Tips for a Stress-Free Holiday

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Tradition is the common thread woven through our holiday celebrations. Year after year, we prepare and eat the same foods, set out the same decorations, and spend time with the same people. Some of us wouldn’t have it any other way. But for some, the hectic holiday season is a source of stress, a time when some past practices may feel more like annual obligations than meaningful experiences. Instead of gamely embracing the seasonal hubbub this year, consider freshening up your holiday style. Small changes may result in large sighs of relief all around – and in new traditions to treasure.

> mix up the meal
Inaugurate the first-ever holiday potluck dinner. You provide the main course, and family members and friends bring side dishes, dessert and beverages.

> embrace minimalism
Unless the kids are counting on it, forgo the tree. Instead, buy fresh pine boughs and display them on the mantel, or place pine-scented candles on the coffee table. Holiday music will fill any undecorated spaces in your home.

> avoid the mall
Make charitable donations in family members’ names, buy memberships to the local zoo or art museum, or pick up concert tickets for music lovers in lieu of a gift exchange.

> party less hearty
Cancel your annual, all-out holiday fête. Instead, invite the nearest and dearest to drop in at an open house. By staggering the traffic over a few hours, you will have more time to spend visiting with each guest than when everyone arrives at once.

> fill your own stocking
Put yourself on your gift list. What would you like? A bubble bath with a favorite magazine and a wee glass of eggnog? Time to read Truman Capote’s poignant “A Christmas Memory” aloud to your family? A volunteer shift serving dinner at the local homeless shelter? Pamper yourself as only you can.