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20 Christmas Shortcuts

With all the festive flitting and fussing that's about to take place over the next few weeks, even the mellowest of sugar-plum fairies can feel a little fretful. If you're experiencing the crunch, slow down and find ways to make this season the tranquil time it was meant to be. Our inspiring ideas will help you balance the pace and the peace of the season.
Make Spirits Bright
family on Christmas
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  • Recall what you loved most about Christmas when you were a child and recreate it. "Chances are, those treasured memories are more about simple pleasures like the scent of a fresh tree being set up or singing carols with the family," says Elaine St. James, author of Simplify Your Christmas (Andrews McMeel Publishing).
  • The night the tree is decorated, camp out around it with sleeping bags and story books. Gazing up at the twinkling branches and ornaments while listening to "The Night Before Christmas" will create a memory that is sure to last a lifetime.
  • Turn little "gimmes" into big givers with a "good deeds" Advent calendar. Stuff each pocket with a notation of a kind act: making fudge for a shut-in, shoveling the walkway of an elderly neighbor, stamping holiday cards for Mom.

Seek Serenity

  • "Oxygen enhances the regeneration of the body," says Mara Carrico, author of Yoga Journal's Yoga Basics (Henry Holt). "If you consciously deepen your breathing for just a few minutes every day, you can calm the nervous system, which is especially important this time of year."
  • Take the stress out of gift giving. List activities rather than things that recipients might most appreciate: a cooking lesson for a budding chef, a massage for a new mom, an evening of ice skating for the whole family.
  • Make Christmas card writing a pleasant ritual: Set up a folding table in front of the fireplace or window, slip in a soothing CD, and brew a pot of cinnamon-scented tea.

Wrap It Light

  • Sending presents through the mail? Cushion the gifts by filling the carton gaps with slightly underinflated balloons in seasonal colors.
  • Create gift certificates from sheets of standard 8 1/2-x-11-inch paper and roll them into scrolls. Forget the box and wrappings; simply seal with a tiny sticker, a wax seal, or a smidgen of tape. Tie with a pretty ribbon.
  • Decorate an assortment of paper bags with golden stars and/or notary seals. Tie the handles together with sheer gold ribbon.

Deck the Halls Simply
Christmas tree
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Miki Duisterhof

  • Mismatched strings of white and colored tree lights? String the white ones close to the trunk from the base of the tree to its crown, then weave the multicolored ones through the outside branches. The white lights will create a glow from within while the colored ones dance on the branches.
  • For a sense of depth and balance, hang larger ornaments close to the trunk of the tree and smaller ones on the outside branches.
  • Save any sawed-off or broken branches from the tree for a natural arrangement for the kitchen table.
  • Who needs a wreath? Simply tie a wide red ribbon on the front door knocker or doorknob for an instant festive welcome.

Staying in the Holiday Mood
Tell Us!

How do you keep a positive mood when the holidays get stressful?