Holidays are almost here again

November 14, 2003|by KATE COLEMAN

On your mark. Get set. GO!

The wild holiday rumpus is beginning. Christmas displays were up in retail stores before Halloween.

Families will gather for Thanksgiving in less than two weeks. Black Friday, the traditional kickoff for the holiday shopping season, will happen the next day.

Are you ready?

Stop and breathe.

Think before you throw yourself into the madness. It doesn't have to be mad.

Really think about it, says Dr. Matthew G. Wagner, psychiatrist with Behavioral Health Services of Washington County Health System.

Ask yourself what kind of holiday you want.

Wagner will speak about holiday stress Tuesday, Nov. 18, at Williamsport Nursing Home.


He says he approaches the topic from the standpoint of expectations.

"Holidays carry such baggage," he says. We have ideals in our minds of the perfect Christmas - thoughts that reality seldom matches.

Emotions are largely dictated by thoughts, Wagner says. Unrealistic thoughts of what the holidays should be can lead to stress, and stress can make you feel bad. Stress is a physical experience, too, he adds.

Wagner recommends sitting down with your family and talking about holiday expectations - before the season really begins.

Pay attention to relationships, he advises.

Keeping relationships in mind is a good focus as you plan a holiday gathering.

Will beloved friends and family really care if your house is decorated "to the nines" for their visit? Do you really need to have a trimmed tree in every room? Must you have a formal seven-course-fashionably-dark-enough-to-need-candlelight dinner to show your loved ones you love them?

Joanne Breitenbach has another idea.

Innkeeper, along with her husband, Paul Breitenbach, of the Jacob Rohrbach Inn, a bed and breakfast in Sharpsburg, she suggests a Sunday brunch.

The idea is something that's familiar to Breitenbach, considering the business she's been in for the past five years.

For busy people, a Sunday brunch is a nice and less expensive alternative to a late night of partying. A pound of sausage will go a long way in a casserole, she says. Mimosas - drinks of champagne-brightened orange juice - are an option, but you don't have to worry about serving and people consuming too much alcohol on a Sunday afternoon.

Breitenbach recommends planning and getting as much done ahead of time - so you can enjoy your guests. Avoid last-minute hurrying by setting your table early.

Create a menu. By knowing what you're serving, you will know what will complement it when someone asks, "Can I bring something?"

Don't be afraid to take advantage of guests, Breitenbach says. Remember, they are your friends.

If it's helpful to you to let them help you clean up, let them.

If you prefer, do it yourself later. You'll have the rest of the late afternoon and evening to do the dishes, relax and get ready for the workweek.

Leiters' Fine Catering Inc. in Williamsport caters a lot of parties and banquets, corporate ones and those in private homes, says Dave Leiter. The holiday season is a busy time, with some dates already closed and booked.

Teri Leiter shared her party-planning timeline, a scheme that starts six weeks before the event. It includes asking yourself questions:

What kind of party? How many people will fit in your home/space? How much money do you want to spend?

She includes tips for decorating, making sure you have enough china, glassware or paper products.

"Think simple," she advises in planning a menu.

Thinking ahead is key and harks back to Wagner's advice.

The last item in Leiter's list - and she capitalizes it - is "RELAX and ENJOY."

Have realistic expectations.

"Get over the idea that it has to be perfect," Breitenbach says. "Really enjoy your friends."

Caring and feeling good is mostly about relationships, Wagner says.

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