Tips for a Happier Holiday & Happier Life

Want to Slow Down and Enjoy This Holiday Season? Make it A Very Vintage Christmas with These Top 10 Tips.

The holidays are here once again, and if you’re anything like me, there are just not enough hours in the day for everything on the “to do” list.

As the author of the new book A Very Vintage Christmas, I am here to tell you that the best way I know to get into the spirit—-and get things done—-is to bring elements of the past into my daily life.

Here are my Top 10 Tips for how to enjoy the holidays the Vintage Way this year:

1) Put Down Your Cell Phone and Close Your Laptop

All of our technology is a wonderful thing and it really does enable a world beyond anything we could have imagined decades ago. It informs and brings us closer. That said, it also keeps us apart, since so many of us are not exactly present when we are in the digital zone. I take long breaks from all digital devices during the holidays, and keep my use of them to a bare minimum when I’m with friends and relatives.

Even walking down the street, no matter where you live, there are so many sites and sounds to take in—-many of which you’d miss, if you were staring at your phone. While you’re being present, say hello to a stranger and even say “Happy Holidays.” It is a little thing that makes a big difference. This time of the year we all have a pass to be kind and sentimental and of good cheer. I encourage you to use that pass and it might just stick with you all throughout the coming year.

There’s a lot of buzz about being mindful right now. I understand why. It’s because we’re all so distracted, that we lose ourselves. The holidays are the perfect time to find yourself again. I find I’m quite mindful when I’m lighting or decorating a tree, wrapping a gift or talking with a friend. It’s a gift to be that today—-to yourself, as much as to others.


2) Get a Live Christmas Tree

There’s something about a live tree that just feels good. It’s about the smell, the feel, the look, and the ancient custom of bringing the outdoors inside at this magical time of the year.

Size doesn’t’ matter. It can be the size of the one in Rockefeller Center or the one Charlie Brown had. If a tree’s too much, get some greens, some berries or some holly. As you haul it out, you’ll feel merrier!


3) Use Family Ornaments and Flea Market Finds to Decorate

Every year when I bring out my ornaments and decorations, I feel like I’m visiting old friends and loved ones. The truth is that I really am. Many of my favorites were given to me by each of my grandmothers as well as others who are near and dear to my heart. Some were purchased on trips or at special places I visited with others I love. All those feelings make me happy and feel very Christmas-y.

What’s more is that I believe these things are really conduits for connectivity. When we share them on our trees or mantles or anywhere, we often tell stories of people who are no longer physically on this earth, and those people likely made our Christmases past quite special.

If you didn’t receive ornaments from family members, flea markets and other vintage venues are great places to find your old memories. Buy a few like you had as a kid, or your grandparents had and you are feeling the connection and continuity that Christmas brings.


4) Sing Christmas Carols

I just recently read somewhere that singing improves our mood. I wholeheartedly agree. Sing Christmas songs along with the radio, solo or in a group of friends. Doing so puts me into a good mood instantly.

Years ago I bought a very cool 1950 stereo at a yard sale and I play vintage vinyl on it all year long, but especially at Christmastime. I play albums that were in my house growing up and sing along as I do household chores, decorate the tree, cook, etc.

My favorites are too many to mention, but let’s just say Bing Crosby and Karen Carpenter top the list. Bing’s “White Christmas” is known worldwide and always puts me in the spirit. Karen’s “Little Altar Boy” is more obscure but is always played on repeat in my home at this time of the year. And of course I know all the words by heart.


5) Write Christmas Cards

In this busy time, old-fashioned activities help us slow down and enjoy the season. For me, one of those things is writing out Christmas cards. Texts and emails are wonderful, but when it comes to Christmas, I think an actual card in the mail is the way to go.

I typically write my cards once the tree is trimmed so that I can enjoy the process while basking in the soft glow of Christmas. And yes, the music is most definitely playing in the background and I’m signing along most of the time.

For an extra fun vintage touch, I put stickers on the outside of my cards and write notes on the envelopes as well. It’s Christmas, and doing these little things gives me joy and brings joy to others.


6) Honor Traditions

There are so many family traditions out there. Some are simple. Some are silly. Some are sentimental. I love them all.

If your family did something special, whether it was opening one gift on Christmas Eve or making a special toast at a meal, do your part to keep that tradition alive and pass it along to future generations.

My mother always put cloves in an orange the night before Christmas. Then she’d place it in a bowl with greens on the dining room table. I think it was her way of slowing down after the business of preparing for Christmas. I love the look and smell of it and I do the same thing each year. It’s just a little something, but to me, it’s Christmas—-and aromatherapy!


7) Visit with Friends and Neighbors

Everyone is so busy at this time of the year and each year I feel like I’m busier and busier. That’s my cue to slow down and connect. So I try my best to do just that.

I always try to have a few small gatherings at my home and to go to as many places where I’m invited. It’s important because when we set aside this time, we really are in the mix of what it’s all about: sharing peace on earth and goodwill towards each other.

Yesterday I was running errands and bumped into a friend at a garden center where I was buying greens. I had so many places to go and things to do, but I stood there and talked to him for nearly 40 minutes. I didn’t take out my phone. I didn’t try to rush it. I just enjoyed connecting. Of course I didn’t get everything on my list done yesterday——but who cares? I connected with a friend. And it made my heart happy.


8) Bake Something

I’ll be the first to say that I’m not a cook. I do set a pretty table, however! That said, at this time of the year, the aromas wafting from an oven that fill a house with cinnamon and spice are awfully nice.

So whether you go all out, use your grandmother’s recipes and bake batches of cookies from scratch or just slice off some store-bought Pillsbury dough, consider using your oven for something other than storing pots and pans.

Of course after baking, share those cookies with friends and neighbors…and even the mail carrier. People so appreciate it, and it is just another way of feeling connected to the season and to each other.


9) Watch a Classic Film

It’s just not Christmas for me unless I watch It’s A Wonderful Life. I start crying at the beginning and continue an ongoing sniffle up until the end when the floodgates open.

Many theaters are showing this classic on the big screen. A few years ago I had the pleasure of taking my young friend Bobby to see it. It was his first time—-and let me tell you, it was pretty amazing to share this beautiful film with someone who’d not seen it before. He cried. And cried and cried. And so did I. I’ll never forget that afternoon because I really felt like I shared something that had deep meaning to me and to so many others.

My other favorites include Christmas in Connecticut, The Bishop’s Wife, Holiday Affair, Remember The Night, and Miracle on 34th Street. Christmas just isn’t Christmas unless I watch them. No matter how many times I see them, I am touched, inspired and feeling the holiday spirit.


10) Hang Up Some Mistletoe

Whether it is just a sprig, or a big, fancy kissing ball, mistletoe is a very nice vintage touch. It’s another sweet tradition that is filled with the hope of the season.

Grab the one you love and plant a big kiss on him or her under the mistletoe. It’s fun, romantic and unexpected.

And if you don’t have a special someone this year, the mistletoe might be just the thing to ignite the flame of love. You never know. It’s Christmas, and anything is possible!

Bob Richter is an antiques dealer and designer. His new book, A Very Vintage Christmas is available everywhere books are sold.

Interiors Photographed by Ethan David Kent