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Joy to Your World: How to Make Holidays Meaningful

My siblings, in-laws, and elderly parents always expect me to host our Christmas gathering. So if I want my kids to see family, I have to clean, cook, send invites, etc. Every year I think, Why me?

MomSue

You're designated hostess because you've been doing such a terrific job, and the relatives have gotten used to letting you run the show, says Carson. The answer? Simplify. "Alert them ahead of time that you're scaling back to have more time for appreciating the festivities," she says. Rather than trying to please everyone, focus on what you personally would miss.

Then delegate: Ask each guest to bring a dish to share. If there's someone you're especially close with, see if he or she will come a day early to help clean. Have the kids e-mail, text, or phone the invites. Refuse to feel guilty about your decision to reduce your busyness, advises Carson.

Most of all, stop from time to time to savor the sights and sounds of the season. "We often knock ourselves out to make everything wonderful and end up robbing ourselves of enjoyment," she says. "But the celebration doesn't have to be perfect to be special." In other words, whatever you do will be beautiful.