Now that Thanksgiving Day is behind us, it’s time to begin the countdown to Christmas.
This is my favorite time of year. At this writing my house is still all turkeys and pilgrims, but I guarantee you that as you’re reading this it’s more akin to the North Pole.
When our children were young, we used to wait until the day after Thanksgiving to decorate for the big day, but not anymore. Now our two daughters help us haul out the ridiculous amount of decorations and we begin the daylong process of transforming our home.
Christmas is a busy season for most families, and some of my friends complain about the stress of it all. If you’re in that category, hopefully I can offer some helpful advice this holiday season.
First and foremost, speak to your spouse about a reasonable budget. Nothing adds more stress than when you overspend and have to pay the piper come January.
Once you agree on an amount, get a list ready for the shopping trip. When our children were young, we asked them to give us their wish lists for Santa and prioritize it. That way we could see what their top two or three “wants” were.
If you have a big family with lots of cousins, consider suggesting the drawing of names, just giving to the children, or even doing away with gift-giving altogether.
My family consists of four couples with 11 grandchildren plus my mom. Thankfully, we no longer give “cousin” gifts, but instead everybody brings a “white elephant” gift, all cleverly wrapped so as to disguise what is inside.
Sometimes gifts reappear after a few years, which is always hilarious. The same giant can of tuna fish has been around for close to a decade.
Sometimes something that seems silly to one family member is a real find to another. I remember a giant bottle of Tabasco was fought over by a few family members.
It’s great for children to learn that what they receive is not important — it is the joy of being together that matters.
Since so many people are on a budget, consider making some gifts. Food gifts are almost always appreciated.
If you are looking for inexpensive yet creative wrapping and containers, check out the neighborhood dollar store. This is a way to get children in on the act of making something for someone else, while at the same time creating terrific memories.
You could also make personalized gift cards. A teenager could give a “free babysitting” gift card to a friend, family member or neighbor. Ditto for a home-cooked meal or a yard mowed, among other possibilities.
Another list to make is various activities you want to do as a family this season. Going to see the lights at Lake Lanier is fun, but so is driving around town looking at other people’s creative outdoor displays. We used to pile the kids in the car in their pajamas and bring along some hot chocolate.
Going shopping for Christmas ornaments is another fun outing that doesn’t have to be too costly. I used to give our children a small dollar limit and let them each pick out an ornament.
I told them when they were grown up, I would pack up their box of ornaments and let them take their ornaments with them.
I’ve sort of recanted that offer since I can’t imagine not having those ornaments on our tree.
With the lists for shopping and things you want to make and do, get some dates your calendar. The sooner you can do your shopping, the better.
Nothing is more stressful than when you procrastinate. I like to not only shop early, but also wrap gifts.
Why not take a few minutes (after you finish reading the paper) and make a few lists. Your holiday season is sure to be more relaxed with a little advanced planning.
If your family has some special traditions, please e-mail me and let me know.
Adlen Robinson is author of “Home Matters: The Guide to Organizing Your Life and Home.” E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.