How to Make the Best Out of A Small Family Christmas
We have a big extended family, so I’m used to our huge family gatherings. Lots of people, food, and just all around stuff going on. We look for any excuse to party – sorry, not sorry!
But the problem is that now I’ve been conditioned to think that it isn’t a real holiday unless it’s a huge family gathering. So when the holidays roll around and it’s just my own little family, it always feels like something’s lacking.
These days, my husband Will and I are stationed on the opposite end of the country, where we have no family around. Usually, we try to travel during the holidays to be with extended family, but with two little ones in tow, it’s expensive and exhausting. This year, we’re not going anywhere and have decided to do our small family Christmas alone.
Being alone on the holidays is something that comes with the package of military life.
I’m excited, because it’s our first Christmas in our own home, and last year, Will was deployed during the holidays (which was also our youngest’s first Christmas, *tear*).
But I’m also sad because I won’t see my mom and grandparents and brothers, like our usual Christmas tradition entails.
And I’m a bit nervous, because Will and I have only done Christmas alone before, and while it wasn’t necessarily “bad,” it felt lonely. Note: it was also a difficult time in our life, so when I think back on that Christmas alone, I always harbor negative, sad feelings.
With that said, I’m determined to turn a new leaf this year and make our small family Christmas alone a memorable one – in a special way.
Okay, here we go! Here’s the plan to make the best out of a small family Christmas:
1. Before you start planning, summon your gratitude.
When I feel down about having a small family Christmas, I have to shake it off because a little voice tells me, “Really, Angelica?! Be grateful your own little family can be together during this time!” And I wholeheartedly agree!
So, to combat my negative feelings, I started by writing in my journal. Not to get on a soapbox, but whenever I feel I need to “sort out” my feelings, I turn to writing. I’ve kept a journal since I was in elementary school, and it’s seriously my therapy! There’s something about the power of seeing the words you’ve written on paper – it truly makes them come to life. Maybe I’m just a nerd, though.
To really get myself feeling all sorts of thankful for my small family christmas, I closed my eyes for about a minute and told myself to imagine what it’d be like if I had NO family and NO friends around me! If I were totally alone, how would I feel? I took a minute to envision this, then I did a quick-write in my journal, where I described what I envisioned. My description includes what it would look like, what it would feel like, what it would sound like, to be totally alone on Christmas.
When I was done describing the lonely scenario, I read it over. Then, on a new page, I made a list of everything I’ve been blessed with this holiday season. After imagining the scenario, I felt so grateful for everything I did have – the list could’ve been endless. I felt all warm and fuzzy and bright with thanks, having realized all that was going good, and all that I had to be excited for.
Now, I was ready to be in the Christmas spirit and I started to make a plan for our small family Christmas.
2. For starters, think of the food.
Who cares about presents? First, we need to talk about the food.
To me, the best part about the holidays is all the food. It’s seriously amazing.
Eating food is where it’s at…cooking, not so much. Just kidding. Cooking can be fun, but I’m not that great at it, and it’s stressful being in charge of the holiday meal!
The one year we did Christmas alone, I made everything, and it was exhausting. I think I made a ham, mashed potatoes, cream corn, and green bean casserole.
After hours of slaving to eat in the kitchen, when we sat down to eat, I realized the whole meal had the same consistency. And while it tasted great, it would’ve been better to have some different textures.
It sounds petty, but you’d be surprised what a difference food textures make in a meal.
So for my small holiday dinner menu, I knew I wanted to do these things:
Involve everyone in the house.
Yup, everyone gets to be in charge of some aspect of the holiday meal this year! FUN! I have a man and a 9 year old that are perfect able to help out in the kitchen, so why not? And, it’s a good way to spend quality family time together, away from all the screen-time.
My 9 year old will be in charge of helping me to prep veggies and bake the desserts. My husband will be in charge of some of the side dishes, and making sure the pots and pans are all cleaned (read: he’s in charge of doing the dishes).
Voila! Kitchen team assembled.
Plan a small holiday meal with varied textures.
This one makes me LOL. But, lesson learned, right? When I say varied textures, I mean, make sure every item on your holiday plate won’t be creamy, or hard, or soft…you get the idea.
You want to have a combination. There should be a protein + a creamy side + a dry side + something crunchy + something smooth + a bread.
For example, I plan to have a juicy ham + creamy mashed potato casserole + pan-roasted veggies + holiday salad with nuts + buttery dinner rolls.
See all the different textures each of these food items will give? LOVE.
3. Create a holiday schedule
If my household doesn’t have a plan, it becomes a free-for-all. Which means my 9 year old will be playing in her room, my husband will be playing video games (and yelling at the screen), and my toddler will be turning the house upside down. But let’s face it, plan or no plan, toddlers do what they want regardless.
Anyway, you should still have a plan! It doesn’t have to be anything comprehensive or super structured – just get some ideas on how you want to spend the day. Writing it out helps, too.
For Christmas Eve, I’m planning for our family to bake cookies and open a Christmas Eve present. The Christmas Eve present will have a new set of comfy pajamas! Then, we’ll all get in PJs and snuggle up in the living room, where we’ll watch a family holiday movie and relax.
On Christmas morning, I’m planning to do presents first (of course!) then we’ll eat an already-prepped breakfast casserole. Then, everyone can kinda relax and do their own thing for awhile. When it’s time to start working in the kitchen, everyone will have their job they are in charge of. We’ll have dinner, then do a family walk around the neighborhood. In the evening, I plan to do a family game, such as a board game. Then, more free time and relaxing.
4. Don’t forget the power of technology
Sure, my extended family won’t be physically around. But it’s times like these that you have to be thankful for our modern technological world. We plan to call and video chat all the family we’ll be missing on the holidays. And while it’s not as sweet as the real thing, it’s still sweet, and that’s what counts. 🙂
I’m making my small family holiday simple, but here are some ideas that may work for your family:
Make a new family tradition
Do a family craft
Plan to volunteer or participate in a charity event
Get involved in a local event or church function
Drive around to look at Christmas lights
Invite friends and neighbors over!