Each year it seems as though the holidays get closer and closer together. Sometimes I feel like we barely have time or opportunity to prepare and celebrate one before we’re off to the next one. Most people I know are discussing Christmas plans and I’m focusing on planning our Thanksgiving meal.
Not that I have all this celebrating stuff down, but I’ve decided to slow down a bit and enjoy Thanksgiving before I rush headlong into Christmas.
How I prepare ahead
How? Well, I have reorganized or planned ahead for a few things that we consider a necessary part of the “season.” Ways that we as a family enjoy celebrating.
I’m on the lookout all year long for good gift ideas for the friends and family that we buy gifts for, so I already have a few things that I’ve purchased throughout the year. This really does take some of the pressure off the holidays and I enjoy thinking about my loved ones when I see something I think they would enjoy.
I also take time after Christmas each year to update my Christmas card list so I know that it’s ready for the next year. We usually do this as we take one last look at our cards. I save envelopes with new addresses so they are handy when I go to do it. This one thing really takes a lot of pressure off the holidays. Of course there is always that last-minute move or death that will require changes, but it’s nothing like not having any organized list.
And I’m right there with buying gift wrapping supplies at the after-Christmas sales, so that I don’t come down to really needing it, only to realize I’m out.
I’ve decided that if I don’t get Christmas cards done before Christmas I can always mail them in January when people will have more time to read mine. I even did Thanksgiving cards one year instead of Christmas cards. As I looked ahead I realized that our December was particularly busy, so I got them ready in November when less was going on.
We also celebrate Advent and the Twelve Days of Christmas. Here is an excerpt from our book Purposeful Planning that explains them.
and the Twelve Days of Christmas
In addition to Easter and Christmas we celebrate Lent, Advent, and the Twelve Days of Christmas. Remember I said we celebrate what we value? Oftentimes the rush of the season, especially Christmas, seems to take away from our enjoyment. Adding Lent before Easter, Advent before Christmas, and the Twelve Days of Christmas after Christmas helps us to slow down and enjoy these holidays more. It has also helped us to celebrate what we value. We value Christ’s gift on the Cross, so spending time during Lent reading about His sacrifice and going without TV or desserts helps us to focus on all that He did for us.
Advent helps us to anticipate the baby Jesus’ arrival. We’ve used Advent wreathes and calendars to help us count off the days until Jesus’ birth.
The Twelve Days of Christmas has by far become a favorite at our house. If you’re not familiar with it, it begins Christmas Day and includes the next eleven days. It’s taken a lot of stress off me because I do most of our entertaining during the days after Christmas, rather than trying to fit everything into the days before Christmas. People are usually very happy to get an invitation for a day or two after Christmas.
One family we know has a farm and invites their friends to bring their Christmas trees over on the twelfth day. They have a bonfire with all the trees, drink hot chocolate, and toast marshmallows. It’s gotten to be an annual event that their friends and family look forward to and it doesn’t interfere with most people’s Christmas plans.
We put twelve small gifts into the children’s Christmas stockings and they get to open one on each of the twelve days. During the year I look for special little things – this would, of course, vary with your children’s ages. My big children still look forward to these little things.
Like I said, this is just a short quote out of my book, “Purposeful Planning”. The book is mainly about our “annual planning weekend” were we pray about and discuss each area of our lives so we can seek the Lord’s plan for the next year.
More information about Purposeful Planning
These two things really stretch the holiday season and give us more time to both reflect on the reasons we celebrate, and use the extra twelve days to spend time with family and friends. I’ve learned not to be such a stickler for celebrating “on the date”. You know what I mean by that – right? We all know people who eat two huge meals on Thanksgiving so they don’t slight either side of the family. I’ve given my family the freedom to be where they feel they need to be on the holiday. One of my relatives already feels the need to be at two places on the holiday itself – so I have them over a week or so later. It’s always a much more relaxed time and I actually get to spend more time with them then.
Someone asked me, “Don’t you feel left out, or taken advantage of?” No, not really, because it’s a choice I’ve made, not something that has been forced on me. I think of it as a gift to my family to be the one who is willing to bend. And we always have some family members here, so I’ve never been totally alone on a holiday.
Yes, slowing down does take some planning. It’s a little late to put most of these things into practice this year, but how about updating your Christmas card list right after Christmas, or in the winter? That’s what I did – I’ve introduced each change slowly and as I was able, and now I am reaping the benefits.
Finding Joy in the Journey,
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