We’ve all seen the touching commercials, the Christmas movies guaranteed to bring a lump to your throat. We’ve been captured by the beauty in snow covered Christmas scenes, we’ve gawked at Christmas displays and felt that funny little catch in our hearts as we ponder what our friends and family mean to us in the season of giving.
As a result of all the glitz and sparkles, all the perfect Christmas scenes and shows, we develop an unrealistic picture of what Christmas should be and how it should be celebrated.
Did you know that the Christmas holidays have also been called the season of stress? One of the major causes of Christmas stress is not planning the holiday in advance so that when the day draws closer, you feel caught off guard.
Year after year, we swear we’re going to get an earlier start, we’re going to plan ahead and yet each year, Christmas is the same frantic holiday complete with a breakneck pace of buying, wrapping, cooking, and parties all guaranteed to overextend our time and nerves.
For the kind of holiday you really desire to have, it takes a lot of planning for each aspect of Christmas. From choosing the gifts (and getting them wrapped) to all of the delicious meals, and the work related events, no wonder it can get stressful! Add church gatherings and special services and it’s enough to make even the jolliest person wish Christmas would hurry up and just pass.
If you’re dreading the overwhelming tasks ahead of you this holiday season, don’t despair. You can have the kind of Christmas you want without raising your blood pressure and without getting so tired you feel like you just can’t function. You need a game plan to map out the holiday step by step and I can help you with that game plan.
Christmas is One of the Most Stressful Times of the Year
You would think with the beauty of this holiday that it would be a time of reflection, a time to sit in front of a crackling fire and drink hot cocoa and snuggle beneath a thick, fluffy throw – but that’s usually the scene on a Christmas card rather than reality.
Reality is we’re the ones behind the scene dragging in the firewood, lighting the fire, shopping for the cocoa ingredients, unpacking the Christmas throws from the attic, airing them out, giving them a wash…well, you get the picture.
We’re busy enough already and life becomes even more hectic than usual when the holidays arrive. Thanks to all of the business, we tend to overexert ourselves and the ho ho ho can quickly become bah humbug!
With all of the activities that center around the Christmas holiday, you need a plan to keep your stress level down (as well as keep your sanity intact). You may still be working at your day job, dealing with childcare issues now that the kids are on holiday break and fretting about getting the house cleaned for upcoming relatives as well as provide them with meals.
Because the Christmas holiday encompasses so many different aspects, you need a plan that will deal with each element individually so that they work together as a whole to give you a great holiday season day after day.
The season is almost upon us (can you believe how fast the year went by?) so you can’t put off planning another day. You need to get started right now. Make a list of what really must be done in order of importance and have a second column for what you’d like to get done but can live without if you don’t get around to it.
Get Your Christmas Shopping Done Early
Every year, it seems the circle of people we know and buy gifts for increases. But you don’t have to rush around in the crowds and spend hours choosing individual gifts for each person on your list.
Buy the same item for multiple people, especially if they’re not in the same social circle. You can give the same gift to your elementary child’s teacher as you do your high school teen’s teacher.
You can buy the same gifts for people in your place of employment as you do your spouse’s. Some great gifts to buy in larger quantities include gourmet food boxes. The ones containing cheeses, meats and crackers make excellent ‘thinking of you’ Christmas gifts as do the food boxes with coffees and jellies.
You can buy decorative tins (no wrapping needed) and fill them with an assortment of hard candies. Just make sure you don’t put peppermint in the mix because it flavors other candies.
You can also purchase new Christmas ornaments commemorating the year as gifts. Bookstore certificates are always a hit since most people love to read and you can order these right from home without getting out into the crowds.
If you know what your friends or acquaintances do as a hobby or a group of special items they like to collect, you can pick those up well before the holidays. If you choose to go with a personal touch and shop and send out gifts, don’t waste your valuable time standing in line for half an hour to an hour at the post office.
Never go during a lunch break or right before closing. This increases your wait time. Go early in the morning or a couple of hours after lunch break. Better yet, don’t go to the post office at all. Have it come to you instead.
Right from the comfort of your own home, you can buy shipping material (you can even get some supplies free), print out the postage and arrange a pickup from your home and the pickup is done at no charge to you. If you shop online and ship online, not only do you save time and beat the shipping crowd stress, but you gain time you can use in other ways to celebrate Christmas.
The number one tip to remember when it comes to gift buying is not to wait until you have to get it done. Begin right now. Shopping early not only takes the stress off by giving you more time, but it helps financially because you’re not forking over large sums of money (or putting it on your credit card) all at once and paying for last minute expensive shipping.
Make a list of everyone you feel you should buy a gift for. Beside each name, jot down an idea of something you know they like or might like. Starting today, begin to pick some of those items up.
Some family members are notoriously hard to buy for and instead of dealing with the question of what to get them, ask them to give you a suggestions list. Numbering from one to ten, have them write down what they’d like for Christmas in order of importance to them. This idea works well with teenagers.
Have a shopping deadline in mind. One way to beat the stress is to have a goal to be finished with all of the prep work for Christmas meals and shopping by Thanksgiving. It can be done if you start now.
Don’t Wait Until the Last Minute to Plan Your Christmas Menus
Nothing can frazzle us more than trying to rush around cooking against the clock. That frazzle factor goes up tremendously if we forget something because we didn’t plan until the last minute. There’s a way to avoid the frazzle factor.
Figure out ahead of time when all of the parties, church gatherings, special meals and work related celebrations are going to be held. Take a large calendar – the desktop ones work well for this – and in the large blocks, write down the events by their due dates and the foods you’ll need for each event.
Then once you have everything written down, you’ll know at a glance where you need to be, when and what items you’re bringing. Purchase all needed food items at the beginning of the month so that you can have them on hand. The best time to buy ham or turkey for Christmas meals is at the same time you pick up your Thanksgiving meat.
Unfortunately, some hosts only give a two week notice that an event is going to take place, but you can still work within that timeline. Two weeks before the event, purchase all of the foods you’ll need.
Pick out what outfit you’ll wear (right down to the accessories), make sure the outfit has either been picked up from the dry cleaner or you drop it off as soon as you know about the party.
If you have to bring a home baked item, bake it now and freeze it. In airtight freezer containers, foods can keep safely (and taste delicious) for months prior to use. The trick with baking goods is that you can take one day out of a weekend and bake enough goods to last the entire Christmas season.
You can bake a batch of cookies or candies all at once for every party. You can use store bought items to save the time it takes to bake, but if you do this, make sure you remove them from their original packaging and freeze them so they’ll keep, too. The night before the event, simply thaw out the amount of treats you’ll need, slip them into a large, decorative Christmas bag and you’re on your way.
Most foods for any party – whether work or personal or church related – can be prepared well ahead of time and frozen until needed. Stress comes our way when we put off preparing the dish or treat and then scramble the night before the event (or worse the day of) to get everything ready.
For church events, don’t forget if you’re bringing food that has to be kept refrigerated to make sure access to the kitchen will be available and that there will be room for your dish – otherwise you might need to plan a different recipe.
When preparing food for any event, including your own Christmas Eve or Christmas Day meal, you’ll want to start first with a guest list so that you can determine the amount of food you’ll need.
Decide who will be joining you and whether they’re adults or children because you can figure in less food consumption for children. Categorize your holiday meal according to the course – the main meats and side items and of course, the desserts.
The best rule of thumb to remember when buying meat for guests is to figure a half a pound of meat for each adult and a quarter of a pound for each child. Make as many side dishes as you can one to two days in advance of the Christmas Eve meal.
The reason most people get overloaded with cooking for the holidays is because they try to make the entire meal either the night before or the same day and then they’re too worn out to enjoy the company or the festivities. So plan ahead and don’t be shy about asking for help in the kitchen from family members!
Christmas Decorations Can Be Spread Out Over Time
Tradition, for most people, involves putting up the Christmas tree and all of the indoor and outdoor decorations either right after or within a week of Thanksgiving – but there’s a better way for those who feel overwhelmed. The best way to decorate inside or outside your home for the holidays is to do it a piece at a time, a room at a time, a yard display at a time.
Don’t start in your kitchen, dining or living room. Those are considered to be the rooms where the majority of decorating takes place. Begin in another room instead. If you change bed linens and quilts to match your holidays, do it by the thirty day rule.
Thirty days before the actual holiday, change all linens, quilts and decorative pillows. That way, you get to enjoy the holiday flair. It’s often the expectation of the holiday that gives us the greatest sense of excitement as well as the actual day.
Change the little decorations, the flowers, the floor rugs, etc. Replace any everyday candles with holiday colored and holiday scented ones. Within a day or two, decorate the bathrooms.
Hang holiday towels and rugs, change over any nightlights and hang holiday themed shower curtains. Remove and store any regular counter and wall decorations and replace them with your holiday ones. Replace bath rugs with holiday ones.
Once the bathrooms are done, take a break and then start on the kitchen. In the kitchen, put out any holiday cookie containers, change over any oven mitts or towel sets and if you switch curtains, do that as well. Put out the holiday stove burner covers and wash any holiday place settings – including tablecloths, runners and place mats.
The next day in the dining room, make room for your holiday decorations. Take off any everyday chair pads and backs and replace them with the ones you have in holiday reds or greens. Cover the table with the holiday runner or tablecloth.
Take a day off and then do the living room. Set up the tree, hang the decorations and wrap the base with the skirt or decorative cloth you use. Hang the stockings on the fireplace.
The next day, set out any ornamental villages. Put the decorative pillows on the sofa. Change over the ordinary lampshades for a red, green or gold one. Set the Christmas decorations on end tables. Some people display a bowl of pinecones or a bit of greenery such as silk holly leaves and berries. Never use real berries where small children can reach them.
When you’re ready to get started on the outside, do the roof lights and decorations first. That’s usually the biggest job and this way, you’ll get it out of the way first. The next day, string any bushes or trees with your choice of Christmas lights. If you use more than one yard display, work on one or two displays a day until you get them all set up.
Lastly, hang a wreath on or by the door and you’re all done! Since it’s not Christmas yet, this should leave you plenty of time to relax and just enjoy the season and the decorations you’ve created to instill a sense of seasonal warmth to your home.
Remember the Meaning of Christmas and Enjoy Your Planning Efforts!
It’s so easy to want that gorgeous, spectacular Christmas because we chase perfection. It’s human to want to put your best foot forward but believe it or not, it’s not always rewarding and it doesn’t always give you a sense of fulfillment.
Sometimes, we can get so caught up in all the planning and all of the activities that we forget the entire meaning of Christmas. The season is not about getting the perfect gift or wrapping it to look like a work of art. It’s not about having a meal so delicious it’ll go down in family history.
Christmas is a time for each of us to understand the special days we have with the people who mean the most to us. It’s a celebration of Christ and what this life is all about. During the holidays, we get a chance to make the most of those special days.
Everyone is so busy working during the year, and this is a time we can step back and reconnect with friends and loved ones. We get to relax and laugh and reminisce. We get to celebrate life together and hand down traditions from one generation to the next.
It’s important for children to see the dynamics of a family unit – the way we laugh together, love together, the way we cherish those special holidays. Remember that your children won’t be as impressed with the beautiful wreath as they will if you take time to sit down and play a holiday game with them.
The meaning of Christmas is the way we give to one another, the way we take the time to appreciate all that we have in life and focus on the good in one another. Christmas is about reaching out to our circle and beyond.
It’s about slowing down, taking a deep breath and holding fast to each and every special moment that comes our way. It’s about letting the good within us spill over into the lives of others.
Celebrate this Christmas season by slowing down and taking time to enjoy it. Planning ahead is going to ease you into the holidays so that they’re stress-free and more enjoyable than ever before!