It's October, and I've already started Christmas shopping, but not because I'm trying to be all "Martha Stewart" organized or anything.
Last year I just got so fed up with the holiday season that I decided to make changes to the way that I do things. For anyone who is in charge of buying the Christmas presents for a bunch of people, you know what I'm talking about--the holiday season can be a time of extreme stress, rather than one of joy and fun.
The consequences of this are:
- feeling like Christmas comes up too soon and is over too soon--not getting to fully enjoy the season
- feeling pressure to get certain Christmas-y things in before December 25, feeling rather rushed during December
- not fully enjoying all the special events and family things that happen during the holiday season (school plays, baking cookies, parties, decorating) because of the stress and time constraints.
Last year, I was hearing people say "If I can just make it through Christmas...". I totally know what they mean, but at the same time I thought, "If that is what we're saying, then something is wrong..."
I do think that all the pressure around Christmas has gone overboard. It can feel like a frantic race, like you've got this deadline and you have all these things to do and buy, and you want to make people happy and give them something they'll be excited about. It can be really stressful.
So, I decided that this year I would change things so that Christmas would be a time of peace and celebration, rather than a time of stress. Here's what I'm doing differently:
I have extended the Christmas season through January. It usually starts the day after Thanksgiving and ends on December 25, but for myself I have extended it so that it goes all the way through the end of January. That takes away the December deadline. It also makes it so that not so much pressure is put on that one day for meeting with family and exchanging gifts. I can get together with people in January, and at least in my mind it will still "count" as having spent Christmas together.
I have decided to excerise some restraint on the decorating--keeping it simple. Sometimes it can almost feel like a competition with the decorating--who has the most impressive lights or the prettiest wreaths. This year I'll just do a wreath on the front door and a Christmas tree.
I'm getting a real tree this year. I have an artificial tree that I usually use that is falling apart . That is my excuse for ditching it and switching over to buying a real tree, one that smells like the woods and fresh air!
I used to dread putting up that artificial tree--it is painstaking and tedious to put it together. Worse than that is taking it down and getting it back in the box.
So, no more fake tree. I'm getting a real one.
I'm getting my tree close to Christmas--maybe Christmas eve. In the past I've just felt that after all the work associated with the Christmas season, the actual Christmas eve and Christmas day were anti-climactic. Saving the tradition of decorating the tree for Christmas eve is one way to slow things down. At least it's one thing I'm trying in hopes that it will slow down the approach to Christmas and also lengthen the time after it. I'll leave the tree up as long as it looks good.
I am going to have an advent wreath be a part of my Christmas season. I've talked to some friends who were in the same situation as me (feeling stressed and rushed at Christmas), and they suggested using the advent wreath as a quiet way of re-focusing on the birth of Jesus.
Early shopping: I hope to get all my shopping done before Thanksgiving, so that I can just sit back and enjoy December. It also gives me plenty of time to make any handmade gifts. I don't give everyone handmade gifts, but this year I've made a couple throw blankets for some special folks. Starting this early, I can just take my time on the things I'm making.
I'm doing as much shopping as possible online: That way, I just place the order, and it is delivered to my house. That makes it so much easier.
Give giftcards to people who are hard to shop for. I used to put a lot of effort into getting each person a gift that I picked out especially for them. With some people that is appreciated, but other people just returned the gift I spent so much time picking out. So, now I buy special gifts for those who I really know well and who appreciate a real gift, and everyone else gets a gift card.
Give a family gift, rather than one for each person in the family. I have a lot of kids in my extended family, and buying 6 gifts for each family gets to be a lot after a while (and then they just turn around and return the gift anyway!). So, last year I just bought one family gift. I was pleasantly surprised that my gift of a Cheesecake Factory gift card was greeted with excitement and appreciation. Even though it was one gift to be shared by the whole family, they enjoyed going out to the Cheesecake Factory and getting a slice of cheesecake, my treat. And that was so much easier than trying to buy 6 individual gifts.
This is my first year trying this new way of approaching the Christmas season--we'll see how it goes.