It’s Beginning to Look a Lot. . .

. . .Like Christmas! I know, now you have the song stuck in your head, huh? Sorry about that. But seriously, it’s true: Halloween candy is long gone and all the stores have their Christmas displays up and running. And we can debate and lament over whether or not it is “too early” to decorate for Christmas, but the reality is that we only have 7 weeks till Santa comes!

So I thought I would pass along some things I’ve learned to survive homekeeping through the holidays. Christmas is my favorite time of year by far, but it can be very stressful as well. So here are some ways to dial down the stress and amp up the fun and enjoyment over the holidays. (This is actually a 2-post “series” so watch for the second part in the next few days)

Prioritize: One of the major sources of holiday stress is attending 25 different holiday events in the span of 3 weeks. If you have kids it is even more work to try and make it to every gathering. Work with your family to choose a few holiday events that are important to you. I’d encourage you to include in that list something romantic with just you and your spouse, and a tradition with just your immediate family (spouse and kids). Plan on attending only those important events and say no to everything else (yes, even Aunt Suzy’s progressive dinner, your co-worker’s cocktail party, and the neighborhood get-together.  If it isn’t on your pre-set “attend” list, don’t attend!)

Traditions: I believe it is very important to have traditions, and the Christmas season provides so many opportunities to establish and keep traditions. I also believe it is good to have several types of traditions: family, romantic, generous, and spiritual. If you already have some Christmas traditions, be sure to make time to keep them (put them in the prioritized calendar discussed above). If you don’t have traditions yet, create them this year!

Your “family” tradition could be going ice skating. Or drinking hot chocolate and eating cookies while trimming the tree. Or going sledding/skiing/snowboarding. Or watching “It’s a Wonderful Life” and eating caramel corn. Something fun for adults and kids alike, and specific enough that everyone can look forward to it every year.

It’s also very important to take some time just for your and your spouse to do something romantic.  Find someone to watch the kids for a few hours and have a romantic Christmas date.  Maybe go to a nice restaurant that is decorated for Christmas (a place that is special to you). Or if you are on a tight budget, just go out for coffee and dessert. Pack up some cocoa, cookies, and a good Christmas CD and take a drive to look at Christmas lights (most local papers will run a story about great light-displays so you know where to go). If you have a big budget and willing babysitters, spend the night or weekend at a bed and breakfast. Make sure to carve out some time for just the two of you that doesn’t include the kids or any Christmas “chores” like gift shopping.

It’s also nice to do something generous over Christmas, and to teach your kids to be generous as well. Get a group together and go caroling at a retirement home. Participate in Operation Christmas Child or Project Angel Tree. Bake cookies for your neighbors, the mailman, or your kids’ teachers.

And finally, make sure you have a tradition that focuses on Jesus’ birth. Use a fun advent calendar with your kids, or light the candles on an Advent Wreath every night at dinner. Attend a candlelight service on Christmas Eve. Read the Christmas story to your kids. You can even do a birthday cake for Jesus on Christmas Day, if you like.

Really, the most important thing this Christmas is to enjoy the season, treasure your family, and be thankful for the blessings in your life. However you choose to celebrate Christmas, I hope you have lots of fun, minimal stress, and just enough cookies.

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