Get Your Christmas Mojo On! Going Deep to Get the Holiday Spirit Back

Can a person really make themselves get into the holiday Christmas spirit? That sounds just as impossible as capturing one of Santa’s reindeers.

Believe it or not, there are ways to get yourself excited for Christmas. After evaluating multiple holiday scenarios, I’ve cracked the code of how to get into the Christmas spirit.

Most of these involve a shift in your way of thinking about Christmas. It’s nuts to think that the only thing blocking you and the Christmas spirit are just making a few tweaks.

Don’t worry, many people struggle to feel the joy and wonder of the season, especially when there are so many things to do and so much pressure to make everything perfect. Bottom line, don’t wait for the excitement to come – just start and build it up yourself!! 

via GIPHY

Don’t miss all of the articles in the Christmas Well-Being series:

What is the difference between holiday cheer and holiday spirit?

Before I reveal all of the secrets for getting into the holiday spirit – what exactly is the holiday spirit?

The holiday spirit is an internal feeling of warmth and happiness during the holidays. It could be attributed to reliving nostalic memories from the past and anticipating happy moments in the present. The holiday spirit encompasses optimism, hope, and a positive attitude towards others.

African American family happily shopping in the evening during Christmas.
Holiday spirit and holiday cheer are both wonderful things to have during the Christmas season.

So what is the difference between holiday cheer and holiday spirit? The lines blur between the two, and are closely related.

Holiday cheer typically refers to the outward expression of joy, kindness, and generosity during the holiday season, including a sense of togetherness, goodwill, and celebration.

It’s important to have both the holiday spirit, and spread holiday cheer to others! If you’re struggling at Christmas, visit my article about not being able to get into the holiday spirit.

The business of getting excited for Christmas

There are very practical reasons to put up Christmas trees, decorations, and lights early. Examples include getting ready for retail holiday sales, Christmas fundraiser events, and Christmas programs.

Forcing one’s self to get into the Christmas spirit in November can seem unnatural. Let’s explore the challenges of getting into the holiday spirit early.

Retailers setting up store displays can be committed to holiday window designs months in advance. The bigger stores even employ professional window display designers (it’s a real job!). Their hope is that the Christmas spirit sparkles through all of the glittery advertising, increasing sales.

Store Christmas display: red chair and jumbo sized decorations hanging from ceiling.
Retailers get Christmas displays ready in November, or even earlier.

Regardless of who is doing the decorating, employees still have to try to figure out how they will ever get into the Christmas spirit in November. Seeing the new merchandise and getting their creativity tickled, might be enough to set staff in the holiday mood.

On the flip side, how do the customers feel about Christmas decorations making an early appearance in stores? Apparently, there is a fine line of going overboard.

Benchmark One offers advice to retailers to “temper the holiday spirit” to not turn off consumers. They cite research that shows shoppers leave a store sooner because of excessive Christmas music.

We can all learn a lesson about going overboard for Christmas.

On the homefront: don’t jump into Christmas too early

When Christmas activities are started too early, there is a real risk of Christmas burnout. Take control of your Christmas exposure to avoid it being sucked dry!

House decorated outside with Christmas decorations including lights, Santa statue, and sleigh and reindeer.
Decorating too early for Christmas can lead to burn out.

Avoid doing any of these Christmas activities too much in advance:

  • putting up the Christmas tree too early
  • decorating for Christmas too early
  • playing Christmas music too early
  • making holiday treats too early
  • avoid stores as long as you can (and the visual overload)
  • turn off the TV to avoid the long Christmas commercial season

Push Christmas off as long as possible, and you will be surprised at the giddy Christmas spirit waiting for you later.

Getting into the Christmas spirit in the off-season

Christmas in July, anyone? There are a few different sources that claim the origination of this idea. Retail has grabbed it for yet another opportunity to sell things. To be fair, some people prefer Christmas in July for lining up with their “winter” climate.

Some families can only get together in the summer, but still want to have Christmas A Christmas in July event ticks all the boxes. Other people embrace a summer Christmas that feels less stressful.

Santa dressed in beach clothes, enjoying himself on a tropical island.
Enjoying Christmas in July takes a different mindset.

A graphic designer I knew had to create a children’s Christmas coloring book early in the year. This was a annual task for her. What did she do to get into the holiday spirit? She turned off her phone, locked herself in her office, and listened to holiday music nonstop – in August.

In the same vein, there are writers, bloggers, and journalists who are doing research about holidays and Christmas. Those articles and papers may be done in the off-season. This article was written in mid-December for GiftGivingSucks.com. Honestly, I am having a blast writing it – doing articles in season is so much more fun and inspiring.

How to make Christmas magical

Are you feeling you’ve lost the Christmas magic? Bring the magic back by adding surprises.

Surprises = Christmas magic. It just does. In fact, the Hallmark Channel has built an entire Christmas empire around it.

As adults, we drift away from surprises. Gifts fail to be awesome anymore. We tell ourselves it’s just easier to buy what we need. When you start to feel like something is missing from your Christmas, it’s probably this.

Hispanic woman with Santa hat on, next to a lighted Christmas tree
Spend a quiet evening to recapture the spirit of the holidays.

In my article It Doesn’t Feel Like Christmas, I offer lots of ideas on how to bring surprises back into Christmas. Having Christmas surprises and Christmas secrets are the secret sauce that make it feel like Christmas.

If you don’t have any of that happening, go get some magic.

This doesn’t mean shopping equals happiness. Many people overspend at Christmas because they love buying gifts for others. There is a dopamine hit to the brain (be careful, you could be teetering into a shopping addiction).

A Christmas miracle co-starring you

The holiday spirit could hit you when you least expect it. In particular, I love the warm, fuzzy type of holiday spirit that comes in the form of Christmas miracles.

Midnight blue sky with a bursting Christmas star.
You may play a part in a Christmas miracle this season!

No, I am not a regular receiver of miracles. I just wanted to point out, that you might play a part in someone else’s miracle, and not even know it. These times could come in the form of signs and little nudges from the universe that beg our attention.

Recently, my daughter and I were thrift shopping during the holidays. We happened to notice some ornaments that caught our eye.

One of them was personalized, the name just happened to match the name of my neighbor. We chuckled. What were the odds that someone would buy this used Christmas ornament, especially with her uncommon name?

We returned home. That night I checked the email, only to discover a request for prayers for that very neighbor. Her son had died, later I learned that he had committed suicide.

Young man having a conversation with an older woman at Christmas.
Your unassuming Christmas conversation with a random person might really be the universe at work.

The coincidence was too much. I returned to the store the next day, taking action on the sign that was sent to me. My neighbor soon had the ornament in her possession, and the story to go with it.

As it happened, the excuse for an encounter allowed her to pour her grief out to me. The circumstances surrounding her son’s death were eerily similar to life circumstances with my own relative. It was an unusual situation, and I was someone who could relate and bring her comfort.

I truly feel that God brought me to her, or maybe it was her son. The next time you get a nagging feeling and question it, please pay attention! Someone may really need you. There is no more satisfying gift than to be a part of a greater heavenly plan. I guarantee, you will be filled with the Christmas spirit.

Is your personality holding you back?

You might be thinking the lack of Christmas spirit is a problem only for introverted personality types. It doesn’t matter who you are, every personality can fall into a Christmas rut and need a little help.

How to get an extrovert into the holiday spirit

Extroverts love social activities and crowds. To help an extrovert get into the holiday spirit, attend lively holiday events, organize group activities, and participate in festive community gatherings.

Santa having a great time at a Christmas party, surrounded by other people having fun.
What is your Christmas personality?

These people-centered activities can help stimulate an extrovert’s enthusiasm for the holiday season and express their outgoing nature. Additionally, involve them in planning and organizing social events or encourage them to take part in group activities can further enhance their holiday spirit (source: Introvert, Dear).

How to get an introvert into the holiday spirit

To help an introvert embrace the holiday spirit, consider creating opportunities for meaningful and intimate connections. Encourage activities such as cozy gatherings with close friends or family, engaging in quiet holiday traditions, and providing space for reflective moments.

Offering support for low-key celebrations, respecting their need for solitude, and allowing them to participate in holiday activities at their own pace can also help introverts feel more connected to the holiday season (source: Janet Atherine).

Christmas humor to the rescue!

Just the other day, I saw a woman driver happily by me with a large inflatable elf in the back seat – her “passenger”.

Santa in silly pose, ice skating with small Christmas tree flung over his shoulder.
Go ahead – be silly at Christmas!

I couldn’t help but laugh at the sight. I don’t know if it’s coincidence, but in the same town, I witnessed a fully-decorated Christmas tree, upright in a truck flatbed, merrily flashing it’s tree lights.

Laughing at ourselves and making light of the season, is a wonderful stress reliever during the holidays when we need it the most. From ugly Christmas sweaters, to funny Christmas cards, dive in and have fun!

Participate in Christmas activities

There are many Christmas activities that I’ve shied away from that could evoke the Christmas spirit. Most of them were all sounding a bit cliché, but Iwill list them anyway:

  • join in winter events
  • decorate for Christmas
  • make Christmas cookies
  • volunteer
  • go caroling
  • attend religious services
  • attend Christmas markets or winter festivals

My guess, is that you have already tried the standard list to get into the holiday spirit.

Often, people forget the really simple things they can do to get in the holiday mood. For example, don a good pair of snow-friendly boots and head out for a walk on a cool crisp evening. Gaze up at the stars and a full moon when everyone else is hiding indoors. Magical!

Collage of examples of different Christmas activities
Take your choice of all kinds of Christmas activities to get into the holiday spirit.

Creating holiday traditions

It is really shocking how many popular holiday traditions we don’t know about. Take for example, the classic “Dinner for One” short film. This 1963 German movie has become a cult phenomenon. My German relatives clued us into it, and it has been a tradition that we now partake in.

“At first, the program was only used as a filler on German TV. It was shown four times between 1963 and 1972 before it finally got its now famous regular airing on New Years Eve in 1972. It is so popular in Germany that it is shown multiple times on New Year’s Eve so that everybody can watch it.” -IMBd

The plot: At Miss Sophie’s 90th birthday dinner, her butler James must fill in for her four departed friends – and that includes lots of drinks before every course. The cute comedy skit gets funnier and funnier with every course.

Starting new traditions

Some of the best traditions are not planned. My husband and daughter go on a holiday shopping trip every holiday school break to a nearby town. They usually take off when I am working holiday shifts.

The story goes that my underage daughter was joining my husband in a shopping trip to buy some Christmas alcohol for holiday festivities. A spry little elderly man walked into the liquor & spirits store as they were walking out, congratulating them on their “holiday haul.”

They had so much fun on their little adventure, that now they have made it an annual event. This father-daughter duo also have a tradition of decorating one wall in the house – just them. It’s their thing.

African American family Christmas morning, sitting on carpet next to Christmas tree.
Start your own holiday traditions, whether if it’s with family, friends, or a neighbor!

Not forcing traditions ends up making the best traditions.

-GiftGivingSucks.com

These little traditions weren’t forced, they just happened. Holiday traditions usually begin unplanned. Consider all of these scenarios that need a good tradition:

  • couples Christmas traditions
  • fun Christmas morning traditions
  • family Christmas traditions
  • christmas traditions with adult children

Again, don’t force it, but maybe what’s missing are the absence of traditions. Consider the “lowest entry barrier” you can. If your family has never made Christmas cookies together before, give it a try.

My mother always insisted on singing some Christmas songs before opening gifts. I think she wanted those piano lessons to pay off 😉

It doesn’t have to be great or epic. It can be the silliest of things – but we love them all the same.

Christmas music: go for the offbeat

If the traditional Christmas music isn’t putting you in the Christmas spirit, you need new holiday music! Honestly, the Christmas playlists on the radio are so predictable. I think I speak for all of us when I say we are bored with them even before the season begins.

Vintage Christmas songs

Nostalgic Christmas songs are the songs of choice for the holidays, The problem is, there are lots of unknown Christmas songs and versions that you are missing out.

Change up your Christmas playlist, by adding in some lesser known kids’ Christmas music, or old-time country. Try out some songs performed in other languages. The change will do your heart good.

Caucasion woman wearing Santa hat and headphones, smiling, next to lighted Christmas tree.
The right Christmas music is all it takes to get into the holiday spirit.

Christmas songs that tell a story

If you want goosebumps, listen to holiday stories put to music by master story tellers, such as Johny Cash. Seriously, you’re going to need a big box of tissues when you listen to these moving tales.

Johnny Cash narrates the beautiful story called “The Christmas Guest”, based on a short story by Leo Tolstoy, “Where Love Is, God Is.”

If you’re looking for more Christmas songs that tell a story, peruse through these. Hands down, old time country Christmas music was the golden age of storytelling. I’ve managed to dig up some other genres and formats as well.

Christmas narrations

Christmas radio

There are some fantastic Christmas radio programs that air during the holidays. You might have to do a little sleuthing to find them. Some Christian radio stations offer guest commentary during the season. Nothing dry – only their best story tellers and thought spinners are featured.

In addition, seek out programs just for Christmas Day

  • “A Visit From St. Nicholas,” also known (or better known) as “’Twas the Night Before Christmas.” This year, in addition to the traditional Chuck Niles
  •  “A Visit From St. Nicholas,” a special reading from Louis Armstrong, recorded in 1971
  • Christmas Old Time Radio. Links to vintage Christmas recordings.
  • “Hear” old time Christmas radio on Youtube. Delight in vintage holiday radio since radio was invented!
  • “Christmas at Our House” produced in the early 1980s, the show runs about 7 1/2 hours. Christmas At Our House is hosted by Sonny Melendrez. It features lots of holiday music, plus interesting stories and vignettes about how Christmas is celebrated in various countries around the world. There are lots of interviews with musical artists and other celebrities talking about how they celebrate their Christmas, with lots of unique holiday music. Studio production was by Mark Ford. This is a production that only airs Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, it’s not available on YouTube or for sale anywhere. To get access to it, either check if your local radio station is airing it, or search only for it to find a station that airs it online.

Spirit-filled Christmas movies

Another great way to get into the Christmas spirit is by having a Christmas movie marathon. There are so many classic Christmas movies to choose from, such as “It’s a Wonderful Life,” “A Christmas Carol,” and “Home Alone.”

Gather your family and friends, make some hot chocolate, and settle in for a cozy movie night. You can even make it a tradition to watch the same movies every year.

Making Christmas movie time more special

Even Christmas movie time has room for improvement. When you watch a holiday movie, set the rule that you are really present for it.

In my house, that means everyone puts away cell phones and laptops. You can even participate in fun Christmas movie games (games to be played in conjunction with the movie).

Asian couple cuddled in the dark in front of a laptop, watching a movie.
Find the spirit of Christmas in a heart-warming Christmas movie.

Christmas movies: new gems await

Don’t screw up your Christmas movie night by going through the motions. If your Christmas go-to movie list has lost its luster, it’s time to take a break from them.

Another tip is to skip watching the same movie year after year. Even though a whole year has gone by, I tire of watching National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. These days, I’ve been discovering forgotten Christmas movies.

Do something different, and go on to Youtube and search for 1940s Christmas movies, or 1950s movies. “This is a Wonderful Life” is not the only gem out there (although the marketing experts would have us believe so). My favorite is “The Bishop’s Wife”, which also includes an angel sent to earth to help people.

My daughter and I discovered “Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol” (1962) added to a DVD collection of kids movies. It’s sort of quirky (which I love) and has become a tradition for the two of us.

You know what a hoot is? Search for vintage or online 1970s Christmas shows. It seems like every TV or music personality hosted one. They’re just different – and different isn’t much of what you see these days.

Is it possible to slow down Christmas?

Am I the only one that feels like Christmas is like a runaway train, racing uncontrolled through my life? Taking action to slow down and experience the season can really help your holiday blues.

I really feel sorry for parents who begrudgingly comply to the long list of holiday commitments. Plays, concerts, family Christmas here, family Christmas there, gift exchange with boy scouts, girl scouts – the list is endless. Why are we doing this to ourselves?

A family with three children under a makeshift tent, reading a Christmas story.
Slow down Christmas by immersing yourself into meaningful time with family and friends.

And what the heck is this “Elf on the Shelf” silliness? This wasn’t a thing – it was never a thing. Now parents are spending hard earned money to put plastic elves in compromising positions nightly – for a month.

I can’t feel sorry for anyone who buys into that, and then declares they “don’t know why they are so busy.” Sorry, I’m a realist. I mean, what do you expects from a website called “Gift Giving Sucks”?

Unplug, clear the calendar, stubbornly defend your free time. Stop shopping when it starts to feel like a burden.

-GiftGivingSucks.com

Unplug, clear the calendar, stubbornly defend your free time. If you don’t have the courage to stand up for yourself, at least block out the 12 days of Christmas. My husband and I finally said no to friends wanting to go out during the holidays.

Has anyone out there ever been able to be a couch potato during the holidays? This has been a recent experience for me. I never stop moving – ever. Down time during the holidays is like drugs to an over-scheduled mom.

Family taking a walk out in the woods, enjoying a rime frost.
Slow Christmas down by going out for a walk in nature.

Think twice about doing “all the things”, for your mental health as well as your kids.

If you’re looking for a shortcut to get into the holiday spirit, enjoy some down time.

-GiftGivingSucks.com

Taking a cue from Smokey Bear, “Only You Can Prevent Forest Fires”… and only you can bring back the spirit of Christmas by protecting important quiet time of the season.

Personal reflection and renewal

The Christmas season is a time for personal reflection and renewal. It is a time to reflect on the past year and look forward to the new year with hope and optimism. There are many ways to renew your spirit and find peace during the holiday season.

Caucasion woman cuddled up in window seat, gazing out of window at Christmas.
Take time to think about the real meaning of the season.

I like to keep religion out of my articles, but the message in the Sunday sermon made a good point. The priest commented that we all have a “God-shaped hole in us that only God can fill.”

He went on to say that only God could give joy. Material things, shiney objects, passing thrills, are only fleeting and temporary. If you want joy to be deep, long, and lasting, then God must be part of it.

Powerful words. It made me think of synchronicity again – that I was placed in that pew to hear it, so I could share it with you now.

What to do if the Christmas spirit doesn’t come?

If the Christmas spirit doesn’t come, it’s OK. It could also surprise you and show up really late.

It’s normal to have the Christmas spirit one year and not the next. Every year is not a cookie cutter of the previous one. Let’s admit it, there are some pretty tough years.

New Year’s is right around the corner, with an opportunity to start anew. Use the time to reflect on your goals and aspirations for the coming year.

Set intentions for the new year and take steps to make them a reality. This can help you find hope and optimism for the future, and renew your spirit for the year ahead.

All my best, -Renee

Renee Cavvy
Renee Cavvy

Renee pulls no punches when it comes to challenging the social norms of gift giving. Her mission: putting an end to meaningless gifts and cutting through the fluff. This midwest mom offers novel and creative ideas to do gift giving better!