I’ve always been a bit of a scheduling freak. This has manifested itself in many ways—in high school, my planner was always pristine and friends would try to get a rise out of me by drawing on a future page. In college, my Miami Memos planner was always with me and I would feel a little pang of sadness anytime I had to cross out a meeting to be rescheduled. The latest iteration is my obsessive planning of what I lovingly call The Holiday Shuffle.
There once was a time where all you had to do on Christmas was wake up, wander downstairs in your jammies, and your whole family would be there. Later in the day, you’d make a stop to see your extended family, and that was it—easy. However, as families merge, diverge, change, grow, reproduce, etc… it becomes more complicated to schedule holiday gatherings with them. So, I have made it my personal mission to make sure as many family members are seen over the holiday season. It requires drafts, Google docs, rounds of revisions, and often quite a bit of driving. But, as my opening sentence stated, I’m a bit of a scheduling freak.
Rather than keep this flaw/talent to myself, I thought I could provide a bit of insight for others who may be planning a shuffle of their own. Which brings me to…
How to Embrace the Holiday Shuffle
Who are the key people/places that make the holiday truly feel like a holiday? Put those in place first, and then fill in the other visits around those. Married folk – this may be an area where you need to compromise and do some switching off.
For me, Christmas doesn’t feel like Christmas without spending a slow morning at my parents’ house. My siblings all now have children, so they do gifts at their own homes, but then everyone congregates at “Gigi and Papa’s” for another round of gifts and a big brunch.
For my husband, Matt, he is all about Christmas Eve dinner at his Dad’s house. The traditional Italian “Feast of the 7 Fishes,” where everyone eats too much and all of the cousins do a secret santa gift exchange.
Each year we do both of these things. Christmas Eve Feast >> Hour Drive >> Sleepy Christmas Morning. The remaining part of the day, we alternate between Matt’s side and my side each year, but we always walk away knowing that we both got to enjoy the event that was the most important to us.
If you have the opportunity to take a bit of time off work around the holidays (lucky you!) you should… take the time off. With even a few extra days, you can make stops to see the people you didn’t get to see on the actual holiday, and continue the celebration. Extended family, family who is ‘geographically challenged,’ friends in town… the possibilities are endless. Don’t make the mistake of squandering that opportunity because you are stuck responding to last minute emails on your phone. You’ve made the effort to be there, so be there.
Sometimes, when The Holiday Shuffle gets complicated, I feel a little bit like the Grinch. I get so absorbed in trying to make a perfect plan, so when it still includes hours and hours of driving, I tend to forget why I am doing it. So this year, I will encourage myself—and you—to remember that each stop along the way during the shuffle means that you have (at least) one more person who loves you and wants to spend their holiday with you. You are lucky to bear the burden of a packed holiday schedule. So take a little time to think about all the people you will see in the next few weeks—whether you see them once a week, once a month, or once a year—and think about what they mean to you, why you love them, and why you are grateful to have them in your life.