Who can believe there are only 20 shopping days until Christmas?
If you haven’t yet begun, don’t panic. Here are some tips to help you actually enjoy this blessed season instead of feeling dread or panic.
First and foremost, remember the reason for the season.
Try not to focus on what you may not be able to afford this year but instead on the blessings in your life.
If this year is going to be a little leaner than in the past (and this is certainly true for most of us), it is time to have a family meeting. Explain to your children (of course keeping it age appropriate), that even Santa has had a tough year in this economy.
Ask your children to make a list of their top two or three wishes. Explain that these items cannot be super expensive or set a limit for them.
This is also a good time to talk about the meaning of the season.
While having your family meeting, make a list of some holiday activities you would all like to do in the upcoming weeks. Try to come up with as many free (or almost) activities as possible. Some ideas include driving around looking at lights and then going out for hot chocolate, volunteering at a soup kitchen, attending one of the many Christmas craft festivities, cooking and watching holiday movies as a family.
If you have many people to buy for this year, consider making homemade gifts instead. Visit the library for some ideas on homemade crafts and/or gifts to make from your kitchen. Local craft stores also have many ideas you can make.
Make it more fun by including your entire family when you are making gifts. Turn the event into a whole day of baking treats and making crafts for your friends and family. Use creative wrappings to complete your homemade treasures.
I also know families that, in lieu of exchanging gifts, sponsor a family in need or give gifts/money to a nonprofit organization that helps children.
That is a wonderful idea for all of the ornament-type exchange parties there are. Instead of giving someone another $5 ornament, get a gift card for that amount and give it to one of our many nonprofit groups that help those in need.
Plan special nights "in" for your family. Mix up a batch of pizza dough (or purchase some from your favorite pizzeria) and have a make-your-own pizza night. Turn on Christmas music and set out various pizza toppings. Include unusual toppings for variety, such as cubed ham, pineapple tidbits, goat cheese, feta, Kalamata olives, sun dried tomatoes, fresh herbs, etc., and let everybody create their own fancy pizza pie.
Watch holiday movies while you devour your dinner.
For dessert? Try making dessert pizzas with cinnamon sugar, melted chocolate, strawberries, nuts, etc.
Have a family movie and memory night. Get out the old family videos and scrapbooks and take a walk down memory lane.
Moms, make sure you grab a box of tissues. One of my friends used to film her children each Christmas on a separate videotape. So, she can watch as her children enjoyed each Christmas consecutively. What a great idea.
Go see a holiday play. Nothing gets you in the spirit more than seeing live theater. Check out local churches for their holiday productions. Most are either free or are inexpensive to attend. Check the community events section in the South Forsyth News for more ideas on what is happening in our community.
If you normally entertain during this season but feel like it is too expensive this year, have a potluck party.
Just ask your friends to bring two appetizers, one hot and one cold. Tell them to bring their beverage of choice and a wrapped Christmas ornament. All you need to do is mix up a big bowl of hot cider and put out a tray of cookies. Oh, and don’t forget to put on the Christmas music.
The main thing to remember is that the upcoming weeks don’t have to be stressful. With a little creativity and some planning, you can create wonderful memories for yourself and your family.
Adlen Robinson is author of "Home Matters: The Guide to Organizing Your Life and Home." E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.