attitude towards it. And when you think about it, us being happy is way better for our loved ones than us having the perfect wreath on the door or creating expertly wrapped presents for the kids. Plus who says Christmas is just for children anyway?! I want you to have that magical feeling too. You deserve it. And that doesn’t mean being selfish but self-full. Prioritise self-care. What reduces your stress levels or boosts your mental health? I saw a brilliant quote the other day from @hereciashouse that said, “The love of your life should be the love of YOUR LIFE. Your life’s greatest aspiration should be to love your life and be happy.” To do that, you should be realistic about what really needs doing. If you’re anything like me, it’s likely that much of the weight is put on your shoulders by… YOU. Set realistic expectations of what you can (or should) achieve.

4. Give joyful gifts

There is such magic in what creative small businesses bring to Christmas — the new family heirlooms, the less ordinary gifts, the care they spend making them and so on. After working with thousands of independents over the years (both on high streets and online), I’ve developed certain superpowers in the area of sniffing out the best gifts (my friends even started calling me ‘Mrs Gifting’ in fact!). So let me help you. What makes a gift joyful? When it’s unexpectedly thoughtful? Beautifully made? Long lasting not landfill? It’s also when you really show someone you listen and care about their passions (see my gift ideas of playful finds for everyone from the mince pie lovers to the seaside seekers).

Or it might be in the way you give the gift (could you wrap Sevenseventeen’s ‘Off Duty’ candle in Emma Giacalone’s ‘Sweary Fairy’ tea towel with a bar of Restorative Chocolate for a new mum you know?). It’s the little things that help someone feel seen. And it’s not about giving many gifts but choosing well. For the minis, how about sticking to four? It could be something they might want, need, wear or read, for example, to cover all bases. Or how about gifting them a unique piñata that you’ve filled with fun messages and mini treats which they can bash to liberate on Christmas Day? Imagine the excited anticipation...

5. Ask for help this Christmas

Which parts of planning Christmas do you love or find exciting? Hold onto the bits you enjoy and delegate the rest — and be clear about what you’re asking for. Often older parents relish the chance to feel needed, trusted and useful. Could they do some ordering or pick up and drop offs for you? And if you have a partner, is the division of labour equal / fair? A survey once found that women were responsible for 17 Christmas-related jobs while men had just nine — and the jobs for men included helping to set up new toys and carving the turkey, many of the quickest, easiest and most enjoyable chores of the day¹. Maybe we need to stop thinking, ‘It’s easier if I do it myself’. It might be easier but how will anything change as a result? As I said recently on my IG Live on this subject, there isn’t a cupboard full of gold stars with your name on them. Share the load. Create a support network. Ask for help… And fuck the dishes!

6. Bring the magic back for minis

It’s not about loads of presents piled high. It’s about the unexpected surprises. Kids often love the creative side of it. For little ones, could you create a fairy door in a tree for them to find on a winter walk? Or decorate the window together with a theme then watch the reactions of passers by (if you don’t have the time or energy, see Joanie & Jeanie’s Nutcracker window decal stickers)? Or get them to leave their shoes out filled with poems or stories they’ve written along with carrots for ‘Sinterklaas’ to enjoy like they do in the Netherlands — and see if he leaves any little gifts for them in return? These are the kinds of things they’ll talk about when they grow up and remember with a warm heart.

7. (Really) think of others

Christmas isn’t a magical time for everyone, is it? We all know someone who’s missing loved ones or those who don’t like Christmas and just how hard this can be. How can you show them they’re not alone? How can you show your support for the 60% of UK small businesses facing closure this coming year too? I always say that by shopping with them, you’re giving a gift twice — once for the person you’re shopping for but also for the independent you’re shopping from) but actually, if it’s a social purpose business (like many showing the ‘social purpose’ badge on our site), it’s more like triple gifting, as you’re supporting the community, too. That’s the real joy of Christmas isn't it?

8. Create new traditions

Whether it’s getting special plates you always use for Christmas Eve fish & chips, reading a poem a day during Advent to get in the spirit of Christmas or getting a new bauble personalised each year with something special, it’s fun to create new traditions. Meaningful experiences mean the world — those things you look back on years later and smile about. Could you have an evening for each person in the house in the run up to Christmas where you make them feel special and tap into their passions? Or a night when you each bring your favourite funny animal videos to watch together (which my Harry and I love)? Or adopt ‘Jolabokaflod’ — the Icelandic habit of exchanging new books on Christmas Eve to then sit and read. It’s these unique, shared moments that bring a smile to even the most tired of faces.

9. Look out for the glimmers

It’s a known fact that the joy is in the small things. ‘Glimmers’ are those golden moments we experience in the middle of an often heavy time. They’re the unexpected magic. A waft of glitter from the universe that brings renewed hope and energy. Someone complimenting you on your jumper. Spotting a hedgehog on your lunchtime walk. Someone you don’t know very well giving you a gift. We sometimes have a tendency to gloss over them but I think they’re precious. Living in gratitude and taking a moment to appreciate these things (and in fact, all the happyful parts of life) spreads happiness. That’s why it’s good to create these glimmers for others, too. What could you do this Christmas that you’ll feel really good about?

10. Find the fun and pass it on to others

Be playful this Christmas. Embrace the wit. You could have a night of dressing for dinner on the top half only. So you wear sequins or a headpiece but with your pyjamas bottoms so you’re comfortable? If you’ve got the energy, make your home happy, too. A few fun Christmas decorations in your bedroom from small businesses can honestly help you wake up grinning. And if we wake up grinning, we can also then pass that onto others like a kind of snowball of joy. Remember to show dear Dame Deborah James’s ‘rebellious hope’ as a way of just not accepting life’s shite — but remaining optimistic in spite of it. Laugh in its face. Refuse to let the darkness win. Live your joy as an example for others to follow. That’s how we’ll find happiness this Christmas. And I wish you plenty of it.

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Source: 1. GMB report