Thursday, October 26, 2017

{6} Christmas Things to Think about NOW

Less than two months until Christmas, aka the most wonderful time of the year!  December is a close second for my favorite month (after July) and all the Christmas festivities are certainly the reason (because it's not the temperature). 

I get that holidays can be stressful and expensive and less than enjoyable which is why I start thinking about them now.  Or about 6 weeks ago when we drew names for our sister (and brother-in-law) Christmas exchange.  Or almost 3 months ago when my Mom started asking us about dates for our Christmas get together.  (When she sent that text, the first week of August, I thought "Ahhhh!!  These are my people!")

I also love fall and certainly am not letting Christmas take over my life, but I have started thinking about a few aspects of it, to start planning ahead.  I certainly stay less stressed when I'm not under a time crunch so shopping is fun now, as opposed to December 20th when it's just stressful.

Here's SIX things I'm thinking about now, to help make December fun, enjoyable, cozy, and not-stressful.  My ideal December activities are wrapping presents, eating cookies, and watching Christmas movies and tv specials.  And making Christmas plans in October certainly helps with that!

1) Christmas Cards Pictures
I ALWAYS address my cards the night before Thanksgiving, mail them on Black Friday morning.  Have been for years.  But that means I need to order my cards at least 10 days before then, which means taking Luke's picture in early November.  So I add that as a calendar item within the first 10 days of the month.  Then start looking at cards online.  It's not stressful when it's barely past Halloween! 

2) Christmas Card Addresses
I naturally, keep a spreadsheet tracking who I've sent cards to each year as well as who we have gotten cards from (and our received back percentage, yes, I notice if you take a year off cards).  In early November I'll go through my list, make any additions or subtractions (do you cut people if they don't send you a card for a year? Two?), and mark who I know has moved so I can hunt down a new address.  

3) Christmas Baking Plan
I wrote a post on this about 3 years ago and still use the same method now.  I'll pin everything I want to make, make changes to my ingredient spreadsheet (this year's butter count: almost 5 pounds), and then do a massive grocery shopping for most of the ingredients in the next week or two.  I'll plan out a schedule, making two-ish things a week until mid-December when we'll finish with a family night of frosting sugar cookies while watching Charlie Brown Christmas, Rudolph, and Frosty.  I like knowing I have a plan to get it all done, knowing I have most the ingredients on hand, and that I'll get to spend much of December and January eating delicious treats.

4) Thanksgiving/Christmas Recipes
While I'm going through Christmas cookie recipes on Pinterest, it's also a good time to start thinking of ideas of what I'll take to our family celebrations.  Those are pretty similar year after year - I know I'll take mashed potatoes and dessert to my family Thanksgiving, a dessert and a yet to be determined side (probably cranberries) to Matt's family Thanksgiving.  I like to have a lot of ideas in mind for whenever we do food sign-ups.  Or just to start dreaming of the cheesecake I'll be eating on Thanksgiving.

5) Christmas Gift List
Whenever I'd tell people Matt had 20+ nieces/nephews (when we got married, it's over 30 now), everyone would ALWAYS ask if we buy presents for all of them.  Um, no.  That would be insane for both giving and receiving.  Luke's in a cousin exchange on each side and we buy for our godchildren.  That's it, kid-wise (and Luke, obviously).  Our gift list numbers 18 as well as stocking stuffers for over 60.  I already know who all those people are besides Luke's two cousin buddies and have updated my gift spreadsheet accordingly (Are spreadsheets my not so secret weapon to getting through the holidays sane? Maybe.) 

Our budget generally stays the same year after year - this much on our parents, this much on joint godchildren, this much on Luke and each other, etc.  So I usually know when I update my annual budget in January how much I anticipate spending at Christmas.  (I was an accountant for a long time, this is not surprising.)

Even if your life doesn't involve 100 spreadsheets like mine, this is a good time to starting making a list of who you are going to be shopping for, knocking some easy ones out now if you can! (We have Luke, done besides stocking, and one of our godsons!)  Just having a general idea of who and how many people you are shopping for is a good idea! (And we definitely aren't buying for neighbors, the mailman, my hairdresser, etc.  That's just getting ridiculous.  There is nobody we shop for that we aren't related to.)

6) Tentative Ideas for Plans
Thanksgiving - New Years can be very busy with additional plans, maybe out of town guests, lots of celebrating.  It's impossible to do it all.  Start thinking about what is important to your family (starting point: probably celebrating with Grandparents and extended family) and block those in.  Pick a few other priorities (ours: seeing lights downtown, watching Christmas movies together, a date night for Matt & I).  I cherish time at home, especially in December (or anytime it's cold outside, really).

I love the whole holiday season from Thanksgiving weekend through New Years, it's a magical, cozy time that makes me not dread the cold of winter.  And getting a head start on the planning and prep certainly makes it all the more enjoyable!  Happy, almost, holiday season! 

What are you doing to prep?  (Or you can just tell me I'm crazy, that it's not even Halloween.  I understand.)

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