Plan your peaceful Christmas: task 2

by Tsh Oxenreider

Tsh is the founder of this blog and just finished traveling around the world with her husband and 3 kids. Her latest book is Notes From a Blue Bike, and believes a passport is one of the world's greatest textbooks.

A neighborhood cookie exchange. Christmas light looking. Your church’s annual Christmas production, nativity scene, or ministry event. Sitting on Santa’s lap. The Nutcracker. Watching your five favorite holiday movies. Making all those crafts you’ve pinned. Making jam as gifts for your kids’ teachers. Maybe even Christmas caroling. Giftshoppingcardaddressingcraftmakingsnowsledding.

There’s a lot of fun stuff to do throughout the Christmas season, and if you’re like me, you have grand ambitions post-Thanksgiving that fizzle to survival by the 23rd. December dawn, and it feels like you’ve got all kinds of time to do all the things on your list. One fun thing per day. What’s hard about that?

Well, grocery shopping, for starters. And school, and work, and laundry, and errands. You know… the liturgy of life.

It’s frustrating to want to do festive things and to ultimately not do them.

Last week’s task was to plan your gift giving. This week’s Plan your holiday calendar, well in advance. Life gets busy, and it’ll be hard to get your fun things on the schedule if you don’t plan ahead.

1. Talk now.

Plan your calendar well in advance; start talking now. You don’t have to stress about it… Just discuss your Christmas priorities with your spouse after the kids are in bed, a bit at a time. Throw out any and all ideas—the sky’s the limit. Going to the actual North Pole? Sure, why not? At least for now.

Unless they’re teeny-tiny, ask the kids what they’d like to do during the holidays. Make sure you don’t accidentally promise anything. Choose words well.

2. Prioritize your ideas.

Alright, now make a list of those things, and mark the most important. Perhaps each family member can choose their number one item (now might be a good time to cross off the North Pole). You could also make an A, B, and C list—the must do, the maybe if we have time, and the not likely but it sure would be fun.

Photo by Pipnstuff

3. Dig up your calendar.

Look at the next few weeks, and give yourself a kind reality check. Including all your “regular life” stuff, how many holiday events can you actually do? Probably not as many as you’d like.

Jot down the set-in-stone events. School programs, Christmas Eve at the in-laws, office parties, anything not instigated by you yet necessary for you to attend, put it on the family calendar.

Don’t fill in the days with everything else yet.

4. Check the budget.

Go back to your holiday budget. What’s allotted for fun? Scrooge McDuck aside, most of us don’t have money to do everything. You might need to choose just one cash-heavy event, and save the others for future Christmases.

5. Now fill in your calendar.

Once you’ve settled on the money, plan the events. Buy those Rockettes tickets and scratch it on the calendar. Talk with your friends and finalize the cookie swap date.

As a couple, agree on how many nights out of the house rest on the right side of sanity. It’s different for everyone, so cater to the spouse most in need of home time. Kyle doesn’t like to be out of the house more than three nights a week, so we do our best to protect that.

6. Make the calendar fun.

Crazy as it sounds, but you may want to schedule smaller things, like movie or game nights at home. Time will fly by, and you’ll realize on Christmas Eve that you unintentionally skipped those little things that mean so much.

Enjoy the season! Make a point to spend an afternoon crafting a gingerbread house, or make popcorn garland while you watch Elf. Don’t’ stress over it, of course, but don’t just wish for more time to do those things. Make time for them. (If you can’t tell, I’m totally talking to myself here.)

Photo by Shim & Sons

Make these small holiday traditions more “official” by creating an advent wreath—count down to Christmas with one activity per day. It doesn’t have to be fancy. There are tons of ideas on Pinterest, from fabric to magnetic to paper. I love Mandi Ehman’s idea for an advent chain—tear off one chain per day, minimal calendar crafting required.

And while you’re nailing down your calendar, don’t forget to plan for the traditions that matter most to you. Every Thanksgiving I realize I still haven’t made the Jesse Tree ornaments I really want, so I settle for printed pictures the kids color minutes before they’re hung on the tree. It’s fine—but this year, I’d like to finally create some more permanent ornaments.

Holiday activities are meant to be fun—so let’s keep them fun. Don’t stress about doing everything—but make a point to do the things you really want to do, instead of just wishing they’d happen. Planning in advance will make the season more relaxing.

What’s one thing you’re going to add to your holiday calendar this year?

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  1. I, like you, have wanted to make “permanent” Jesse tree ornaments, but I don’t want to spend a lot (or any, really) money. Do you think you could share your ideas/pictures as you make yours?

  2. I’ll admit that I have all the Christmas shopping and wrapping done. Packages are ready to be mailed. With the addition of our 3rd child last year, I thought Christmas would put me in an early grave. We’re putting up Christmas decorations next week so that we aren’t rushing around to get it done the weekend after Thanksgiving. We’ve decided on only a few activities (our town Christmas parade & our church Nativity production) and I’m looking forward to a fun and laid back holiday season this year. (We’ll see if it’s actually possible!)

  3. i’ll be recovering from knee surgery in the lead up to christmas, so we’re going to keep things pretty low key – we’re not even travelling! so maybe this year is about what’s NOT on the must-do list?

    but i’ve bought fabric for stockings, and hope to use some printables, oh and this year we’ve got ann voskamp’s advent candle wreath, which i am SO looking forward to using in conjunction with an advent reading series.

  4. “It’s frustrating to want to do festive things and to ultimately not do them.” Too true. I like the A, B & C list, although I could almost guarantee that anything marked B or C won’t get done so I might as well cross them off now! Over the last few years, I’ve tried to ‘enjoy the season’ by doing as many of the jobs as possible with my son. We make Christmas cards together. I’ve cut down the list a lot so we can just make enough for close friends and family. We also make token gifts together, like biscotti, chutneys, chocolate truffles. And then if any decorations are broken, we make new ones together too. These are the things that mean a lot to me and make Christmas fun, family time. I love the idea of an advent activity calendar too so we could include hubby in one event per day.

  5. I really enjoy reading this Christmas post series. So helpful!! We don’t have kids yet (one on the way!) but the craziness of the season still manages to take over each year. My goal is to schedule one full day (that we both have off work) and spend time watching a Christmas movie, drinking hot chocolate, wrapping our presents, listening to music, driving to see the Christmas lights etc. Sounds so simple but, as you reminded, most likely won’t happen unless we put it on the calendar.

  6. I actually bought oranments for my Jesse Tree Advent Calendar. I’ll admit it wasn’t cheap and it was more time consuming than I thought…but probably not as time consuming as actually making each ornament. Plus, I was all neurotic that maybe they’d start falling apart with time and constant re-packing if they were homemade from cotton balls and popsical sticks. It was a bit of a hunt, but I got most of them last year and have been on the look out for the last hold outs!

    Here’s an example of what I mean:

  7. Love this post! You and I are on the same track as I posted on a similar topic! I love #6, make it fun! Important to schedule in those traditional things!

  8. Definitely adding an advent calendar to this year’s traditions. Also, my 4 year old and I are going to get all fancied up and go to the Nutcracker Ballet!

  9. I made my gift list yesterday, and have started my list for craft and homemade gift needs. Next is to round up coupons and fliers from all the craft stores. Our calendar is very simple. We really do not do anything but family stuff during the holidays. School parties, and girl scouts will have to be added.

  10. Great ideas! I have a Christmas Activity Planner and Christmas Calendar available for FREE to help with the planning. Just click here:

  11. We just moved 2 weeks ago, I’m 40, 4 months pregnant with #4, and just got over a tough sinus infection/headache. You are helping me to stay sane and focused! We are making the paper chain advent calendar so I can make sure we make some sweet memories, even in the craziness. I love to live by Elizabeth Elliot’s “do the next thing” (one step at a time with God’s guidance), and your wisdom has been a lovely addition to Elizabeth’s. Thanks!

  12. The Jesse Tree is the thing we’re adding in this year. About a month ago a lady at church started a Jesse Tree group, and everyone who signed up picked 1 ornament. You have to make 25 of the same ornament. Then on November 18 we’re having a party at her house, to swap ornaments so that we all end up with the whole set of 25. I’m so happy that she coordinated that, because I’m excited about participating in it this Advent.

    Now all I have to do is go make 25 camel ornaments…. :)

  13. Definitely doing the Jesse Tree. We heard about it for the 1st time last year, from you I think , but got a late start. This year I want to be prepared because it’s so important. Hard to believe the holiday season is upon us already! I want to be mindful and enjoy the moments.

  14. So agree! I have been working on things right now to make next month easier – including a written plan for what I want the season to be like. It makes a world of difference to just plan and be intentional.

  15. This year funds are low so I am making a lot of Christmas gifts. So far, I’ve been working on the coasters with snowmen on them made from tile squares, face scrub, body scrub, and pretty keepsake boxes. I’m not very “crafty” but so far, it has all worked out fine. It is so much easier to just buy something, but I realize I am having to put a lot more love into these gifts even though they may be simple.

  16. Tsh, thanks for mentioning the Jesse Tree, I hadn’t heard of it until late in the season last year and it was impractical to try and start it since I had just committed myself to making and advent calendar, but I’d like to do one this year… You’ve reminded me to look for some ideas for ornaments! :)

  17. We are decorating a tree this year. Actually, we already did. The first year we were married, we decorated my fake tree. The next year we moved right before Christmas and I was pregnant. We didn’t do any decorating. The following year, we had a crawling baby. We didn’t do any decorating. This year we put up our tree wayyy early. Our toddler had a blast handing her daddy the ornaments to hang on the tree and loves to watch the light.

  18. These are great ideas!! I like the idea of a fun calendar with activity ideas planned out well in advance. If I don’t plan it out the time flies and u never get the chance to divert fun things! You said it yourself, the business of life takes over! Thanks Again!

  19. This year I will definitely take the time to string popcorn and cranberries with my daughters… I love the way it looks but just always skipped it because it is so time- consuming. Probably they will lose interest after a half-hour, but it will look so simple and pretty on the tree.

  20. avatar
    Emily @ random recycling says:

    I always make time for our town’s Holiday House Tour. It is an annual tradition for my Mom, Grammy and I to go together. It always gets me in the holiday mood and gives me lots of new ideas for decorating.

  21. I loved the gentle reminder in this post. It’s funny how something so simple one year can be so “out of synch” the next… what a difference a year makes! I thought this post I wrote about our Thanksgiving teacher gift might resonate with some of your readers too: I felt so much guilt that I am not able to do the massive effort this year and recognize all of them…and then I remind myself that it’s ok to pare back.

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