My aunt told me that a little old man she knows once told her, “When you get to be my age, Christmas comes every two weeks”. While I may not be there yet, I think I can agree that the years go by too fast! Seems like days ago when we were starting school again… and now Thanksgiving break is over and the tree should be up. The holidays are fun times, but they are usually so packed full of activity that if you aren’t on your toes… you might feel a little more like you have been run over than refreshed.
Below are some tips and timely advice to keep you from feeling frazzled from Thanksgiving through the New Year:
1. START PREPARING NOW.
The parties, meals, presents, cards, and preparations won’t happen unless you have them on your calendar, make your lists out, and start taking small steps towards getting them done. Most people have an idea of where they are going to be traveling to for the holidays with at least a little notice. If you don’t get on the ball – no one will be able to come to your Christmas party because they will already be booked up. You also need to make sure ahead of time that you can be places when the invitations start coming in. If you say yes to them all without planning ahead, you just might end up double-booking yourself (and that will add some needless stress to your festive fun).
Free Holiday Planning Links:
Fly Lady’s Free Holiday Control Journal
Free Printable Holiday Gift Organizer
Very Detailed List of Christmas Planning
2. CATCH THE SALES
If you know you’ll be hosting a party, make out a grocery list and watch for sales on the non-perishable items you will need. Making a Christmas list out for your family (even if you are MAKING their gifts instead of buying them) will help you know how much craft or baking supplies you will need… and will let you know if you are finished purchasing gifts so you don’t over-buy. A real pro at holiday organizing will make their list out for next year BEFORE Christmas and take notes all year as to what the people on their list might want. If you spread your purchases out through the year, it doesn’t squeeze quite as tight on your budget. If you wait until the day before Christmas, chances are you’ll be in a frenzy of frantic shoppers and end up spending money you wouldn’t have otherwise spent.
3. PLAN YOUR TRAVELS OUT
Will you be making road trips this holiday season? It takes the stress out of traveling if you sit down and make a quick travel list to get the trip organized. How much gas money will the trip cost you? What items do you need to remember to pack? Do you need to notify family or friends of your travel plans in advance? Will you be taking gifts or food? Are you picking someone up? Do you need a house-sitter or pet-sitter to watch over the puppy while you are gone? Have you notified the post office if your stay will be extended? You should put your paper delivery and mail on hold while you are away for extended periods of time to prevent robbers from knowing you are out of town. You might also make notes of things you want to do for the house before you leave town (changing the thermostat, leaving a sink dripping to prevent pipes freezing, bringing in your favorite plant, notifying neighbors of your trip so they can watch the house, or just leaving extra pet food and water for a weekend trip). Having a list will eliminate last minute stress when you are already in a rush to go celebrate.
4. BEAT THE POSTAL RUSH
Christmas is the busiest time of year for the U.S. Postal Service. If you don’t want your family members who are living far from you to feel forgotten, you should make note of your local post office’s holiday schedule. Get those holiday cards in the mail with time to spare. Make a note of when you’ll need to get gifts in the mail and plan some lead time for purchasing and wrapping them now. As a general rule, they say December 21st is about the latest day you can mail something and expect it to arrive on time for Christmas day. Having a gift under the tree ON TIME from someone far away is a sweet way to ‘be there’ for the holidays even when you can’t.
5. FOCUS ON THE POSITIVE
One of the reasons why I love Thanksgiving so much is because it is about counting your blessings. It is easy to get so harried and hurried during the fall and winter busy seasons that you start to feel burned out and ‘bahumbug’. Try making a list of things you love about the holidays. Keep it on your fridge or on your desk. Write a note to yourself on your weekly planner each day with a positive note or task for keeping happy and healthy and avoiding stress during the Christmas season. Lately I’ve also been using the web and app version of LIFT to help me focus on positive goals, mindful living, and being thankful – it even has a Christmas Gift Giver plan that reminds you in incremental steps each day of something you can do to plan ahead for the holidays. If you like the old fashioned way better (pen and paper), that’s fine: make a list of all of the important people in your life and plan to each day call them, one by one, to tell them you were thinking of them and hope they are having a great holiday season. Pray for someone who is enduring a difficult holiday due to a loss of a loved-one or a chronic illness. Take time to count your blessings all year long to keep from being absorbed by your own problems and busy schedule. Sometimes looking outward is the best way to keep yourself from being sucked in to a negative attitude. No one likes a holiday grouch.
6. INCLUDE THE KIDS
Participate in Advent with your kids to make the days more connected to Christ and meaningful. Gather up special holiday books in baskets around the house and take time to try and read one every day. Make a list of holiday movies your family loves and include a few popcorn and movie nights to snuggle. Let them join in the preparations, too! Delegating tasks and chores is a great way to teach kids responsibility while lightening your load for Christmas. Teach your kids now that planning ahead is important by making them their own holiday planners. Let them see your planner to get ideas (without divulging what you plan to buy them for Christmas, of course!). Ask them questions about what they think needs to be done BEFORE you attend an event or show up for Christmas at your family gathering. They might surprise you with some great ideas. Providing opportunities for leadership and including the children in planning will shape them into the capable, thoughtful and dedicated adults you are hoping they become.
7. GIVE RATHER THAN GET
Working in time for charity is a big part of our holidays. For ideas on giving of yourself and your resources, check out your local churches, radio stations, television, and other organizations. During Thanksgiving, Christmas and Hanukkah there are loads of organized ways to bless the needy if you aren’t already involved in the work. There are so many opportunities! Do you know someone in need? Plan to serve or bless that family in a special way. Host a party that takes up charitable contributions or pantry items. Send coats overseas or boxes to Operation Christmas Child. Pray for the persecuted, visit prisoners, send presents to soldiers, or take food to your church pantry. Visit a hospital or nursing home. Volunteer your time or talents. You will find if you plan ahead that setting aside time for charitable service and events is not hard. Usually, the blessings you offer to others during the holidays are the ‘gifts’ that give YOU the sweetest reward. What a great example for your children to see you in a helping role as well. If you dislike the materialistic bent that Christmas has taken up in retail and advertisements, choosing to GIVE rather than get is a great way to put the focus back where it belongs.
8. PREPARE YOUR HOME
Cleaning doesn’t sound fun, does it? However, if you start small now, you can get your house in shape for all those visiting relatives who wear white gloves before the turkey, ham, carp, or tamales come out of the oven. If you know your great aunt Maude is allergic to cats, it might be a good idea to vacuum the house and change the liter box before she arrives, right? Dusting and doing windows now will bring you peace of mind later. Enlist the help of your husband, kids, and even a paid teen to help get holiday deep-cleaning done. Plan well in advance to get your decorations set up so you won’t be loosing precious hours during meal preparation rushing around and doing two jobs at once. Making sure your house is presentable and festive before you even start cooking to entertain will ensure that you have some peace of mind when the doorbell rings.
9. DON’T SHOW UP EMPTY-HANDED
A rule of thumb when you go to parties for the holidays is to always plan to take the host a little something for her trouble. If she is providing a meal, at least offer to bring a dish to help lower her stress level. If she declines, take her a treat (dark chocolate, anyone?) or bring a blank thank-you card to fill out while you are there. Jot down a personal note and leave it on her kitchen counter to find after you are gone. Never forget to send a thank-you if someone has opened up their home to you. You might teach your kids by your example to do this as well. Have they been invited to a Christmas party? Buy them some thank you-cards and encourage them to use them. Help them with ideas for small trinkets they can give the hostess – or bake some cookies before you go to a party and treat everyone with your appreciation!
10. START A TRADITION
Holidays mean the most when you make them your own. Sure, the rest of the world may be celebrating the same day – but we each have our own unique twist on the original framework. One family I know goes to see the Nutcracker every year… while another family works at a local charity dishing food out to the homeless. Each year they do these things together as a family to build bonds and meaning into the season. What is the reason you celebrate? Focus on that and find a way to get your message across to the next generation. My husband’s mom’s side of the family always gathers on Christmas eve, goes to a candle-light service, and shares dinner and a bottle of Cold Duck. They also have a “Santa Banana” present for each person attending Christmas. Usually the “Santa Banana” gift is personal to only the person receiving it. One year my husband and I got a compass because we had been lost trying to find our way to a family event. Each year the present would come with a “Ho… Ho… Ho….” note from “Santa Banana” that explained why the giver chose that gift. My husband’s dad’s side of the family always takes everyone out to eat for their birthday to celebrate (love that). Our own little family of six focus on Jesus at Christmas and this year we began to celebrate Hanukkah and Advent as well. Your tradition can be silly or serious… you set the tone. Just make the holidays meaningful and focus on being present rather than just giving presents. Meaningful traditions keep joy in the holidays.
Credits: Image at top – ‘Freedom of Want’ ~ by Norman Rockwell, Image at bottom – Raid on Dessert ~ by Johnson Edward Killingworth