Do you ever think about all the things you have to do to get ready for Christmas and begin to feel overwhelmed? Some years I’m excited and ready to get started with all the holiday fun.
And other years are more of a struggle. Whether it’s because of sickness in the family (mine or a child’s) or some other reason, the holiday season can get overwhelming.
I’m a big believer in the 80/20 rule. This principle states that 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes.
It’s also been called The Law of the Vital Few.
About 20% of the things we do are vital for moving our goal forward. The rest may be important, but 20% of the effort is going to create 80% of the results.
What’s your family’s “vital few” when it comes to Christmas baking? When you think of the memories you’re building in your family, which foods are the most important?
If you find yourself in a place where you just can’t do everything this year, focus on the vital few. For my family, that includes Peanut Butter Balls, Fudge, and Frozen Fruit Cups (I left these out last year and I heard about it!).
Maybe for you it’s your grandma’s Nut Bread recipe. Or the country ham dinner. Or the evening of cookie decorating. Focus on those memory filled dishes and keep everything else simple.
And if you’re just now building traditions for your young family, consider making a couple of them super simple. One of our vital few Christmas breakfast items is canned Grand’s cinnamon rolls. The only time we have these is at Christmas, so they stay special. It doesn’t get easier than popping open a can. On difficult years, we add scrambled eggs and Frozen Fruit Cups. On years with more energy we add something like Western Omelette Casserole and homemade hot cocoa.
I’d love to hear about your vital few recipes in the comments.
And I know we’ve been talking about Christmas baking, since this is a food blog. But you can adapt this line of thinking to any type of holiday tradition. Focus on the vital few and add in other things as time, budget and energy allow.
Sticky buns, warmed and fragrant with cinnamon. The year I suggested that we skip them you might have thought I suggested that the world stop spinning!
Opa’s cookies! He made us giant batches of butter, almond crescents and gingerbread every year. I’ve continued the tradition for everyone since he passed away!
I love traditions like this!
We do the cinnamon rolls in the can too! But I have to make my fudge and 7 layer cookies. I have gone to buying cut outs at the bakery without frosting and letting the kids decorate those with canned frosting and sprinkles. They are happy they have the tradition, I have less to do! I also have cut WAY BACK on cards, if I don’t have time, I don’t sent them. I mass email a greeting to all those I can and send Christmas thank you cards to those who send us a gift. Just a few after 30 years of family Christmases and living all over the world with the Air Force.
Bless you for this post! Our whole family has been sick and I really needed to read this today. What a refreshingly realistic perspective. Thank you!
I hope you all feel better soon!
Martha Garnica says
Mexican chocolate milk and mexican bread the easy part. Main tradition is a green jello my mom would make. I lost the recipe and tried making it off memory and it didn’t come out. I’ll keep trying till I get it right. An lastly getting my daughters together and we make tamales.
Hope everyone has a blessed Christmas and a happy New Year
I’ve always wanted to try making tamales. That sounds fun 🙂
Leslie Roberts Clingan says
You are so wise! I used to run around like a chicken with its head cut off at Christmas time trying to do everything, and do it all perfectly. Impossible. I wish I had read this post 25 years ago. But I can put your sage advice to use even now that my children are grown. I need to concentrate on recreating the activities, cooking the foods that mean the most to my family. Thank you for a great article.
Michelle Vazquez says
Thanks for this post! It reminded me of all the traditional foods my Mom made for us. Icebox cookies are a MUST HAVE every year as well as her Date cake which my Dad loved so much. She always made date bars and chocolate chip cookies as well. Luckily for me I have a sister who is a fabulous cook and she makes them for us!
L would love to have your Christmas recipe
I’ll be spending the holidays alone this year (and I’m in full Grinch status this year anyway). I’d love to create some kind of tradition for myself, but I just don’t know what. I don’t have space to decorate and there isn’t really any extra money for treats this year.
Brianna, what a good idea to think of ways to make the holidays special, especially when you’ll be alone. What about some “comfort food” reading and a movie you’ve looked forward to renting? Maybe along with a cup of special hot cocoa – those can be found in the grocery for under $1 usually. I don’t know how much help that is. My thoughts are with you as you plan a special time for yourself.
Don’t forget the Christmas music. That always helps me get in the Christmas spirit. I always had to work on Christmas and I always hated going, but after I got there it was better. The patients I took care of would not have wished to be there. I was always thankful for the little things. Sometimes writing those things down help us remember the positive things in our lives.
Thank you for this timely reminder! I was feeling overwhelmed that I couldn’t do everything that we usually do and now I realize that I can pick the most important things AND we can still make memories. This has been a long year – husband injured and out of work and no signs of any money for Christmas presents… God has supplied and we will get through this experience. Time to mix up some sugar cookie dough! Merry Christmas!
I love this idea and I think it really is important to focus on what makes the best memories. Last year, my mom and I didn’t have a tree. Well, we have one, but we didn’t take the time to put it up. You know what, it was still Christmas – we spend time with family and loved ones, we gave each other presents, and we did the one thing that has become our favorite tradition. At our church we have a Christmas morning service. It’s small, the kids come in their pajamas and bring one of their favorite presents, and we sing carols without even a piano and eat Jesus’ birthday cake. We didn’t need a tree for any of that.
My guys expect my Nana Hilda s white roll outs. I was laid up with a bi-lateral hip replacement for the holidays one year. The first thing out of my g-children s mouths (after how r you doing Nana) was did you make roll outs this year?
My daughters-in-law say they don’t have my ‘touch’. Well, they have the recipe, they’d better learn. I’m not going to live forever and my boys expect those cookies. LOL
They’re crisp, tender, fragile melt-in-your mouth bites of goodness.
Her recipe is from the 1800’s I have no idea how she managed these in the oven of a cast iron wood stove.
These are definitely not the kind you can put in a box and ship like the white cookie recipes I read now.