It was one of those gloomy mid-December days when the clouds hang low in the sky and a chill settles into your bones. I sat on the floor in the middle of my living room surrounded by open plastic tote boxes, trying to keep my cats from eating the brightly colored ornamental birds that perch in our Christmas tree each year.
The day was not going as I had envisioned. First, we were late, really late, getting started on our Christmas preparations, and decorating the house was just the beginning of all that had not been done. To add to my Grinch-like mood, there was no crackling fire in the fireplace, no cheerful music on the stereo, no hot chocolate to sip on, and no plate of festive cookies for munching, as I had imagined there’d be today. Worst of all, my husband wasn’t beside me, making sweet holiday memories. Instead, he was outside, braving the cold wind to hang wreaths, wrestle strings of lights into submission and, from the sound of things, he was having exactly as much fun as I.
The year before, when I’d found myself in a similar position, I vowed the next year would be different. We would get everything finished early so we could focus on celebrating our Savior’s birth. Instead, once again we found ourselves in a terrible, stress-inducing time crunch.
Well, guess what? Another year has passed. Fall is just around the corner, and the holiday season is not far behind.
As much as I hate rushing a holiday (I’m a firm believer in celebrating one before moving on to the next), now is the perfect time to prepare so you can have the peace of mind to really enjoy this special time with family and friends, and most of all, keep Christ in Christmas. Here are my tips for how to feel less stressed during the Christmas season.
Determine the total budget for Christmas shopping
Make a list of everyone you want to give a gift to
Decide the maximum amount you will spend on each person
Make a list of gift ideas
Decide which gifts you will make
Make your Christmas card list, then update addresses
Begin setting aside a bit of money each pay period to use to bless a ministry or a family in need this holiday season
Start shopping with the goal of having everything purchased by December 15
On in-person shopping days, don’t take a heavy coat or umbrella, and use a small purse like a crossbody bag
Carry only what you really need in your crossbody bag
Remember to ask for gift receipts
Keep all receipts in a separate envelope and consider enclosing them when you wrap the gift to make returns or exchanges easier
Order from catalogs or online, and have gifts mailed directly to the recipient’s house (remember to note the details of your purchase on your list)
Make homemade gifts
Inventory your gift wrapping supplies, purchase what you need (remember the tape) and make a gift wrapping station with everything at hand so you can wrap (and label) gifts as you buy them.
Search Pinterest for inspiration for your Christmas cards or begin looking for ready-made inspiring cards
Plan the treats and cookies you will make for parties, neighbors, or special people on your list
Plan or purchase an advent study and mark your calendar for the start of the advent season, this year it begins Sunday, December 3
Order or buy Christmas cards, Christmas stamps and a nice pen
Set aside an afternoon to put on some Christmas music and sit down with a cup of tea or hot chocolate to address cards (Sundays are nice days for such an activity)
Shop for ingredients for the treats and cookies you’ve planned
Make and freeze a cookie dough base that you can use to make several different types of cookies
Decorate the house
Plan and schedule December activities and events
Begin your advent study to help you focus on Jesus
Mail cards as close to the beginning of the month as you can
Finish shopping by December 15
Finish wrapping gifts and stocking stuffers
Do your holiday baking
Write out your holiday menu and buy the ingredients
Go to your parties, concerts, and visit the family
Enjoy the holidays and, most of all, remember the Reason for the Season!
Have I forgotten anything? Add your suggestions in the comments below.