Okay friend, so if you could just peak your head out of the deliciously warm sands of summer and bare with me for a moment, I want to humbly offer some intentional ideas for making your upcoming holidays more joyful and relaxing. Then, I promise, you can go right back to enjoying whatever wonderful summer-ish thing you were doing. I know the “c” word is in my post title and maybe that has you running for cover, but hear me out. For reals, no stress here whatsoever, just some seeds of a couple easy-peasy planning ahead ideas.
We recently ran into old family friends at a wedding, and I discovered their youngest is expecting her first baby in December. I started reminiscing about the year Jamison was born and how that was quite possibly the most magical holiday ever. Squishy, cuddly newborn in church on Christmas is the ultimate culmination of happiness for this girl. Newborn + Christmas = Bliss. Instead of being overwhelming and stressful, our holiday was laid back and enjoyable. Jamison was born on the 14th. We still did all the same things we normally do, in addition to decorating the church with a week old baby (and lots of generous help).
Why was this so? Because I was the czar of planning that year. All of our Christmas shopping was complete by early November and our Christmas tree was up before Thanksgiving. The entire month of December was open to enjoy family, go see Santa at the Fire Station (and you know … have the baby). That was 2011. Sigh… happiness. And, then there was 2013. Two days after Christmas, I declared to my husband I wanted a do-over. No sugar-coating here, it kinda sucked. Sick kids on Christmas, one rundown mama and I ran out of time to do some of the most important things I was yearning to do.
My goal this year – plan ahead and do a better job prioritizing. If you want to see the Nutcracker and every year don’t think about it until 2 weeks before Christmas, start researching when it is and how much it will cost now. If you want to see a live nativity, write it on your calendar. Sometimes the busy secondary things suck up all our time, and we miss out on the most important things. Luckily, many secondary things can be done early, like making gifts and shopping.
Here are my top ideas to prepare for a more meaningful and relaxed Christmas this year:
- Start with a Christmas Intention List – Write down all the most important things you want to do this year to celebrate Christ’s birthday. Think about the days after Christmas last year, was there anything you thought to yourself, I’m so bummed, we didn’t get to_____ this year. If that is still important to you, add it to the list.
- Write these things down on your calendar today. Also, write things like, “nothing,” “weekly advent candle” and “family day.”
- Write down your Christmas Shopping List
- Do some detective work behind the scenes. Maybe you don’t know your child’s teacher that well, but still want to give him/her a thoughtful gift. Try asking the teacher’s co-workers if they have any ideas. If your child’s teacher is on social media, visit her Pinterest, Instagram or FB feed. If they have a pin board called “Ode to Owls,” they would probably dig something with an owl motif.
- There are 2 additional advantages to buying gifts ahead of time, (1) you have more time to search out the most economical deal for said gift – free shipping, etc. and (2) it forces you to think of a more timeless gift instead of a hey, that’s cute there sitting on the end cap at Target, I think I’ll get that type of gift. Some of my favorite online places to find unique gifts year round are Zulily and Etsy.
- Buy a couple of these gifts every couple of weeks. Start with the easy ones. If you get your mailman or boss a gift certificate every year, do it now (just verify expiration dates won’t be an issue). If there are some homemade gifts you plan on making, start now. Maybe pick something to make that is the same for multiple people, but can be customized. My mind starts to about explode mid-October with twenty billion different fall and Christmas ideas I never have time for, but if I knock some projects out now, I can do some of the special, time-consuming things that pop up later. Also, this prevents the January credit card statement shell shock. When the mall is all bedazzled in red and green glitter and you’ve had one too many peppermint mocha’s you might be tempted to throw your budget out the window. Start now and pay cash for everything you buy. If you have to charge it, you can’t afford it. Trust me this will ease your post-Christmas hangover more than aspirin or orange juice.
- Give yourself a deadline. I think November 15th is a great deadline, but if you are an overachiever there’s nothing stopping you!
- Review your Christmas Card list. Hunt down addresses you are missing and make any necessary changes. Print both return address labels and recipient labels. Your post office won’t have cute holiday stamps until late October, but you can order them online any time of year. Check it out here. Now, no matter if you chose a picture card or a traditional Christmas card, the lion’s share of the prep work is done. Insert favorite Christmas movie when you receive your cards and this task is done.
- St. Nick ~ Instead of standing in line at the store the day before because you forgot (me) and overpaying for candy and some random little toy, think about what you want to put in your kids’ stockings now. Keep it simple and buy the non-perishable stuffers now. At this age, I (ahem… I mean, St. Nick) can fill their stockings for $10-$15 each if I plan ahead.
- Designate a Christmas hiding place in your house and here is the important part – remember where it is. Seriously, buying things ahead of time is genius except when you’ve either bought it so far in advance you’ve forgotten about it, or you remember it, but don’t remember where you put it. Maybe write down your secret place on your actual list. I’m just saying.
- Feel free to let a couple of things go. Just because you’ve always done them, but they’re not really filling a need your family has anymore, doesn’t mean you still have to do them.
- Smile, relax and enjoy yourself and your family. You have the entire month of December to suck the marrow out of every opportunity to rejoice in the birth of our Savior and be mindful of the sacredness of the season.
I will be back with Part 2 soon – more ideas and pictures to get your intentional juices flowing.