EVERY YEAR AS DECEMBER APPROACHES, the dreams of the perfect Christmas season emerge: roaring fires, matching pajamas, perfectly decorated mantles, carols playing lightly in the background, snuggles with your loved ones. But most of the time, the reality is far from that picture. If we’re not careful, the busyness and stress of the holidays can overwhelm us and overshadow our family time and enjoyment of the season. Carefully managing your holiday plans and schedules can prevent holiday stress from happening to you. That’s why Gateway Life has put together this list of 10 ways to make the most out of “the most wonderful time of the year.”

  1. PLAN AHEAD
    Be purposeful about making lasting memories with your family. Don’t just wait around for them to happen. Instead, have a plan in place to make sure your family feels loved and gets into the Christmas spirit.

  2. BE GENEROUS
    The Christmas season is a great time to bless others. There are a number of ways for you and your family to give generously to those in need, like serving at shelters and nursing homes or simply buying groceries for struggling families. Getting your children involved in giving helps create a legacy of generosity for generations to come.

  3. BE SPONTANEOUS
    Oftentimes, great memories take place during unexpected moments, like when you suddenly discover a Christmas special playing on television. Take advantage of moments like these to gather the family together, pop some popcorn, and watch Rudolph, the Red- Nosed Reindeer, It’s a Wonderful Life, or any of the myriad Christmas movies that air in December.

  4. MAKE TRADITIONS
    A Christmas tradition can be a family walk around the neighborhood to look at Christmas lights, a special meal together, or a game night. It can be anything you want. This year could be the start of a new tradition for your family!

  5. JUST SAY NO
    During this busy season, there will be many parties and events with family and friends. Keeping the holidays enjoyable and peaceful for your family might mean saying “no” to a few extra activities.

  6. DECORATE
    Get the whole family involved in making your house look like Christmas inside and out. Be first in line when the Christmas tree lot opens for the year, and as Clark Griswold might tell you, make sure the Christmas light bulbs work before you’re up on the roof.

  7. TIME WITH THE KIDS
    Spending one-on-one time with each of your kids doing Christmas-related activities is a great way to bond with your children during the holidays. Whether it’s going out to do something special or staying in and reading Christmas books, take some time to engage with your kids over the holidays.

  8. FAMILY NIGHT OUT
    Spend time together as a family during Gateway ’s production of Chasing Lights, a Christmas musical for all ages (December 14–17), and at our family Candlelight Services (December 23–24).

  9. CHRISTMAS MIX
    Are the Christmas candles lit, and is the Christmas music playing at your house? These two small ingredients can get just about anyone into the Christmas spirit. Make a Christmas mix of all your favorite songs and keep it on when you’re doing things around the house. And if someone complains about the Christmas music, look them squarely in the eyes and say, “Bah Humbug!”

  10. BE JOYFUL!
    Don’t let the busy schedules, gift deadlines, and holiday stress turn you into a scrooge. Following the aforementioned tips will certainly help, but the best way to be joyful during the holidays is to remember that Christmas is all about celebrating the birth of our Savior.