This December, don’t get trapped in pre-holiday chaos — overwhelmed by commercial consumerism, the need to find a perfect gift for your significant other, or the pressure to host the most Instagrammable party or flawless dinner for family and friends.

Santa in Key West

How to create a Keys-style holiday? Like Santa, blend favorite traditions with reminders of the easygoing island chain. (Photo by Rob O’Neal)

Instead — rather than letting all the self-imposed “must-do” tasks jingle your bells till you’re jingled out — take a Florida Keys approach to Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, the winter solstice or whatever festive occasion you’re planning to celebrate.

What does that mean? This holiday season, adopt the Keys’ traditional laid-back attitude, refusal to take life too seriously, near-reverence for relaxation, and awareness that the best “gift” of all is sharing laughter and closeness with friends and family.

Of course, it’s easiest to immerse yourself in the Keys’ holiday spirit if you’re actually IN the subtropical island chain. But even if you’re not heading south in December, it’s still possible to transcend seasonal hassles by capturing the magical Keys mindset wherever you are.

Whether you’re a prospective visitor dreaming of an island getaway or a wannabe resident with scores of visits under your belt, consider these simple steps.

Fish Christmas ornament

Incorporate Keys-themed elements, like this whimsical fish created by a local artist for the Islamorada Holiday Fest ornament auction, into your December decor.

When you’re putting up the Christmas tree or other decorations, incorporate items that remind you of the Keys.

Craft whimsical ornaments out of cocktail coasters from your favorite waterfront watering hole or sea glass found along the shore. Choose a piece of colorful tropical fabric to use as a tree skirt.

But that’s only the beginning. The Keys aren’t just a visual paradise. They surround the senses — and, to truly recreate the island chain’s laid-back ambiance, so should your holiday decorations.

For example, when choosing fragrant candles, forget the traditional evergreen or spice varieties and opt instead for coconut or lime. When the candles’ scent fills the air, it’s practically guaranteed to trigger thoughts of water’s-edge tranquility.

Don’t forget the sounds of the islands: palm fronds rustling in the constant breeze, lazy waves lapping the shore or boat, “trop rock” tunes drifting from an open-air bar.

Whether you prefer the melodies of Keys guitar wizard Dave Feder, the incomparable rhythms of Howard Livingston & Mile Marker 24, or the natural noises that flavor the Keys’ days and nights … download them or find them on Internet radio for a subtropical soundtrack to your celebrations.

Jimmy Buffett Christmas album

It’s not traditional, but listening to Jimmy Buffett’s Christmas album should induce a laid-back island mindset.

Jimmy Buffett, whose music will forever call to mind the easy Keys lifestyle, even has a Christmas album.

And speaking of flavors — there’s no law that decrees eggnog and Christmas cookies are mandatory if you’re throwing a December party. Cuban coffee and Key lime pie will make your guests feel more festive by far.

Once you’ve set the stage for your Florida Keys holiday, let the season’s expectations and pressures float away on a salt-air breeze. Let your surroundings remind you to relax, slow your pace, and savor the things that matter most with the people that matter most.

Of course, the best way to create a Keys holiday is (surprise!) actually escaping to the island chain. So, particularly now that temperatures are dropping in most of America, consider asking Santa for a much-deserved present for you and that special someone: a winter break in your favorite subtropical haven.