When I was a kid I loved Christmas -- I adored the cheesy music, the month-long anticipation of The Big Day had me unable to sit still, I couldn't get enough of the various preparations for family meals, church services, concerts, and school break. This love of the Holiday was still so strong with me that when I met DH we had to strike a compromise in which I could only start listening to Christmas music on December 1st or as soon as the first snow fell -- whichever came first. Given we lived in Nova Scotia, I never got to start early (though the arrangement had to be modified once we moved to Ottawa!). As an adult, though, I started losing the excitement and joy -- there wasn't any fun in picking out gifts for people, the malls were a torture to be avoided if at all possible, and I even stopped loving the music as much. Christmas had become a chore. I was done. Once the kids were here, we kept it pretty simple but a big part of me craved to recapture the excitement I remembered from my own childhood.
A couple years ago, I hit on the magic formula for us. We don't buy any "new" presents for anyone -- the kids are the only exception. All of our presents are either handmade by us, handmade by local artisans and crafters, or purchased 2nd hand at vintage or antique shops. It made the hunt for the perfect gift fun again. It ensured that no one would receive a duplicate gift from us. It brought me back to the idea that the gifts of the heart are the best sort to give and receive. Heck, I even keep a running list of 2nd hand of "thrifted" gifts here on my blog as a reference for DH. Nothing need be big or expensive -- it only need be special. I still try to avoid the malls whenever possible -- gifting in this manner makes it much easier. I can do almost all of my shopping in my own neighbourhood and never need the car.
In the same line, I pretty much stopped using gift paper (though I've still a bunch left to donate somewhere). Now I wrap gifts in new tea towels and fabric ribbons, or in fabric gift bags. Folks on my gift list also receive some holiday baking from me -- war cake, biscotti and whatever else I feel like baking. They might even receive a mix disc of whatever holiday music I happen to be enjoying at the time -- Kenny and Dolly feature heavily in my holiday rotation. ;)
What is your holiday strategy? How do you avoid seasonal burnout and keep the holidays fun? Lay it on me!