This article originally posted on December 6, 2014.
We have a strict policy in our home of waiting until after Thanksgiving to start celebrating the Christmas season. No Christmas music, no Christmas decorations, NOTHING resembling Christmas can touch our home until we have fully celebrated Thanksgiving Day. Why? Because I want to bask in the simplicity and gratitude of that holiday for as long as I can before Christmas Craziness sets in. Thankfully, my entire family has adopted my philosophy. In fact, this year my teenagers declared that for every home that puts up Christmas lights before Thanksgiving Day, a reindeer dies. It’s true.
The only problem with this strict policy is that it gives us much less time to cram in all of that beautiful Christmas Craziness: the multitudinous traditions and activities available to us through our family, community, and the wonderful world of Pinterest.
Just for fun, since none of us needed to sleep during the month of December anyway, let’s take at look at a few of the things many of us feel like we want or should do during the Christmas season, and then we’ll talk reality after.
Decorate: The tree, the front door, the roof line, the bannister, every flat surface in the home. No biggee. Just takes a day or two (or three).
Bake: Gingerbread, caramel corn, toffee, sugar cookies, covered pretzels, cinnamon rolls, treats for teachers and neighbors, Christmas dinner. Easy Peasy. It’s just another few days worth of cooking and cleaning.
Shop: You can either fork out the $100 for the Amazon Prime account, or who knows how much in gas, time, and sanity sitting in your car looking for a parking spot at the mall. Either way, you’ll have several hours (days?) worth of shopping to do for your spouse, children, parents, in-laws, teachers, boss/employees, and whoever else may be on your list. (Because Christmas is about giving and not getting, right?) And don’t forget the time spent wrapping and delivering these gifts to the post office or your loved ones. Party: Family parties, work parties, church parties, neighborhood parties, school parties. What fun!
Play: Attend a tree lighting, go to a Christmas concert, get tickets for a holiday play, visit Santa for photos, go sledding or ice skating, line up for the live Nativity, drive around to look at lights. (Stop and pick up some Advil.)
Serve: Just when you thought you had your shopping done, the PTA reminds you of their “Secret Santa” tree. Between that, caroling at the nursing home, taking treats to the neighbors, and writing letters to the troops, you should feel plenty of Christmas cheer!
Craft: Oh, boy, There’s no end to this one. Homemade cards, homemade ornaments, homemade presents, homemade treats. Just search “Holiday Crafts” in Pinterest and watch your day disappear.
Photograph: Ah, yes. The annual family photo. What color scheme this year? Where and when to shop? How to accessorize? Who to take the picture? What backdrop? What pose? What filter? Shutterfly, Costco, Etsy, or Tinyprints? Letter or no letter? Who to write the letter? What to include in the letter? What font and paper for the letter? Order the cards. Print the letter. Stuff the cards. Address the envelopes. Stamp the envelopes. Go to the post office. Go to your room and cry.
Create a new tradition: Go to a tree farm and get a live tree, wrap, open, and read a different Christmas story every day of December, watch all 25 of your favorite Christmas movies, purchase “Elf on the Shelf” and come up with a new and creative ways to pose him/her after everyone has gone to bed each night, do the “12 Days of Christmas” for a neighbor, organize a neighborhood cookie baking party, make gingerbread houses as a family, get Christmas jammies for everyone to open and wear on Christmas Eve, start an advent calendar, begin a holiday village display, volunteer at a soup kitchen, make reindeer food to put out on Christmas Eve next to Santa’s cookies, go absolutely. out. of. your. mind.
All sarcasm and joking aside, can you see how the Christmas season can become so crazy, so fast? Between our own expectations from childhood, our spouse’s, the expectations of our children, and the sheer quantity of options and ideas screaming at us from the computer, TV, billboard, and smart phone, it’s absolutely necessary for you as The Mom (Head Activities Coordinator) to make a deliberate plan for how to “do” Christmas each year or you really will go out of your mind trying to make everyone’s wildest Christmas dreams come true. And for me, the most important part of that process is deciding what NOT to do.
Just like when we de-clutter our homes and discover all the gems beneath the junk and that we really do have more than enough to make us happy, the same principle applies to our holiday traditions. So before you get too overwhelmed by all the options and expectations facing you down in early December, take a few hours to “de-junk” your holiday lists and schedules and find those gems beneath the junk. There really is more than enough to make your family “happy”.
I really like the idea of taking some of that simplicity and gratitude from the Thanksgiving season and extending it into December (instead of the other way around). Because getting what we really want out of Christmas (wonderful memories of fun, love, and family bonding) shouldn’t have to require the health and sanity of the mother of the family. So in the name of all things bright and merry, I propose we all make a vow to keep Mom (and all the reindeer) alive and well this Christmas season.
QUESTION: Are you feeling overwhelmed by “Christmas Craziness” yet? What’s your plan to stay “alive and well” through January?
CHALLENGE: Help for Christmas Craziness is on the way! Check out April Perry’s guide to planning your ideal Christmas.
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I try to keep things as simple as possible this time of year. I try to avoid scheduling doctor’s and dentist appointments (although we do all need haircuts in the next couple of weeks). I do quite a bit of decorating, but I keep giftwrapping very simple. (And I do most of my shopping online, using Amazon wishlists. I also don’t buy excessively for my son.) When I host any type of holiday meal, I keep it very simple. I have a small family, and I can’t see having numerous appetizers and side dishes for a group of less than 10. It is still a busy time of year, but these strategies make it more manageable for me.
I try so hard to keep December as calm as possible! For me, that means doing our Christmas shopping and family Christmas letter early. I do my online research in early June/July and shopping throughout the summer. We take family pictures in early October. I work on our Christmas letter during November. We keep our address lists on a spreadsheet and then do a mail merge to print the envelopes (no handwriting addresses!). Our cards go out the day after Thanksgiving. With shopping, family pictures, and cards done, I am ready to ENJOY the Christmas season. Spreading out the “Christmas tasks” helps me accomplish one thing at a time and to feel like I don’t have to rush. This might not be right for other families, but it works well for us.
I take a more traditional approach. We wait until Christmas to celebrate Christmas. As in, Christmas day. We have a tree, but we really limit the Christmas-y things. The weeks leading up to Christmas are Advent and the Christmas season technically starts on Christmas Day. That is where the 12 days of Christmas come from. Christmas ends January 6th!
I loved this! It made me laugh because it’s so true. We try to do it all, especially at Christmastime. I am recommitting myself to do a few meaningful traditions this year and to really slow down and enjoy the moments as they come. Thank you for the post!
This was so fun to read! I think spreading some things out when possible (like Star said) is a huge help, as well as taking some time to plan it all out in advance. I keep a special December calendar to keep track of all the goodness and stay organized!
We have a family meeting where I ask each person “What is one thing that we must do this year for it to be Christmas for you?”- the answers are surprising and we make sure to do those things.
Our most solid tradition is to try new traditions (make sense?)- we like to try new things, so we have to be picky about what we MUST do, so we can have fun trying new things. One year we did the 12 days, another we did a couple days of Random Acts of Kindness, this year Samaritan’s Purse shoe boxes and secret amigos- we try to vary it up with the REAL tradition being that we do service. It all ebbs and flows as the years go by, and the ages of my kids grows.
Some things are “EVERY YEAR” or BUST, but those are few, and the most meaningful for us- reading certain books, praying for the true spirit of the season, and the brother gift exchange. Things that aren’t that meaningful to we change as our family does. We did jammies early this year so the boys could dress like elves in elf jammies all month long! I will be interested to see if anyone complains about not opening jammies this Christmas eve- but I bet they don’t.
PS- from personal experience, if mom isn’t having much fun, nobody else is either!
Allyson~ I am dying right now…you nailed it! In the name of getting-everything-done-so-I-can-enjoy Christmastime…I have been drowning in merriment and hyperventilating in tinsel-trimmed details. The past 24 hours was filled with: school Christmas sing-in practice, shopping for weekend party ingredients, finishing up an activity day service project, teaching 10 piano lessons and stressing over Monday’s big recital, attending the church women’s dinner, having my mother-in-law detail my assignments for next weekend’s family program, finish planning and send out the sign up for the elementary class party donations, completing my half of the picture calendar that has to be ordered before the coupon expired at midnight, looking at the pile of cards to stuff and hand-dipped chocolates to box, and revamping my to-do list for tomorrow)…oh, wait… I have kids to shuttle and feed and read a Christmas story to and make feel loved as well? Sound familiar?
Like the Grinch, I must stop THIS Christmas from coming…this rushing around Whoville and overly decked-out schedule, but how? I love the Thanksgiving season and approach its close with near trepidation at the bulging bag of holiday expectations, traditions, giving and the gazillion tasks interlaced with jingling fun memories and hot cocoa sipping, of course. That’s it! I think I need to hitch up my sleigh and un-do some of the Christmas fixings…pack up a few of those nicely-packaged intentions, haul them to the top of “Mt. Crumpet” and send them over the edge. How cheery…and liberating! Downsize the endless doing…do I really want to end up with a perfectly executed Christmas yet a weary heart 3 sizes too small? Thanks for granting permission to quit running for “holiday cheermeister” and start remembering the Joy to the World that has been crowded out of my Christmas. May yours be truly merry as well!