Sometimes things get a little stressful around the holidays, don’t you think? As Thanksgiving is fast approaching, I thought it’d be fun to put together a list of Pre-Holiday “To Dos” – ways to help us keep our grace and our cool for a more delightful holiday season.
1. Do choose traditions and activities wisely.
Traditions are so important for a family’s identity and closeness, particularly around the holidays. So choose wonderful traditions for your family that have depth and meaning, 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 stress you out more than bring you joy. Your family isn’t going to love your traditions if you are doing them just to check them off the list. (I know, I have made that mistake many times!)
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 and miserable for everyone involved! And I am sure my stress about the whole day boiled over to affect everyone else at these gathering (which was not gracious at all!)
As much as you want to please everyone, determine what you and your family can handle.Then tell your plans in advance to the hosts. If two hours is 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!
3. Make sure to carve time out for your immediate family.
Early in our marriage some of my biggest arguments with my husband were about spending time with our extended family. I was completely offended that he didn’t want to spend the night at my parents’ house on Christmas Eve and then spend all the day with them the next day! (Getting married when you are 21 does not help the whole “leaving and cleaving” thing!)
Thankfully, I have gotten a lot better about making sure we spend time with just our girls and have recently started traditions for just the five of us. Believe it or not, last year was the first year we spent the night in our own home on Christmas Eve (besides the year my daughter was in the NICU, which doesn’t count!). Honestly, it was great. We went to our own church on Christmas Eve and had a nice, quiet morning on Christmas Day. Then we all got in the car and had a relaxing drive to Arkansas after lunch.
4. Set a budget for gifts and stick to it.
My husband is probably rolling his eyes as he reads one because I am the WORST at this! I will buy gifts for my girls throughout December and then, every year, on Christmas Eve, I panic that I didn’t buy enough stuff for them. So I run to CVS (or make my husband!) only so I can fill their stockings with more junk. So not needed!
We all know Christmas is not about the gifts. But it’s easy to get caught up in the moment. One piece of advice someone gave me years ago is to throw away all the catalogs that come in the mail. Sounds harsh, but if I let them, my girls will browse the American Girl doll catalog for hours, which is then followed my many painful discussions about why they cannot get the twenty things they circled. Misery!
An idea for keeping gift-giving simple: One friend of mine has a little checklist she uses when buying her children’s gifts. It includes four simple items: One thing they need, one thing want, one thing they wear, one thing they read. Then they fill in with little trinkets and candy. Love 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 about whether or not you are exchanging gifts and, if so, the budget for those gifts. This will avoid hurt feelings and bitterness come Christmas day!
I love getting new ideas from other families. So for this post I asked some of my 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 each gave a $40 gift. After a few years of that, everyone got kind of sick of asking for $40 presents. Now we all 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/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 can’t imagine giving one of our siblings or cousins a gift but not the others but maybe we should!”
6. Shop earlier than later.
DoSayGive’s Holiday Gift Guide makes getting some gifts checked off your list (for a less frantic Christmas season later!). Be sure to bookmark it for easy browsing – ideas for her, him, children, clients, hostesses, and more!