Monday, November 7, 2011

Mondays with Martha: Planning for Christmas

It's beginning to look a lot like least, in the stores it is! I loved how many people posted Nordstrom's notice about not getting out the Christmas stuff until after Thanksgiving. I think most people are on the same page about that, but somehow the stores still try to push it on us early.

I do like to plan ahead for Christmas, even though we don't pull out the decorations or Christmas music until after Thanksgiving. Mostly I like to find ways to enjoy the season and avoid stress. So, here is what I do to plan ahead. Maybe there's something here for you to try this year.

1) Shop early. I like to get my shopping done before Thanksgiving. That way when December rolls around I can focus on the parties, baking, and traditions without stressing about shopping on top of that. There are usually a few straggler gifts that I end up buying the week before Christmas, but the more I get done early, the happier I am.

2) Pick a limited number of cookies to bake. Last year I let each child choose one recipe to bake with mom, and then we spread that out over a few days so we could really enjoy the process and enjoy each type of cookie without suger overload.

3) Let the kids decorate. I used to get out all the decorations, and then for a few years I only got out about half, and then last year I got out all the boxes and let the kids go to town. It worked out great. No one was complaining about "where's the such-and-such" because they were able to get out the decorations that were important to them, and I didn't have to do much of the work.

4) Put your traditions on the calendar. Some years I figured "oh, well, sometime this month we'll drive around and look at lights," and then it didn't happen. Last year I planned ahead and got things on the calendar, and we were able to fit in everything we wanted to do.

5) Make sure you have nativity sets the kids can play with. We have a little people one, a playmobil one, and several wooden ones--and the kids play with all of them at the same time. I'm pretty sure they aren't sticking to the story, since they have multiple Marys and Josephs, but they are on some level engaging with the true meaning of Christmas.

6) Think about what you could bake ahead in November or early December. Some coffee cakes and quick breads freeze well, and cookie dough can be frozen. I like to partially cook the apples for pies on the stove and then freeze them. Buy a bottom crust, throw in the apples, add a crumb topping and you have a wonderful French apple pie with very little work. For that matter, freezing some meals ahead of time would help in December too! That way you don't have to cook dinner and do cookies on the same day.

7) Find ways to simplify extended family gift-giving. I personally love to give gifts, so skipping extended family gifts altogether doesn't appeal to me. But I do like to simplify. Possibilities include: giving a family gift (game, gift card, etc.), choosing one category of gift and giving the same thing to everyone (Christmas item, kitchen gadget, food item, etc.), giving charity gifts in their name, or doing a name exchange with a theme. Last year and this year we're following some friends' example and exchanging names and then getting that person a book or movie that we ourselves have read/seen this past year that we think they would enjoy. It's fun, challenging, and you have limited options to choose from.

8) Plan ahead for what type of advent tradition you want to do that will focus your thoughts on the true meaning of Christmas. Maybe you want to try something new this year--a Jesse tree or one of these books. I try to buy a new Christmas picture book each year. But our favorite is still this one:

It has beautiful door illustrations for each day of December, and you open each door and read one verse from the Christmas story. By the end of the month you're reading the whole story each night as you open each door. Our kids love it!

So there you have my ideas to help make December more sane. With all the time you'll have left over, you can make these slippers from Martha.
The picture just screams "easy project! Nothing could go wrong here!" to me.