Sometimes things can get a little stressful around the holidays, don’t you think? With the season fast approaching, I thought it would be helpful to put together a short list of pre-holiday “to dos.” This is something we focus on in the DoSayGive Christmas Prep Club — thoughtfully planning ahead of time to make room for what matters most during the Christmas season. The 6 “to dos” below are a good place to start so that you may have a more peaceful, enjoyable holiday season.
1. Do choose traditions and activities wisely.
Traditions are so important in helping to shape a family’s identity and closeness, particularly around the holidays. So choose wonderful traditions for your family that have depth and meaning, ones that your family will remember and continue for years to come. But don’t go overboard! Doing three advent calendars, four service projects, a cookie exchange at your home — all while making gourmet gifts for everyone you know — can actually bring you more stress rather than bring you joy. Plus, your family won’t come to love the traditions you plan if you’re only doing them to check off a “list.” (I know I have made that mistake many times!) Be intentional and wise when it comes to your family’s time together.
2. Do determine your family’s limits when it comes to holiday get togethers.
When my husband and I were new parents, we took our nine-month-old to three different family gatherings on Thanksgiving Day. It was exhausting, not to mention miserable for everyone involved! I am sure my stress about the whole day boiled over to affect everyone else at these gatherings (which, in the end, was not gracious at all).
As much as you may want to please everyone, determine what you and your family can handle. Then communicate your plans in advance to the hosts. If two hours are all your family can handle at your aunt’s house on Christmas Day, give her a heads up so there aren’t any hurt feelings when you all leave before everyone else. By setting these expectations ahead of time, you avoid the potential for holiday conflict.
3. Do make sure to carve time out for your immediate family.
Early in our marriage, some of the biggest arguments my husband and I had were about spending time with our extended family. I was completely baffled about why he didn’t want to spend the night at my parents’ house on Christmas Eve and then spend all of Christmas Day with them, too! (Getting married when you are 21 does not help the whole “leaving and cleaving” thing.)
[Placeholder for Lee]
4. Do set a budget for gifts and stick to it.
We all know Christmas is not about the gifts — but it’s easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle. One piece of advice someone gave me years ago is to throw away all the catalogs that come in the mail. That might sound harsh but if I let them, my girls will browse the American Girl Doll catalog for hours, which is then followed by many painful discussions about why they cannot get the 20 things they circled.
Here is an idea for keeping gift-giving simple. A friend of mine has a little checklist she uses when buying her children’s gifts. It includes four simple items: One thing they want, one thing they need, one thing to wear, one thing to read. Then she fills her children’s stockings with little trinkets and candy. I love the simplicity of this, and how it sets the expectation with children come Christmas morning. I often worry how we, as parents, are supposed to teach our children the reason why we truly celebrate Christmas when, as a society, we’re often so focused on gifts. I think keeping the gift-giving simple at home is an easy way to do that.
5. Do get on the same page with your extended family about gifts.
Now is the time to get in touch with your extended family and decide whether or not you plan to exchange gifts and, if so, the budget for those gifts. This will avoid hurt feelings come Christmas Day. (Our Christmas Prep Club has an incredibly helpful tool to help you keep track of all of your gift-giving needs and stay on budget!)
I love getting new ideas from other families, so I asked some friends how they handled gift-giving in their extended families. This is what they said:
“We spend $50 per family. It can be used for a group gift, gift for kids, gift for adult. A lot of times, two of us will go in together and get another family something like a zoo pass or museum membership. Setting the price for each family makes it fair when some people have kids and some don’t.”
“We used to draw names since the family was getting so big and everyone gave a $40 gift. After a few years of that, we all got kind of sick of asking for $40 presents. Now everyone will go in together and provide Christmas gifts for an underprivileged family in our city. It brings much more joy to buy for them and go deliver the gifts instead of buying for each other things you might not really need or want.”
“Since everyone is married, we exchange couples’ gifts and we give stuff that both people would enjoy; a Keurig machine, for example.”
“We give gifts to everyone. It’s hectic, but I can’t imagine giving one of our siblings or cousins a gift but not the others (but maybe we should)!”
6. Do shop earlier than later.
DoSayGive’s Holiday Gift Guide is known as the best, most curated gift guide on the internet! Our comprehensive gift guide makes checking gifts off your list easy now for a less frantic Christmas season later. And this year it’s important to shop early so you don’t run into shipping delays or stock issues! Be sure to bookmark our Holiday Gift Guide for easy browsing — we have ideas for her, him, children, clients, hostesses, and many more.