At the risk of angering a few of you I am going to wade into the early holiday discussion. First, let me say I think it is too early to be decking the halls, the roads, the houses and the stores.
And now let me qualify it…If doing these things early will free you up to have more time4yourself and to enjoy the holidays later, then go for it. In fact, here are my suggestions for the “12 days of Christmas – pre-Christmas prep”.
1. Thanksgiving: Let Thanksgiving guide your attitude as you approach the Christmas crazies. Keep in mind what it is you are most grateful for and don’t overdo the material stuff. How many people on your list know how much you appreciate them? What gift of gratitude from your heart can you give them? One year I sent out very personalized Christmas cards with reasons why they were so important to remember at Christmas. Many told me later it was the best gift they had ever gotten from me and that year it was the only gift they got from me.
2. Too Early or At Just the Right Time: Why not take advantage of the early specials and sales to buy a few gifts before the rush? The more you can do now the more time you will have to enjoy yourself later.
3. Use the Card: No, not your credit card! Purchase gift cards for people so they can extend their holiday dining out, movie going, shop in after Christmas sales, or just treat themselves to something they would never do on their own. Contrary to the argument that these are impersonal, I think they can be the most personal thing we can do for others. Remember all those PJ’s you got from Aunt Tilly…?
4. Card Game: One year we made it very simple in buying for our 7 children, 9 grandchildren, and numerous siblings, nieces and nephews. We bought the appropriate amount of gift cards so each person got one. Then we did a gift card grab bag. Each person drew out a card and if another person wanted it, we let them negotiate! It was fun and everyone laughed a lot. And we finished our shopping in one trip which allowed us to thoroughly enjoy every minute of the season.
5. Shopping And Dinner: As long as we are talking about gift cards, here’s another idea to simplify your holiday shopping. Buy gift cards from one store for everyone in the family. After the holiday make a dinner reservation and take everyone shopping and out to dinner. Sharing what you all purchased over a nice meal makes for a great holiday experience and an easy way to cut out all your shopping exhaustion.
6. Decorating Party: Invite a few friends in and have fun decorating together. It is fun to see how they would set up that nativity scene or hang that wreath. Have a few munchies, bottles of wine and some cookies and you have the making of a great new relaxing tradition. Just be ready to reciprocate.
7. Un-Decorating Party: I love to decorate my house and I hate to take them down. So…when my daughter asked me what I wanted for Christmas, I told her someone to undecorate the house. That was her gift to me. (She did not ask again, btw).
8. Not A Creature Was Stirring, Except Your Mouse: If long lines, crowded parking lots and crowds stress you out, then get a cup of coffee and grab your mouse and go on-line. Many of these purchases can come already gift wrapped.
9. Focus on Others: This year there are many needy families out there. Let your children experience the true meaning of Christmas by showing love to strangers. Take the children shopping and tell them they are buying a gift for a boy or girl they don’t even know. Let them participate in giving. One family I know decided to get only one present a piece and took the rest of their Christmas budget and bought gifts for a needy family. Secret Santa doesn’t get any better than this.
10. Pass the Tradition, Please: Do you feel pressure to do things exactly the same way every year? Is there a favorite meal or dessert that you feel you must prepare? How often do you find yourself maintaining the tradition all by yourself? This is the perfect time to sit down with the family and discuss how much of the tradition will be kept and how much help you need to keep it. If your children are old enough, it may be time to teach them how to make that special meal or dessert. If you think you are the only one who can make Christmas magic, it may be time to rethink that. There is nothing magical about exhaustion on Christmas morning.
11. Hallmark is NOT Reality: We would all love to see everyone cozy and comfortable in a beautifully decorated house, with aromas radiating from the kitchen that make our mouths water and a soft hue of light surrounding our loved ones smiling faces. And we would all love to win the lottery, too, but the chances of this happening are slim. So cut yourself some slack and find time to curl up with a book, a loved one, a cup of hot something and just breathe in the blessings you have, imperfections and all. In other words, take time for yourself.
12. Finally, go back and read number 1. Your attitude is key to your enjoyment of the holidays. Throw out the should’s, have to’s and must’s and tune your thoughts to what is really important – Taking time4yourself so you are calm, relaxed and full of love for all you touch this season.
Find the fun and live the joy, my friends,