Friday, November 30, 2012

Making Christmas Special Not Stressful!

It truly is the most wonderful time of year. The nostalgia of the music, smells, traditions and memories of Christmas bring such joy. My delight for Christmas has caused me to go overboard in the past, I must admit. Last year, I was new to Pinterest and wanted to do every single craft and homemade gift I pinned. Reality hit when Christmas time was more of a burden than a blessing. This year, I have been very intentional about not making that same mistake! As a family, we have done 25 days of Christmas for a few years now, but I learned a very important lesson last year: I do not have to do everything to make Christmas special. My hope and purpose for this post is to share with you ideas and tips that will help you create a Special, not Stressful, Christmas.

When our kids were small, we began traditions that have become such a part of our Christmas that our kids would probably think Christmas couldn't happen without them. I absolutely love traditions and it absolutely delights my heart that our little family shares in memories that are all our own. A few years ago, I used our already established traditions to begin doing 25 days of Christmas together as a family. My reason for starting this tradition of 25 Days of Christmas was to take the focus off of the presents and to create opportunities for us to make memories as a family (and I am really just a kid at heart and want Christmas to last as looooong as possible!). Now, my first few years of planning were wonderful and realistic. As I stated, though, last year not so much. This year, we've gone back to simple! I've been writing down ideas over the past few weeks, then a few nights ago, during our family devotion time, we made our final list. I've taken all of our favorite ideas and plotted them based on our family calender for the month. Several of our 25 Days activities are simply our already established Christmas traditions. It just helped getting those planned on our calendar. Others are new ideas we wanted to try. They all are scheduled on days that realistically fit our schedule, won't be a burden to do, don't cost much money (if any) and won't take much planning or preparation. I was able to weed out and narrow down my beloved Pinterest ideas by sticking to a few main things:

  • Does it create family time or tension (I may love crafts, but not my boys so picking cute crafts projects would be about me not them.)
  • Does it work with our schedule (For example, my husband is a pastor so Sunday's and Wednesday's are extrememly hectic for us. Those days need very realistic activities. First, I made out or December calendar with all of our church and school activities. Then I planned our 25 Days according to our calendar. This may seem like a no-brainer but trust me, it's easy to loose sight of the obvious!)
  • Does it fit our normal routine (Part of keeping the calm during the chaos of Christmas is to stick to the normal routine as much as possible, so what activities would be simple to make a part of our normal routine rather than trying to change everything just to say we did 25 days of activities....that would make for 3 cranky kids and 2 stressed parents! We already have family devotions so rather than not do our family devotion, we have our devotion focused on Christmas. Another example is that every week we do Family Friday night with pizza-frozen or homemade-and rent a movie. I would be excommunicated if I did away with this part of our normal family routine for an entire month so we are doing our established Family Friday night during December but will make Christmas shaped pizza's and watch Christmas movies!)
  • Does it fit one of these purposes? All of our activities fit into 3 basic categories (my brain has to think this way because it helps me weed things out-if it doesn't serve one of these purposes then it's not an option):
    • Family Togetherness (Simple Memories and Traditions)
    • Family Focus (Devotions and Prayers that keep our focus on Christ)
    • Family Serving (Acts of Kindness)
  • Does it fit our budget? There are some things are not an option for us either because they cost too much or they will unnecessarily prevent us from giving to others. 
Most importantly, keep in the forefront of your mind that Christmas is all about Christ. You do not have to do everything to make Christmas special so no guilt allowed! Perhaps begin with 12 Days of Christmas instead of 25 or just pick a few things that you know you would like to do with your family and go ahead and plan when to do them. My biggest advice is to plan out because that will save you the most stress and's those last minute impulses that cause chaos. The marketing of Christmas plays to our nostalgic emotions-don't get sucked into the trap. Keep your focus (again why I have the categories-so that I can walk into Wal-Mart and not be lured into spending more or when I'm looking on Pinterest not be guilted into doing more)!  Ok, I think that's all of my tips! Here is our list of 25 Days along with some other ideas.

Noel Family 25 Days of Christmas
1.    Christmas Tree Waffles Breakfast; Put up the tree ; hot cocoa & Christmas music
2.    1st Advent Sunday Devotion
3.    Christmas Brownies for dessert (after Evan goes to bed, share story of St. Nic to E & Ab)
4.    Christmas Wish List (our kids get 3 gifts each for Christmas; I also love the read, wear, play, share idea!)
5.    Christmas Card Prayer (we will pray for the family's who we have received Christmas cards from)
6.    Christmas Tree Cones for snack & Samaritan’s Purse /Homeless Shelter gifts
7.    Church Musical & Living Nativity
8.    Red Velvet Cinnamon Rolls and Day of RACK (Tim thought it would be fun to do our RACK's all in one day but most of the idea's I've seen are spread out over the 25 days-just following my husband's lead on this one!)
9.    Church Musical; 2nd Advent Sunday Devotion
10.    Snowflake Dessert (cinnamon and sugar tortilla’s)
11.    Christmas Tree Treat for after-school Snack; Make Beach Memory Ornament
12.    Christmas Card Prayer
13.    Eli Christmas Choir Program
14.    Christmas Movie Night with Christmas Shaped BYO Pizza’s
15.    AM-Gingerbread House; PM-Dad Date for Mom’s Christmas gift shopping while mom goes to women's Sunday School class party
16.    3rd Advent Sunday Devotion; Host Church Staff Christmas Party
17.    Make Cinnamon Dough Ornaments (This is the one craft we are doing because it was my daughter's only request!)
18.    Read Christmas books under the tree  (make a pallet!)
19.    Christmas Card Prayer
20.    Make and Take Mrs. Sandy a gift/treat (widow next door)
21.    Family Gift Shopping & Ice Skating in LR with Matt & Kristin
22.    Christmas Pancakes for Supper; Christmas Lights (Harding and Berryhill)
23.    4th Advent Sunday Devotion; Kids’ Church Christmas Program
24.    Annual Movie & PJ Day; exchange family gifts
25.    Christmas morning!!! Christmas Breakfast & Immanuel Devotion

Just a note about our "Annual Movie and PJ Day;" This has become our favorite tradition. We began this five years ago when we moved to Searcy and began traveling back home during the holidays. We wanted a Christmas day all our own since the actual December 25 Christmas Day would be different every year for our family. Normal families would probably watch Christmas movies all day, but since we aren't normal, our movie day is a Star Wars Movie Marathon. We literally stay in our pj's, graze on snack food all day while snuggled up on the couch watching our movies. It's AWESOME and I must admit, one of my best ideas yet :)
Other ideas:
-Pinterest has great pins on RACK (Random Acts of Christmas Kindness) ideas.
-Make family Christmas Art (we did the Christmas tree with our handprints on a canvas last year-adorable!)
-Host a cookie swap party
-Happy Birthday Jesus Party
-Jesse Tree (Advent Tree)
-Candy Baking Day
-Christmas Movie Marathon Day
-Red and Green Supper
-Mommy Express (cocoa and lights) then watch Polar Express
-Take fun pictures for Christmas cards and gifts
-Gift wrapping night (Tim and I would rather do this together just us two but you might enjoy letting your kids be involved!)
-Take donations to local shelter, food pantry, etc
-Go shopping for local foster children, angel tree children, etc
-Go caroling to your neighbors or a nursing home

As we begin our Advent Devotions and I get our Immanuel Devotion written for Christmas Day, I will share those as well. It is so worth the memories to take a little time planning special activities and treats for your family. Just remember to keep it simple and stay realistic. It breaks my heart to hear people talk about how stressful the holidays are. There are many events during this time of year that we say no to, just to keep the stress from stealing the joy of Christmas.

Have a blessed Christmas filled with special memories! 

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