Editor’s note: Thanksgiving is this week and then the holiday season starts in earnest. For most of us who are involved in church responsibilities as well as family events, things won’t slow down until January (just in time to start getting ready for Easter). Gayle’s wonderful tips will help bring some joy and peace back into your holiday season.
Timely Tips for the Holidays, by Gayle Hilligoss
Your life is always busy. Then along comes the holidays and make the rest of your year seem like a vacation.
Even for those who cherish the true meaning of the season, for those whose celebrations focus on church, family, and friends, it is easy to get caught up in the rush. Suddenly days become a blur of to-do lists, projects in progress, obligations, and unfulfilled intentions. This year resolve to have truly joyful holidays—days to enjoy now and to save forever as lovely memories. Choose from these tips used by others to keep their holidays unrushed and on track.
• Put plans in writing. Take a few minutes now (even if you think you don’t have time!) and save hours later. Planning helps make holidays what you really want them to be. Make a master list today of all you want to do before the big day. Then make it friendlier with the next tip.
• Create a schedule. Work backward from the holiday filling in your planning calendar with items from your list. The schedule you’ve made is likely packed. You may trim it later, but check out the time savers here first.
• Start early. Purchase and make gifts throughout the year. Take advantage of vacation trips and bring back interesting regional items to tuck away for Christmas. Some make after-holiday shopping the start of gift buying for the next year. Choosing the right gift is more fun without the crunch.
• Use smart shortcuts. Choosing the “easy” way can allow you to do something you might have to abandon altogether otherwise. Kids will remember you made cookies together, not whether they were slices of store-bought cookie dough or your favorite recipe from scratch. Your company will remember your hospitality, not whether the menu originated in your kitchen.
• Stock up. As you prepare meals now, fix an extra for the freezer. Not having to think about what’s for dinner each evening gives you extra time to focus on special events and activities or to treat your friends to a lovely evening in your home and a delicious buffet—all prepared ahead.
• Computerize Christmas greetings. Start now to assemble a data base of those to whom you’d like to send Christmas greetings. Print transparent mailing labels or address envelopes directly now. If you choose to send cards, sign a few each day in spare moments. Or, spend an evening composing a family letter with each member contributing to the update of your year. For friends and family who enjoy e-mail, send electronic greetings. Utilize Facebook and other social networks to share pictures and news.
• Do the unconventional. Some like to distribute tasks over a wider time frame by sending cards or greetings at Thanksgiving or New Year’s rather than at Christmas. This can provide more time to add personal notes and, in the later case, allows you to include a thank you for any holiday gift.
• Trim your schedule. Give the calendar you’ve made a reality check. Identify the activities that matter the most to you and your family; those are your priorities. Use time savers to ensure these activities remain on your list. All other items can be ranked according to their importance. Scratch altogether those things you are comfortable doing without for this year.
• Appreciate simplicity. Enjoy the pictures, plans, and projects for the spectacular that fill
magazines, television, and the Internet but limit the number of our elaborate undertakings
to what you can reasonably handle with enjoyment. Simple decorations, gifts, and menus can be beautiful.
• Postpone your Thanksgiving meal. Volunteer to serve meals at a shelter or community center on the day; have your own family dinner on Friday. Or, invite a new family in the community to share your day. Obviously, this works well at Christmas too—or any day!
• Buy or make a savings bank today. Drop in at least some loose change every day plus a self-determined weekly amount from your check. Periodically deposit your funds in an interest bearing bank account (even today’s tiny percentages add up). You’re on your way to financing next year’s holidays.
• Reserve time just for the special people in your life. On your calendar, ink in two or three blocks of time for each of your most significant others: spouse, children, parents, whomever. Plan an evening just to enjoy the tree, to sip hot chocolate and listen to carols, to make cookies, whatever brings you close.
• Live in the real world. People’s personalities and habits don’t change just because it’s Christmas. When making plans and tailoring your holiday activities, you can stretch a bit (maybe your husband will go to see the Nutcracker Suite?) but be realistic.
• Devise a numbering system if you have gift snoopers in your house. Instead of using names on your gift list, use numbers. The master list is in a safe place known only to you. When you come home with gifts, wrap them immediately and put only the number on the gift tag. Even if snoopers find your hiding place, even when gifts are under the tree, they can’t be sure which gifts are theirs—until you break the code.
• Keep a notebook handy to jot down gift ideas starting now. A small notepad with a spiral binding works great. Make a page for each person on your gift list. As you get ideas, jot them down. List several ideas for each person; when you get ready to buy you can choose what you like best. When children ask for ideas for Dad, share ideas from your list. Make a page for yourself too; when someone asks, “What would you like for Christmas?,” you will have some good answers.
• Give gifts from the past. Nostalgia and the holidays so go together. List in hand, visit an antique mall or flea market. Start someone off on a fun collection of vintage games, green handled kitchen utensils, old medicine tins, ornaments, tools—the possibilities are endless.
• Say why. Do more than say, “I love you.” Tell the someone why: I love you because you make me laugh, because you keep the yard so pretty, because you like my cooking…
• Cook a family meal together. Everyone makes a favorite dish. Get out the best china and silver, light candles, enjoy
Some special tips, just for you.
Over-focusing on responsibilities, tasks, chores, and pressures is especially common during the holidays. Often “you” is who gets lost in the process. As a result, all that running, all that concern, has no positive payoff. Instead of the blessed time you hoped for, the holidays become a stressed time of bad tempers and tired tootsies.
Some ideas for a more tranquil season—
• Be your own guest. Deck out your room as you do your guest room: flowers on the nightstand, fresh fruit in a pretty bowl, a stack of interesting books, fragrance on crisp sheets, soft music in the background.
• Get comfy. Take a few minutes for yourself when you get home from work to slip into something soft, cozy, and comfortable. Remove your makeup and smooth on a favorite face cream. Look good; feel good.
• Pretend you are at a spa. Relax at the end of your day with a leisurely soak in a tub of bubbles or bath oil. Light a few candles, wind up a music box, meditate and count your blessings.
• Take shopping breaks. Rather than shopping until you drop, schedule a little break every hour or so. Rest, regroup, and treat yourself to your favorite energy food (say cappuccino and a cookie). A little pampering can be good for us.
• Shop online. It has never been easier to purchase every gift on your list without going within miles of a mall. You might even choose the same category of gift for everyone: book, sweater, slippers, CD, video, cosmetics, candles, foodstuffs. One website and you’re done!
May you enjoy the most blessed of holidays.