Three senior couples dancing in the Henry and Edythe Knapp Auditorium

Keeping The Holidays Joyful and Stress-free

Feeling stressed out by the holidays already? Between a job, children and perhaps taking care of elderly parents, where are you going to find time to create a holiday that all will enjoy—including you! Here are four easy changes you can make to help simplify the holiday season so you can enjoy it to the fullest.

  1. Ask for your family's input.

Carole Bodger, author of Smart Guide to Relieving Stress, suggests that you call a family meeting. "Once the whole family is gathered, ask each person to list his or her three favorite holiday activities –– story reading around the fireplace, decorating cookies, helping out at a homeless shelter –– whatever they think would make for a special time. Then ask for three things they could do without. This will help you create a holiday that includes at least one of everyone's favorites and a way to streamline the celebration.”

  1. Don't channel Martha Stewart.

If your head is filled with visions of creating authentic Victorian sugarplums, take a breath! Stop roasting those chestnuts. Stop burning that midnight menorah oil. Feel free to take short cuts. Consider purchasing an artificial tree with pre-strung lights (the ones on the market now look beautifully real).  For an elegant holiday look, trim the mantel with a row of white votives and dramatic white amaryllises. Amaryllis bulbs can be repotted and forced to bloom again next winter.  

Design Tip: Think less is more when decorating this year — which also makes putting decorations away easier post-holidays.  A very good thing, as Martha would say!

  1. Hire some of Santa's helpers.

Check with your local supermarket about holiday platters, catering for dinner parties and home deliveries. And when guests ask what they can bring, tell them! Consider hiring a cleaning service so you're not left scrubbing the bathroom tiles the night before. That way, you can truly relax. It happens only once a year and the extra expense may well be worth it. The bottom line? Do whatever you can to make your life easier. 

  1. Chop holiday meal prep time in half.

Jules Martin, Director of Dining at Masonicare at Ashlar Village senior living community in Wallingford, CT, is a master at creating delicious, healthy, yet time-saving holiday feasts. Chef Martin recommends cooking ahead whenever possible: “Roast large butternut squash ahead of time and freeze it. When guests come by, simply thaw the squash and blend it with cream and butter (or cream and chicken stock for a lighter version) and you have an elegant lunch or first course ready to serve.”  As for time-consuming side dish prep, Chef Martin recommends roasting vegetables. “Chop up root vegetables such as turnips, carrots, squash, parsnips, whatever you like, add a bit of olive oil and roast in a hot oven until the vegetables caramelize. In just one pan, you have a festive, elegant side dish in under an hour. 

Holiday cookies also can be a snap to prepare. “Coconut macaroons take just three simple ingredients –– condensed milk, shredded coconut and egg whites. Whip these together, scoop onto a cookie sheet ...feel free to dip into melted chocolate...and your guests will gobble these up!”  

As you can see from all these expert tips, the secret to enjoying the holidays can be summarized in one word: Simplify! Make this your mantra and see how it can help both you and your loved ones experience all the Comfort (ahhh!) and Joy of this special season!