Keeping the JOY in Christmas – Pushing Back Christmas Stress…

by Texas Homesteader ~

I love Christmas! There, I’ve said it. I really do. The sparkling lights, the gatherings, the food… But even with all this seasonal joy I find myself falling into a dark sadness sometimes during the holidays. Maybe you do too?

I'm working on staying out of the Christmas Funk this year. Many things about the holidays are being re-examined. How do you stay positive? #TexasHomesteader


What Brings Christmas Joy?

Of course as a Christian, the celebration of the birth of Christ is deeply meaningful for me.

And there’s the festive decorations adorning our small tree. I even add edible ornaments (ie: candy canes). So if the grandbabies visit they’re welcome to eat our Christmas decorations.

And I decorate our tree with sentimental ornaments too.

Christmas decoration - baby's 1st Christmas 1989 Hallmark ornament. #TexasHomesteader

I love gathering with our extended family who have always been a close-knit group.

In our family we take turns hosting Christmas & only have to provide some of the food. Each family brings their favorites to contribute to the meal. That way no one family is burdened with doing everything themselves.

Feeling Sadness During The Holidays

But sometimes the holidays become an emotional challenge for me.

Over the years I’ve worked hard to pull away from the mad, crazy consumerist portion of the holiday. I thought that would solve a lot of holiday emotional frustration for me. And make no mistake, it helps a lot!

But sometimes I really get hung up on the other side of Christmas – Sadness over familial expectations – both real & perceived.

Sometimes so much so that I can’t see the abundant blessings that are heaped all around me. 

Familial Expectations at Christmas

My problem is that I have visions of perfection at Christmas and, well, we don’t live in a perfect world.

Of course I’d love to gather all of our children (and our grandchildren) under one roof and celebrate a good old-fashioned Christmas as a family like we used to. 

But that doesn’t often happen. The kids all live in Texas but they have other family members and oftentimes in-laws as well with whom to balance their holiday time. I totally get that.

But some years I still fall into a pity party feeling sometimes that RancherMan & I don’t receive the same attendance that others might receive from our kids. 

Maybe the 1-2 hour drive is just too far for them?

Maybe they just don’t have the available time during the holidays?

I guess I get my feelings hurt sometimes, but this is something I’m working on.

I’ve got to learn to accept that Christmas is not always my version of perfection. That it will not always look like a Norman Rockwell image.

And I need to surround myself with those real blessings in my daily life that lift my spirit instead of looking at what I feel might be missing during the holidays.

Stressing Over Gifts – Purchased Or Handmade?

There are some people who absolutely love shopping & finding just the right gift for each person on their gift list. 

Giving the perfect gift decorated beautifully is sometimes difficult. #TexasHomesteader

But make no mistake: Gift-Buying is not my talent.

I always stress about gifts. “Do they need this? Do they already have one of these? Is this even something they want?”

So RancherMan & I decided long ago to make our gifts handmade each year. Although they’re much more time intensive, we feel they’re also more personal – a gift from our hearts.

We prefer to give consumable gifts.

Beeswax lip balm made with natural beeswax, coconut oil and vitamin E. #TexasHomesteader

Yes it’s true that this alleviates the Christmas shopping push-n-shove. But making your gifts takes much more of your time and sometimes even more of your money than just buying the gifts and being done with it.

Sometimes these homemade gifts stress me out because I worry about all the same stuff that I did when I was just buying them from the store. Will they appreciate this? Is it worth the time & effort we’re putting into it?

This second-guessing myself is also something I’m working on.

Expecting Perfection When Giving Gifts

Here’s where the struggle gets real, y’all!  Mama always says ‘Presentation Is Half The Gift so I always fuss majorly with the actual gift presentation. Enough to make RancherMan pull his hair out each & every year!

For instance, last year for Christmas we made the kids a jar of vanilla-bean infused honey from our hives, some honey-sticks to sweeten their tea, and some homemade beeswax lip balm. 

Each of these gifts took lots of time from harvesting the honey, purifying the wax, making the gifts, etc.

But I didn’t want to just plop it all in a crumpled paper sack and hand it to them. I wanted the gift presentation to pop!

Making Homemade Gift Bags

Of course I decorated the honey jar, but how do I present the bundle of our homemade gifts? 

I used our laser printer to transfer a cute image onto a repurposed glass canning mason jar of honey. #TexasHomesteader

I decided to sew a denim gift bag for each of our children, which didn’t take too long I guess. But then I stressed about them all looking the same. 

So I embellished each denim gift bag differently. I cut strips of denim & hot-glued them into ribbons or other embellishments on front of the baskets.

I'm working on staying out of the Christmas Sadness this year. Many things about the holidays are being re-examined. How do you stay positive? #TexasHomesteader

But what about the stuffing? I’d like this gift bag to display the gifts we worked so hard on. 

So I took the brown-paper section of our cattle feed bags and crinkled it and cut it into strips. LOTS of strips!

Those strips were fluffed into the baskets to hold the lip balm tubs up higher. That way they wouldn’t just get lost in the basket.

The honey sticks were tied together but I decided it didn’t pop enough. So I took the bundles apart, cut thin strips of denim and tied them with that instead. 

A printed card describing the gift aspects was placed in each of the baskets and we bought a honeybee stamp. 

Then I stressed about how to ‘package’ the lip balms. First I tried this, then that. It was enough to drive RancherMan crazy.

It took days & days (and a HUGE mess) to just to complete those 4 gift baskets. And that was AFTER all the gift items had been handmade!

So yeah, in the end the gifts popped to my satisfaction. But at what emotional cost?

Do all those hours of work really garner more than a cursory glance from the gift recipients? 

Would they even have any idea how much time & effort went into that one small part of their gift?

Probably not.

Time to Take A Breath – Perfection Is Not Necessary!

So now I’m taking steps to make sure I keep the JOY in my holiday.

I’m striking a happy balance during by keeping these things in mind:

    1. Surround myself with those holiday traditions that bring me joy. Decorating for the holiday, homemade hot cocoa, a fire in the fireplace – good friends & family.

    2. Heartfelt homemade gifts don’t have to be perfect.

    3. Gifts can be presented nicely without going overboard striving for perfection.

    4. Family that attend our gatherings will be appreciated, I’ll strive to be understanding of those whom cannot attend.

Do you find yourself in a funk this time of year? What do you do to try to alleviate that? 

How do you keep the joy in your holiday?


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8 thoughts on “Keeping the JOY in Christmas – Pushing Back Christmas Stress…

  1. Patty

    I have always loved Christmas, and still do, but it is also the hardest season for me. Our only son cut himself out of our lives a few years ago and refuses contact, so I have many bouts of sadness when everything is supposed to be happy and joyful. And my husband and I live and work in different states, so it’s a lonely time as well. We have many blessings, and we will be together for the actual holiday, but the season before is tough. I get through it by praying a lot, and immersing myself in as many of the other trappings as I can – viewing light displays (lots of beautiful ones here in the Texas hill country!), free concerts, church services, and of course the classic movies like Christmas Carol (Alistair Sim’s version is the best!), White Christmas, It’s a Wonderful Life, and Charlie Brown Christmas.

    1. Texas Homesteader Post author

      The absence of beloved family members sure makes it hard, doesn’t it Patty? I’m so sorry you deal with that sadness – I’ve lifted a prayer that your son’s heart will be touched & he’ll come around. (HUGS) In the meantime, good for you for filling your world with comforting joys until you & your hubby can finally spend the holiday together. I too love the holiday classics. I’m doubly thrilled that RancherMan can usually obtain electronic copies – no commercials! Yea. ~TxH~

  2. robin lebleu

    If spending all that time and effort doesn’t make you happy, then it isn’t worth doing. If simple leaves you feeling incomplete, then it’s worth the effort, regardless of the recipient’s response.
    Wrapping should be fun.

    1. Texas Homesteader Post author

      I don’t know Robin, I see it like this – Some people like to knit, some do not. Some people like to garden, some do not. Some people absolutely love spending time creating a beautifully-wrapped gift, some do not. I’ve never enjoyed wrapping gifts, it’s never been something that’s fun for me. But I’ve always felt it’s important to present gifts beautifully, so I spend extra time on it anyway. I’m sure there’s a balance between doing it and second-guessing, redoing & stressing about it. ~TxH~

  3. Pam Kaufman

    Christmas is hard. All the expectations hit with a reality we wish wasn’t there. When dysfunction is the normal but we want so badly to be that family in the Hallmark movie. I understand exactly how you feel. It’s a struggle every year.

    1. Texas Homesteader Post author

      I think I’m somewhere in the middle Pam. Our family isn’t dysfunctional at all – in fact we’re all very close and loving. My biggest hurdle is learning to share our kid’s time with all the other family members that get ‘their turn’ during the holidays. In laws are often in the picture too and that just spreads the visits thinner. It’s something I’m working on, keeping the Joy in the holiday even if none of our kids are present when the rest of our family gathers together to celebrate. ~TxH~

  4. Cynthia D

    This is how I feel. Like something is missing. I am really having to push myself this year to get things done. I use to be one of those people who had all presents purchased and wrapped by Thanksgiving and Thanksgiving weekend I would make Christmas cookies and freeze them. But not now. Yesterday, we had snow and I played in the snow with the grandkids and that boosted my mood. They are so excited about Christmas, its catching!

    Good luck on your Christmas gathering.

    Merry Christmas to ALL!

    1. Texas Homesteader Post author

      Me too Cynthia – in the past I was always anxious to get the season started. Always excitedly decorating & anticipating. I still love Christmas but I think since we moved out here we feel somewhat isolated. We now take turns having various family members host Christmas celebration in hopes of the kids being more apt to be in attendance because it’s closer for them. Hopefully that helps keep that Joy in our Christmas. Celebrating with our kids & grandbabies is one of the biggest joy-producers in our holiday! And I think their absence is what brings me down each year. ~TxH~


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