This is the first article in Leaving Busy’s series on:

How to Boost Mental Health During the Holidays

10 Reasons – Why Smaller Holiday Gatherings are Better for Families

written by Dawn Harmon of

The holiday season can be one of the most stressful times of the year. Starting around mid-October, straight through into the New Year, it seems like we go non-stop. From preparing food to home decorations, parties, shopping for presents, booking accommodations, and incurring travel expenses, etc., celebrations can become overwhelming if you’re not careful. If you are considering simplifying your festivities, here are 10 reasons why smaller holiday gatherings are better for families:

1) Less Stress

Instead of hosting your entire extended family at your home or skipping around with covered dishes to visit all of your relatives, consider planning a small gathering with just the immediate family. This is way less stressful and gives you the opportunity to have quality time with your loved ones.

2) Extra Special Food

Let’s face it, when you have less food to prepare and fewer people to feed, you can focus more on the quality of what you are serving. You will likely have a better budget when shopping so  splurge on more special ingredients and try new recipes. Some of the best dishes are made from scratch and can be time-consuming to prepare. Hosting a smaller crowd allows you to finally take the time to enjoy the finer things in life!

3) Plenty of Leftovers

Even though you will be cooking for less people, that doesn’t necessarily mean your portions will be smaller. You can adjust your preparations so that there will be leftovers. It won’t be like visiting massive family parties and leaving with a random Tupperware or being left with a few scraps and a huge mess after hosting your own party. If you hosted and contributed all the food, you can choose to keep all of the leftovers for future meals!

4)  Better Gift Exchange Options

Yeah, I know gifts are not the most important part of the holidays but, that has never stopped us from giving or enjoying the satisfaction of receiving them. Usually, with large families, especially ones with lots of children, it can get quite expensive to buy everyone a gift. Who wants to be the one that shows up empty-handed? With a down-sized group, you can really focus on the quality of the gifts you purchase instead of buying cheaper, random items just to make sure no one is left out. You could even focus on making handmade gifts!

5)  Quality Time

Another plus side to smaller holiday gatherings with family is the intimate atmosphere. With fewer distractions, you can take this time to form closer bonds with one another.

6)  Avoid Over Spending

When you celebrate the season in a big way your bank accounts can suffer all year long. By simplifying your traditions, it becomes more about enjoying the holiday season and less about stressing over it. Plus you will have extra money in the new year that can be invested in some of your goals and resolutions.

7)  Flexibility to Travel

You will likely save quite a bit of money by focusing on your inner circle, and you could use these savings to travel somewhere beautiful instead! Maybe you could take your family to see snow for the first time or visit a longed-for destination for the holidays! The opportunities are endless.

8) Less Drama

Every family has its own unique dynamic and it may or may not be all that enjoyable to endure. By cutting out celebrations with over-extended family, you might just be saving yourself a little drama. Whether it be from controversial topics that uncle Jim likes to drum up or the fights between the cousins about whose present is better, scaling down may be a great way to reduce conflict.

9) Religious Observation

Cutting back on the typical seasonal stressors will give you the opportunity to focus on your own religious beliefs and traditions. There may be some celebrations of faith that you may not even know existed. Do a little research and see if there is something you could add to your holiday season to make it more meaningful.

10) Unique Traditions:

  • Let Everyone be the Chef – everyone in the family can be in charge of a special dish to choose and make on their own.
  • Go See Traditional Shows – go check out a classic seasonal show like The Nutcracker, A Christmas Carol, or The Nativity.
  • Volunteer Together – find a local charity and donate your time as a family.
  • Give Thanks – take turns sharing what you are most thankful for this year.
  • Holiday Crafting – work on seasonal crafts together. You could start on Christmas decor after Remembrance Day or US Thanksgiving dinner.
  • Take a Family Walk – especially after a big meal, a family walk is a great way to work off some calories, check out the neighbour’s holiday decor, and have some meaningful conversations.
  • Watch Classic Holiday Movies – a holiday movie night is always fun, especially with matching Pjs.
  • Play Games Together – board games are a great way to get everyone off of their phones and interacting together.
  • Get Out of the House – try a special family outing that you don’t always get the chance to do like bowling, laser tag, skating, the movie theatre, or drive around looking at Christmas lights.
  • Cookie Day (Sunday before Christmas) – designate a day for baking and decorating cookies, either as a family or have just the moms get together with some wine and take some time to relax.
  • Tree Ornament Collection – take your kids shopping and let them chose an ornament for the tree each year so that when they are older they will have the beginning of their own holiday decor collection.
  • Gingerbread Houses – have a gingerbread decorating contest.
  • Sibling Shopping – have your kids shop and give gifts to each other.
  • Christmas Book Collection – add a new Christmas book to your collection each year and read them on the days leading up to Christmas.
  • Pet Stockings – don’t forget your furry friends, they will enjoy gifts too.
  • Hot Chocolate Bar – create a hot chocolate bar with all the fixings.


Whatever you decide, it is advisable to have some heartfelt discussions with your spouse and any extended family who may be affected by a change of holiday celebrations. If scaling back is going to cause unintended hurt and offence to extended loved ones, consider suggesting celebrations outside the tight time restraints of the holiday season.

One suggestion is to plan a family reunion in the summer months instead of Christmas week when the weather forced everyone indoors and affected travel. Another is to delay gathering until January. It’s okay to be creative. Just beware that change is often difficult for some people especially if they are not the ones introducing it.

While we need to be mindful to love and include others, in the end, you are responsible to make the choice that not only protects your mental health and well-being, but that of your spouse and children. Resentment caused by caving to pressure won’t benefit anyone in the long run.

About Our Guest Post Contributor...

Dawn Harmon, the founder of ©Modern Day Alice, was born and raised in Tampa, FL where she currently resides with her family; boyfriend of six years, two amazing children, dog, two cats, and two fish. Together they enjoy family dinners, beach trips, theme parks, and holiday parties.

Ever since childhood, Dawn Harmon, has shown an interest in reading, writing, poetry, and creative design. Dawn has held various jobs over the years; teaching, dental assisting, sales/marketing, customer service, and event planning. Currently, she works part-time as a private caregiver and spends her precious free time reading, writing, blogging, crafting, and drinking coffee. Dawn has a compassionate spirit and a heart to serve. She aspires to be a guiding light and an inspiration to others.

You can contact Dawn Harmon directly at [email protected] and visit her website


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