Holiday Conundrums 

          I am going to have a full house again this Christmas — children, grandchildren and even in-laws. Last year nearly killed me! Besides running away, how do I make this holiday easier?

          Be honest and announce that while you love hosting Christmas, you need some help so you can enjoy the holiday too. Next, plan and delegate with an eye to group participation. If anyone lives nearby, let them take over Christmas Eve or Christmas Day festivities. If they are all out-of-towners, ask volunteers to sign up for a meal or for at least one course like dessert. Last year, my younger son and his wife happily planned and prepared Christmas Eve dinner. My oldest son and his wife delighted us with appetizers and dessert on Christmas Day. My husband and I managed Christmas morning brunch and our main course for dinner while my daughter-in-law’s mother served up side dishes that were traditional in their family. I collected all the recipes in advance and provided the groceries since everyone was arriving by plane. Of course, this plan requires that you let go of control and maybe lower your standards for hosting a Martha Stewart-worthy holiday. The kitchen seemed chaotic at times, but everyone contributed and loved the spirited fun. Best of all, there was not a Grinch in sight! 

          Our children are married adults, each with a healthy double income. In the past, we’ve given generous holiday gifts, but we’re now retired. How can we cut back? 

          Speak up about it, but please do it now and not the week before the holiday. Explain your situation and suggest that you either draw names for a gift exchange or limit buying gifts to those for children. Your busy family members might be relieved to simplify their shopping too. If you decide to continue with an adult exchange, consider passing on heirloom pieces that you are ready to part with, like your grandmother’s linen napkins or the pearls you never wear. These treasured items make a meaningful gift and will keep your expenses low. Finally, an “experience” gift is a great way to cut back on holiday shopping. A promised weekend of babysitting is always a welcome gift to young parents. Another idea is a joint gift for the entire family — a family portrait or a weekend at a mountain cabin next spring. In the long run, you’ll save money and create memories too. 

          I am a widow with a new friend I’d like to include in our family holiday get-togethers. Hugh is nice–looking, but favors jeans and flannel shirts.           My extended family always gets decked out at Christmas. I feel that I don’t want to be embarrassed and I don’t want him to feel out of place. How do I tactfully suggest that he spruce up a bit? 

          Dressing up is not silly. In many families, it is a sign of respect for the occasion, for other guests and is simply expected. But every family is different and the only way that Hugh will know what the norm is in your group is for you to tell him. Doing so is thoughtful and considerate. Be direct but kind. Men like to feel attractive too, so play that up. Pick out a beautiful tie in a color that matches his eyes. Tell him that you can’t wait to see him in it at your family Christmas get-together. Then offer to help him put together an outfit that will show him off for the handsome fellow that he is. 

Vicki Duncan is a licensed professional counselor and welcomes your questions. She can be reached at [email protected]




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