I think this is the first year I've felt a little on top of things and that might be because there isn't a lot to feel on top of. There are a few things I've worked out over the last few years that really seem to work for us:
- Christmas Shop Early: This is the second year I've done this - other than putting a few treat baskets together and brainstorming a gift for one set of family members I'm done. Stockings are shopped for, presents are shopped for, Advent Calendar and Candles are in the closet, etc. Come December 1st there are 3 items left to go on my list and they're items that have a limit shelf life. I've come to realize I *hate* spending my three weeks of December shopping non-stop. I do feel silly Christmas shopping in September, but it works.
- Budget: I set aside a set amount slowly all year and spend from there. It keeps me on track and makes me to put a lot of thought into things that I want to get use out of over junk.
- Set Limits and Have Reasons: Since Henry was little I've set us up on the "three gift rule" for our main gift giving. It makes sense to me, works for our family and I've seen the results so it's definitely a keeper. I've also learned that it has to make sense within my "family culture" or no one will stick with it.
- Budget for Giving: I also set aside a larger chunk for charity and giving in December. So I'm going into this year feeling like I get to give, give, give (I haven't decided where the money is going yet) instead of spend, spend, spend. We have some charities in mind, plus extra to give at church and the rest I want on hand just to tip extra if we go out to eat, say yes to any friends who are fundraising or need a hand this coming month.
- Know Where the Decorations Are: Organization is not my middle name, but this year I have a pretty good idea of where things are and don't feel the need to get things set up on day one.
- Love the Consumables: I don't need to fill my house with more permanent stuff so during the holidays I prefer to focus on things like food and crafts that I don't feel I need to hang on to forever. So we make lots of hot chocolate and popcorn, "ninja" bread cookies and decorate our windows - it's all stuff that's fun to do and make and eat, but doesn't require keeping anything around very long.
- Know My Strengths: Master Decorator? No. Master Baker? Nope. Master Liturgical Day Planner? Not at all. That's just not who I am and if I spend the next month running around trying to make my house, food or days look like someone else's it's not worth. Instead, I have a few keep parts of my house that get decorated, I don't bake a lot of things that are photograph worthy and we don't have a long list of liturgical celebrations. But what we do have finally feels doable, they make sense with our family strengths and size and personalities. All in all, it probably balances out to one or two special things a week during Advent and Christmastide - that feels attainable for the stage we're in and manageable as we grow and want to add and delete.
My house might not be the most inspiring for the holidays, but we have fun together and have our own traditions. There's little that goes on here that's worthy of a photo spread, but it's ours and while I love seeing glimpses into other people's lives - the people who rock decorations or baking or extra special things or handmade everything I've definitely come to learn that sometimes it's just okay to window shop or admire someone's skills or talents and not feel like my life needs to have all of that to be special. Occasionally I gleam something that would work with our home, but most times I just like to appreciate.
We decorate windows and make ninja-breadmen. We celebrate St. Nicholas Day and try to keep up with our Advent Calendar and wreath. We try to attend a concert or something similar. We spend a lot of time not doing anything fancy and just being together around our fireplace. We do Santa and Epiphany and giving and receiving. We do music and decorations - all in a way that fits us and that's starting to feel just right.