Today, in my alter-ego role over on The Green Parent, I'm hosting the third annual holiday post for the Green Moms Carnival. I've been fortunate enough to be part of this carnival for about three years now, and each month I learn something new from this awesome collaboration of women as we talk and share posts on topics ranging from global warming, to setting green standards, to greening the dead.  

 As a group, we have covered almost every aspect of greening the holidays over the years, so we decided to do something different with this year's holiday carnival. Our theme, Holidays Without the Hoopla, is an effort to help folks have more merry and less madness as they celebrate the holidays. Over at the carnival, you'll find posts on everything from keeping the holidays simple to handmade gift and decoration ideas to holiday traditions that mean the most to the Green Moms Carnival members. It's definitely worth a look.

As for me, here's what I'm doing to minimize the hoopla for my holidays:

Reevaluate everything. Every year, I go into the holidays with some sort of plan. It's not set in stone; it's just a general idea of gift ideas, holiday traditions to enjoy, recipes to try, and so on. But this year is a little different. While I still have a general plan in my head, I'm making a concentrated effort to reevaluate everything from attending the annual cookie exchange to decorating my home, to see if it still fits with my desire to avoid the madness of the season. Just this past weekend, my girls and I decided to skip the pictures and visit with Santa in lieu of making (and eating) cookies at home. We had fun, felt festive, and shared special time together without the anguish of waiting in line at the mall or shelling out tons of cash for a cheesy 5-by-7 photo.

Skip the holiday cards. In the past I have sent out e-cards to my wired friends and a handful of pony-express cards to friends and family who are still offline. But in this age of Facebook, YouTube and blogs, I just don't think my annual holiday card is necessary. Friends and family around the world already know about my family's major moments for 2010, and they've already seen the most recent pictures of my kids that I posted just a few weeks ago. So I will officially take a pass on holiday cards this year and spend those hours doing other holiday things, or maybe just kicking back and relaxing with my family.

Give back. I know it sounds cliché to say that I'm making sure to give back this holiday season, but I am — and I'm really enjoying it. Just ask my Girl Scout troop. Every year we do a number of service projects together as a group, particularly around the holidays. This year we have been cramming in service projects every which way we can — from holiday food drives over the weekend to making blankets for the local women's shelter and writing holiday cards to soldiers on school nights. And I've never seen the girls so happy. Now more than ever it seems that there are many people in need, and many of those people are right in my own community. It's a no-brainer for me to use my time and effort to help, and I'm glad the girls in my troop seem to agree.

So far, I have to say that this holiday season has been more relaxed, more festive, more fun, and less harried than ever before. I hope to keep up this momentum as the holidays draw closer so that my family and I can enjoy every moment without getting caught up in the madness.

How do you keep the hoopla out of your holidays?

Also on MNN: 8 more ways to stay sane for the holidays

Holidays without the hoopla
Make the holidays merry and meaningful without getting caught up in the madness.