I made it a goal a few months ago to be more prepared for the holiday season this year. I feel like for the last several years I have literally been sprinting to the finish when it comes to preparations. Slipping out to go to Target on December 23rd, putting off certain traditions I really wanted to do because I just didn’t plan for them, and generally feeling stressed and overwhelmed instead of full of Christmas cheer. In our defense, every holiday season since we have been married (almost eight years now) has also been the end of another busy semester of school, or the birth of a baby (this happened two different times) and so everything was pushed off until the two weeks before Christmas.
Not this year I said. I started thinking about Christmas around the beginning of October. Not in a crazy way, but I did start thinking and planning so that I could avoid all the rushed, overwhelmed feelings of years past. And now that we are approaching December 1st and I have generally stuck to my plans, I feel so good. Tonight, Brian and I talked about some activities and traditions we want to make sure and do this month and we didn’t discuss gifts at all. We have purchased most of our kids’ gifts already, and clearly aren’t talking about our gifts to each other. So we could focus on the activities, events, food and any other holiday happenings. It was so nice. For my future planning (to remind myself next year that it was a good idea to plan in so much advance) and any others who are interested, here’s what I did this year:
Start thinking about gifts early. I started a new note on my phone at the beginning of October, listed my kids’ names (and my husband’s!), and every time I would think of something they might like for Christmas, I would write it in my note. Big or small, wrapped gift or stocking stuffer, it went in the note. Then, when Brian and I sat down to talk about what to get our kids, we already had several ideas. Because tell me I am not the only one who went into a store unprepared to buy gifts and stood there and thought, “What in the world am I going to get? Maybe my child will like this…t-shirt?” A plan makes it so much easier.
Shop online. At first, this made me a little sad, because isn’t that part of the fun, going to the store and picking out the perfect gift? But then with one click and two days later, the packages were sitting on my front porch and I thought, “Well, this is nice too”. This also meant that if I got the bigger gifts ordered online, I could still go to the store and pick out smaller stocking stuffers (with my handy note on my phone) at a slower pace. But also, check the front porch before you open your door to check the mail with your kids. Just a tip.
Choose your traditions. I think most would agree that traditions make up many of the memories we have of holidays and events in the past. That being said, there is such a thing as too much of a good thing. Filling every last minute with tradition leaves everyone exhausted and little time for spontaneous memories. I wrote a post on Collin County Moms Blog about simple ways to create lasting family traditions. In a nutshell it is: make choices, make a plan, prepare and also, relax! Traditions are meant to be fun, not stress-inducing, but they require a little work on the front end, usually from the parents. It’s part of the job, really.
Make a “schedule” of holiday activities. This is not meant to be an ironclad, maxed out schedule. It’s more of a list of things that you want to do throughout the season. Some might need to go on a calendar (I’ve missed activities in the past because I figured I would “remember” when they were. Ha.), but in general just a running list of activities will suffice so you feel satisfied at the end of the season. I have found that Facebook is a great resource for local events. I can click “interested” if I see an event we might want to go to and it sends me reminders about the event so I don’t forget! We went to a tree lighting last weekend that ended up being such a fun little activity, so easy and simple but my kids (and Brian and I) had such an enjoyable time!
Some of our list includes: seeing Christmas lights, visiting some of the town squares in the area, Christmas Eve dinner, decorating Christmas cookies, “gingerbread” houses (really, graham cracker houses), and I’m sure we’ll squeeze in a few more things.
I love this time of year. Even without all the “extras” the spirit of this season is different than any other. People are more loving, more giving and it’s a time I hope everyone can find a little more peace and happiness.