lark linen - hot coco

The holiday season will come and go as fast as its stress can mount. Here at Darling, we’re big fans of finding spirited and intentional ways to slow down and enjoy each and every moment, no matter how simple it may be. That’s why we’ve asked the lovely Jacquelyn Clark, editor of SMP:Living and blogger at lark & linen, to share with us her top five tips for savoring this time of year — for free!

Let us know which of these ideas you favorite (or, share your own idea) in the comments below and you’ll be entered for a chance to win a year’s subscription to Darling Magazine! Contest open until December 25th 2013. [UPDATE: CONTEST NOW CLOSED]

Try your hand at a hot buttered rum. If I’m being honest, my boyfriend and I made a batch for the first time while decking the halls a few days ago and I can’t believe it’s taken me this long to try it. We used Emeril Lagasse’s recipe and it tastes like Christmas in a glass!

Go for a snowy, wintry walk in the country. There isn’t much that fresh air, warm mitts, a wool hat, and coming home to a big mug of hot cocoa (with real whipped cream) won’t fix. Sometimes, just getting outside of a busy city is enough to find that centering and peace of mind so needed during this season.

Unveil your grandmother’s famous shortbread recipe. Blast some Christmas tunes (may I recommend this playlist?) and try to replicate some of your family’s favorite recipes. I don’t know what it is about shortbread, but for some reason … I’m useless with that one. I’m on year three and so far I’ve been unsuccessful, but I remain hopeful. Have some fun and spend a weekend afternoon with your old cookbooks. You may just surprise yourself!

Start a new tradition. At our house, we eat jelly bellies while we decorate the tree. It’s random, but it’s something that we’ve always done. Now, jelly beans automatically remind me of Christmas and I kind of love that our family holds this random tradition all to ourselves.

Don’t get caught up in the stress. Though it’s not as easy as it sounds, do make an effort to sit back, relax, and simply soak it all it, via these tips or ones of your own. It will go by before you know it!

Image via 79 Ideas



  1. I love to go to small local shops and use my senses to enjoy the holiday atmosphere. There are usually beautiful displays for the eyes, soft Holiday music for the ears, and fragrances for the nose. Absorbing all of that while doing some shopping is a nice way to take in the Holidays on my terms.

    Happy Holidays

  2. I love the “start your own tradition” idea. One year my mom and I watched Anne of Green Gables while putting up the tree, and now I always try to watch it around Christmas time. Even though it has nothing to do with Christmas in its own right, I think it stuck around because it is a movie that makes my mother and I both feel very at home. Some of the best ways to get into the holiday spirit are simply getting back to your roots and doing simple things that remind you who you are.

  3. I love making Christmas cookies this time of year…I know that no matter where I travel, or where I live, I can always enjoy a batch of cookies! I love the idea of a wintry walk too…it’s my first year living in the snow and I’m loving it!

  4. I love these ideas! It is so easy to get wrapped up in the commercial aspect of the holidays, but when I focus on family, friends, and the beauty of the season it’s so much more fulfilling.

  5. I love the idea of a winter walk. My sister and I used to go on a holiday luminary walk with tons of candles and lights. They were absolutely magical. The warm apple cider and overwhelming joy made the freezing temperatures fade away. She has since moved away and hasn’t been able to make it back for the walk. They are still some of my favorite memories.

  6. Living in a small town, there’s a section of main street that’s decorated with lights only in the winter time. Any time I am driving at night I will sometimes take a detour just to turn on some Christmas music and drive under the lights. It’s a small reminder of what the season is about and makes me feel so happy and peaceful.

  7. Such joy from these holiday spirit-filled tips. Hot cocoa, eggnog, nor gingerbread have been consumed. Chilly walks were had. I look forward to making the most of what is left of this magical season; with you, darlings.

  8. I love that “Start a new tradition” was included… this is my boyfriend & I’s first christmas together (& living together!) so there have been a few new traditions already, and we’ve each introduced each other to our family’s traditions. Its fun to remember where they started 🙂

  9. I like all ideas, but my favorite is “not to get caught up in the stress,” which I know make my holiday sprit richer. I could let myself caught up in the stress easily running around non-stop, trying to make everything perfect&everyone happy. Though when I intentionally slow myself down, I find myself feeling extra thankful for the meaning of Christmas, gathering with family&friends, and kindness from people during the holiday season.

  10. I lived in a little yellow house, filled to the brim with ten girls. We lived together to learn community, to heal, to love, and grow. I feel like the moment these ambitions began to take place was during Christmas time. Many of us had been hurt during the holiday season and saw it as a season of bitterness and regret. I don’t know how it started, maybe with the beautiful light blue iris that magically bloomed in our garden bed in the middle of December, but we started a tradition for the holiday season we called “Christmas Miracle.” It quickly turned into an opportunity to leave secret gifts, joyfully perform acts of servitude, and truly enjoy each others company.

  11. All the comments are delightful….I’m sitting here in Utah enjoying the snowfall..savoring the Christmas spirit with “The Nutcracker”…it is indeed a wonderful life. Listening to the Nutcracker each holiday season was a tradition for our family.

  12. My family and I always drive through the Griffith Park Light Display. It’s free–you just drive your vehicle down the lane and enjoy the bright, beautiful Christmas lights. It’s something we have done since I was a young lady and it has always been my favorite part of Christmas because I get to spend quality, solitary time with just my parents and little brothers.

  13. Celebrating Christmas for the first time in my own place, I decided to start a new tradition of a holiday Girls’ Night In. It was great motivation to decorate and it was so fun having all my closest girlfriends gathered around the table for wine, cheese, sweets and little presents.:)

  14. Every year my family and I make my Great- Grandmother’s family famous “Swedish Buttercrisp” cookies. Similar to shortbread, but much better in my opinion, the first batch of Buttercrisp always mark the beginning of our holiday season!

  15. So looking forward to a wintry walk! My boyfriend and I are traveling to Asheville, NC for the holidays to see his family, and I’ve never been. Hoping for a white Christmas and some fun wintry hiking in the mountains! Also wanting to try a bee-sting cake recipe for the first time. If it turns out as delicious as it looks, maybe it’ll become a new tradition!

  16. Living in the Tropics, we don’t have snow or the luxury of sipping on warm drinks. Having just returned from five years abroad in the Northern Hemisphere, I’m excited to start new traditions. Our family decorated the Christmas tree together like we always do, except, this year, we decided to step away from the norm of “theming” our tree and just decorating with a mish-mash of ornaments. It’s been fun to see the eccentric side of the season and look upon ornaments that whisk me away to memories from my childhood.

  17. Definitely want to try that hot buttered rum recipe! My husband and I attempt to make Christmas ornaments every year. Sometimes if we are lucky, they even turn out good enough to send to family! This year, since he is deployed, I made a bunch of paper snowflakes for him to hang on his mini Christmas tree to keep with our tradition. The holidays do tend to get pretty hectic, so I like to light all my candles, make some hot chocolate and watch Christmas movies to unwind and get back into the Holiday spirit.

  18. I would have to say starting a new tradition is my favorite idea! My hubby and I got married in May and it’s our first year as our own family. I’ve been looking forward to it since we’d gotten engaged. In November, we sat down with some warm apple cider and listed our favorite traditions to hold on to and came up with a few of our own to try this holiday season! It’ll be wonderful to see which ones last through the years!

  19. Um, hot buttered rum, definitely! I always associate the holidays with certain foods and drinks that I can’t do without – I’d enjoy adding another drink to the list 🙂


  20. As long as I can remember, my family and I have built and decorated gingerbread houses. What started as a church Christmas party activity soon became tradition. Together we figure out a design, pick out candy and then execute our idea. Sure we bicker, but the powerful smell of gingerbread and the occasional (ok, constant) stolen candy sooth our excited spirits.

  21. I like to go “light driving” with my family during the Christmas season. It is simply magical to see twinkling lights strung and arranged in a myriad of ways at the different houses we pass by. Also, the experience is made all the more wonderful by having loved ones to share it with!

    1. I love the buttered rum idea. We usually have Mexican hot chocolate with homemade marshmallows every Christmas Eve, while the kids open an ornament for the tree. This provides them with a box of ornaments when they move away from home.

      1. I love the buttered rum idea. We usually have Mexican hot chocolate with homemade marshmallows every Christmas Eve, while the kids open an ornament for the tree. This provides them with a box of ornaments when they move away from home.

  22. Lighting a Christmas tree scented candle, wrapping up in a cozy blanket and reading a book is so relaxing, and it always puts me in the holiday spirit!

  23. A nice winter walk is my favorite from the list! Even though it doesn’t snow where I live, it’s so relaxing to take a break and see the nature around. 🙂

  24. Making homemade ornaments every year–many or just a few, depending on the year. They make lovely gifts, and it’s lovely to unpack the ornaments each year and reminisce about years past!

  25. Sitting around a bonfire (or fireplace), making s’mores and drinking mulled cider and wine. Laughs and smiles, feeling warm on the outside and the inside!

  26. Lights! I like to walk or drive around to take in the magic and wonder of Christmas lights. Or sit at home with all the lights off except the tree and dream.

  27. Making new traditions is always fun! A few years ago, because my dad got a wine fridge for Christmas we decided to stock it by going wine tasting at some local vineyards the day after (considered Boxing Day in many areas of the world). There were so many fun celebrations going on for Boxing Day that we’ve been going tasting every year since!

  28. My favorite ways to slow down the Christmas season are going for winter-time hikes with my father, making my Great-Grandma Leona’s molasses cookies, and having a huge three day long post-Christmas celebration with my mother’s family.

  29. In Nebraska we don’t take advantage of our winters the way some do! A walk outside all bundled up sounds delightful! I know just the place to take my kids and enjoy some winter fresh air amongst the beauty of the season!

  30. Share the true Christmas story with someone who doesn’t know it. I made some Chinese friends this year and before they left to go home for the holidays we met for hot chocolate and beignets. I got to share with them the real reason that we celebrate & clarify that it’s not an “American holiday”. That has been the greatest experience of all.

  31. I love the fact that every successive Christmas carries the possibility of a new tradition. Several years ago, my friends and I decided to have a Christmas reading, in which we would gather around a fire or tree and each read aloud a short piece of poetry or prose. We all loved the experience so much that it has since become an indispensable part of our Christmas experience.

  32. I like the relaxing and soaking it all in idea for the holiday season because sometimes I forget to just remember what the holidays are about. It’s not about the gifts or the food, its about sharing love and kindness with the world and hoping the world gives a little love and kindness back.

  33. I work on Central Park West in NYC so every day I’ve been bundling up during my lunch break and taking a trail in a new direction. The snow has made it even more fabulous than it usually is. It is a nice quiet time each day to reflect and remove myself from the rat race that is New York City.

  34. Get a fistful of dollar bills and donate one (or several) to every Salvation Army bell ringer you pass. Volunteering is such a thankless job, especially one where so many people try to avoid you and won’t even make eye contact. It will make their day, and help out a good organization.

  35. A hot bubble bath, a glass of champagne, and Diana Krall Christmas music. I feel so festive, relaxed, and ready for the holiday parties ahead.

  36. I think it is really important to not get caught up in the stress. Traditions, recopies, and walks are all important, but if we are too stressed to really enjoy the moment it is lost.

  37. Starting new traditions is always my favorite thing to do during the holiday season! With a modern family that often changes due to marriages, divorce, and the adoption of more-the-merrier friends-as-family – we are always looking to begin new traditions to fold in with the old during this time of year! Our favorite is gifting meaningful ornaments every year, more often than not, silly and fun reminders of something that happened that year! (I.E. an ambulance from the year I totaled my car, a bug convertible with a large lego man attached for the year my 6 foot 8 brother got his driver’s license and started driving our bug convertible… very funny, and you get the idea!) xoxox

  38. A nice relaxing winter walk is my favorite on that list! One of my favorite ways to unwind and just relax enjoying the beauty all around us! This is a lovely ritual for me to do alone or to bring nice company along for the stroll. I also love to bring a warm tea or hot cocoa to stay toasty! Love this article of ideas!
    Would absolutely love the chance to get darling for an entire year!!!!!!

  39. My family is Swedish, so we always start Christmas morning with a huge batch of Swedish pancakes. When we were little, we would hardly eat any in anticipation of opening our gifts. Now as adults, my siblings and I love taking our time around the breakfast table and being together as a family.

  40. My family and I cuddle up for Christmas and watch home movies from when we were young 🙂
    It’s fun to reminisce and giggle at the old times.

  41. This year I celebrated the holidays with someone else’s Christmas tradition. My brother’s girlfriend taught me how to make the Christmas candies she and her family make every year and it was such a joy to hear about her memories and traditions (and to eat the chocolates…)! It was so special to expand my Christmas by celebrating in someone else’s way!

  42. I cant think of better way to rediscover delight in Christmas that a snowy winter walks in the country …. but I also love hearing about family holiday traditions. My family gets all bundled up on Christmas eve and drives to Yosemite National park where we ice skate with our eyes on Half Dome, perfectly framed by towering Fir trees, majestically rising from a seamless blanket of snow and sparkling ice.

  43. A friend of mine & I went for a walk through the timber near her house during the first snow of the season. It was calm and relaxing and a wonderful reminder of the beauty of this season.

  44. I absolutely loved this article. Sometimes, it is hard to get into the holiday spirit when you’re struggling to make ends meet. This article is a sweet reminder that although we may sometimes get caught up in the the extravagance of it all, true joy of the season can often come from pure simplicity.

  45. My husband and I live in the heart of Chicago & will be traveling to my parents’ for Christmas. They live in the middle.of.nowhere. Sign me up for that wintery walk in the country with a piping hot to-go mug of hot cocoa!

  46. I love listening to Vince Guaraldi to get in the Christmas spirit! Also, going on wintery walks are some of my favorite walks. Being a Minnesotan, i get to bundle up and admire the sparkling forests.

  47. I love decorating the tree and making Christmas treats (usually includes peanut butter balls and dipped pretzels) while listening to old Christmas records or watching “Its A Wonderful Life”.

  48. Nothing gets me in the spirit like listening to Wham!’s Last Christmas. I’ll just let George Michael’s angel voice carry me into the Yuletide spirit.

  49. Ooh! I would love a subscription to your beautiful pub! The idea of not getting caught up in the stress is really what I’m focusing on this year.

  50. I love to drive around and look at Christmas lights! My husband’s family lives near McAdenville, NC (aka Christmas Town USA), so we always make certain to drive through there on Christmas Eve.

  51. Well I absolutely love the idea of going on a snowy walk in the country, but we recently moved to Austin, Texas so I think that idea is out of the question! Haha! All very good and helpful ideas though- maybe we’ll start a new tradition!!

  52. While its not a shortbread recipe, my mother and I make candy together every Christmas season–most notably peppermint bark! It helps me get in the Chrostmas spirit!

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