December used to overwhelm me. So many traditions seem absolutely necessary in order to make the most of the season. I got bogged down in trying to include everything and felt too stressed to really enjoy anything. A few years ago, I realized that I needed to choose what was most important to my family during the holiday season.
The Best of the Best
There are many good traditions that a family could have, but not all will benefit yours. Choose traditions that are fun and/or meaningful, and don’t worry if everyone else has the same ones or not. James and I have kept traditions from our families but have also added our own. (We celebrate holidays year-round as well, which I wrote about here.)
Week by Week
For most other months, I list chores, appointments, or other tasks for the whole month and get them done when I can. The holiday season (mostly December, but including New Year’s) has so many good things that I decided to divide it by week so I wouldn’t get overwhelmed.
- Buy and wrap presents. The goal is to finish by this week. I usually start shopping in November as soon as I redeem our credit card rewards.
- Decorate the house. I know many people start earlier, but I’m a minimalist in this area.
- Buy muddy buddies ingredients, neighbor gift ingredients, and stamps. We always watch our church’s Christmas devotional with this yummy snack, and I don’t have the ingredients on hand at all times. I never buy stamps either (which I use for Christmas cards), so this is my reminder to do so.
- Write the yearly update for our family history. I consult my blog and photos and summarize our year in 2-3 pages. I’ll write a separate post about this later.
- Write our Christmas card. Finishing the family history first really helps with this task! I’ll write more about this one later as well.
- Print family pictures for the Christmas card and frames in the living room. Since I only print pictures once a year, it makes sense to get it all done at once. I usually order them online from Walmart and get them sent to my house.
- Send the Christmas cards. I send paper ones to all of our grandparents, aunts, and uncles (about 30 people) and email everybody else.
- Make and deliver neighbor gifts. I usually make some kind of treat, have the kids deliver it, and don’t do it all on one day. This usually coincides with the last week of school, so most people haven’t started leaving town yet.
Weeks 4 and 5
- Buy candy for the stockings and food for Christmas and New Year’s. Again, these are items I don’t always buy, so I have to make sure I remind myself! Buying things early is so much better than showing up at the store on Christmas Eve or New Year’s Eve.
Choosing Events to Attend
Covid-19 has a changed a lot this year, but we’d normally participate in several events throughout the month:
- our church’s Christmas devotional
- a Christmas breakfast with the women in my church congregation
- our church congregation’s Christmas party
- the high school’s faculty Christmas party (where my husband works)
I chose these events based on what we’ve enjoyed doing in the past. There are many events with Santa at stores, the library, etc., but I don’t really teach my kids about Santa and therefore don’t seek him out. As with other traditions, I’ve had to pick and choose what to include. It would be all too easy to try to do too many things.
When to Leave Stuff Out
The list I just shared shows what I value most each December, However, some Decembers are too stressful and I don’t get it all done. Last year, I didn’t send Christmas cards, and I know I’ve skipped neighbor gifts a few times as well. It really depends on what else is going on. I’ve often been pregnant or tending to a small baby during this time of year, which makes getting anything else done very difficult.
Because I’ve sorted things by week, I know when I “should” get them done in order to keep my month less stressful. If I don’t complete something by the end of the week, then I move on and don’t do it that year. Some things matter more than others. In a time of great stress, let things go and don’t feel bad about it. Enjoy the holiday season without running yourself ragged!
Read my other posts on organization here.