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How to make next Christmas even better

I hope you all had a Merry Christmas yesterday! For some families, there may be another Christmas celebration today or later in the week with more friends or relatives. I wish you continued blessings, whatever your holidays may look like.

This year, my son was with me on Christmas and will be spending time with his father later in the week. Last year was my first Christmas without my son. Not my first Christmas as a single parent, but my first Christmas where my son was with his father and not his mother.

I think I handled it pretty well, because I was careful to plan in advance some ways to make the actual day of Christmas extremely meaningful, and not depressing. For me, this included starting the morning off at a monastery for some reflection and solitude, and then ending the day with close friends who were both sensitive and cheerful.

I made some notes in my journal that year about what I would repeat and what I would do differently. I knew I would forget two years later, the next time I had a Christmas without my son.

This year, I realized it would be helpful to also do this for the years that he is with me on Christmas day. Just because I get to spend Christmas with him, doesn’t mean I am not still co-parenting with his father.

How to make next Christmas even better (it's not what you think).
Photo source

Whether or not you’re a single parent, here’s a quick and easy activity you can do to make next year’s holiday season even better than this year:

Step 1:

Take some time this week to write down things that worked well. If you’re a single parent, make note of what seemed to help your children have a smooth transition between parents over the holidays.

Step 2:

Next, write about the things that were a bit more clunky or just downright stressful and frustrating. If needed, give yourself some time to calm down and think through what might work better next year.

You may have already realized these things and you just need to write them down. Or you may need to spend some time with a cup of tea and a good friend to process what happened, and what could realistically improve next year for your particular situation.

Step 3:

Look over everything you’ve written and rambled, then make a short, simple list of the positive things that worked and a few ideas for solutions for next year. Put this list in an envelope in the box with your Christmas decorations.

Next year in early December, you’ll start unpacking those ceramic camels and glittery stars and you won’t even have to try to remember where you left the list. Better yet, you don’t even have to remember to look up the list on your computer. You’ll start decorating and be reminded about what you learned the previous year, what you want to repeat, what you want to avoid.

This isn’t about trying to get it perfect; it’s about helping yourself remember all these things when next Christmas season rolls around, so that every year you can continue to increase the peace and joy as much as you can. Here’s to a great Christmas in 2013!

What did you do this year that helped your family have a more peaceful Christmas?

This post was first published on December 26, 2012.

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  1. Victoria

    Great ideas for any type of family single or married. I know I need to add a few people to my Christmas Card list, and I need to add a few events we loved this year and note to toss a few that no longer seem to work well for our family. I also need to tweak the Christmas budget a little.

  2. Emily

    We stopped traveling on Christmas. We see our respective families during other times of the year, when flights aren’t as crowded and there are no expectations to follow particular holiday traditions. Everyone is more relaxed, and Christmas is much less stressful now.

  3. Steph

    We didn’t travel and it was awesome. I’m hoping it can become a yearly tradition of staying home!

  4. Cori

    My husband just email me from work to remind him next year to take off the day or two after Christmas. A reminder in our Christmas decorations box is a great idea!

  5. Jenn R.

    Great idea! After reading your post, I did the steps and it was nice to write it all out while the memories are still fresh. Thanks!

  6. Shauna

    Thank you for this. Although I’m fortunate enough to be married to my children’s father and to celebrate holidays all together, I did grow up the product of a bitter divorce and the holidays were always miserable for all of us. As I’ve gotten older I’ve been able to sympathize with what my parents went through a bit more, but reading things like this always touch me. I wish they had been progressive enough to do things like this, but I realize they did they best they could with what they knew. Best wishes for you and your family and congratulations on being a thoughtful, caring parent and partner.

  7. Andi-Roo (@theworld4realz)

    I let my daughter spend every Christmas Eve, into the afternoon of Christmas Day, with her father, because he & his wife also have a little boy & I feel it is important to keep the magic alive — which is simpler if they are able to wake up together Christmas morning to see what Santa brought. My hubz & I celebrate Christmas with her the weekend following Christmas, when Santa is kind enough to make a second stop. When my daughter asked why Santa was willing to do that for us, I explained that Santa of ALL people knows that the holidays are about FAMILY, & the actual day of celebration is entirely unimportant. Even Jesus’s birthday isn’t locked down to the correct date, so clearly it’s the intention of the season that matters, not what’s on the calendar. Doing our own celebration a few days later than everyone else is actually very relaxing, because all the pressure to get things right is OFF. Might not work for everyone, but it works for us REALLY well! 🙂

  8. Polly

    What a great post. I love these do-able suggestions! It’s a neat treat for our 2013 selves. Thank you!

  9. Allison

    In the last 48 hours, I’ve said at least 6 times “we need to remember to do (or not to do) ______ next year!” I was beginning to think that I was not being present enough, thinking so much about next year. I’m so glad I’m not the only one who thinks forward. 🙂 Where would you put your notes if you don’t keep a journal??

    • Patty

      See my post below and look for this link … this is the BEST for organizing little loose papers and invites and to-dos and coupons … just whatever! I started it this year and I love it. I’m an organized person, so it fit me well, but my disorganized friend (self-titled) says it helps her tons too.

    • Michele

      Allison, I put my notes in my Google Calendar for whatever day I think I’m going to start getting ready for Christmas. Year to year, I just can hit to duplicate it and make changes as necessary. HTH!

  10. Elizabeth Kane

    This is definitely something I’d like to do this week. I was already making some mental notes, but physically writing a few bullet points down sounds like a good use of time. I feel like this week is all about reflection. I’ve always liked these last few days of the year – still magical, still sparkly, but a little less bustle.

  11. Patty

    I love this and it echoes what I was thinking I’d do … sort of a “bucket list” for next year. And, I am going to put my list in my file folder system which I developed after reading about it here: 52 hanging files (one for each week of the year). The Christmas prep list will go in the week before Thanksgiving so I have time to get things together — like our Jesse Tree (pop over to to download it for free) and calling Angel Tree to volunteer, getting a party of families together to do Operation Christmas Child Shoeboxes, etc. And the “don’ts” are : Don’t shop when everyone else is shopping. Don’t buy too much. Don’t focus on the “doing,” … when it gets too stressful, stop. Sit. Pray. Listen. Remember what Christmas is really about and review your list and don’t add anything that doesn’t add to the true purpose of the season. Thanks for this post!!

  12. Nicole

    This year we put very little on the calendar in order to avoid that stress of busyness. It was amazing how much more peaceful the whole season has felt, and the kids enjoyed themselves just as much as ever. In fact, we were able to do some more spontaneous things that came up since we weren’t booked solid. Going to do the same next year, too!

  13. Stephanie@Mrs.Debtfighter

    This year I waited until after Thanksgiving to even think about Christmas in an effort to not let Christmas overrun Thanksgiving. This worked great!! I really enjoyed and savored the Thanksgiving holiday!! However, I waited TOO long to plan my gift lists. Next year, I would like to dedicate the Saturday or Sunday following Thanksgiving to making my list and possibly do some online shopping to score cyber Monday deals. I LOVE the idea of writing this out and putting it in the Christmas decorations to remind me next year!! 🙂

  14. Katy

    These are great ideas. I love the idea of putting the tips in with the christmas decorations.

    This year was a favourite christmas for me, my husband and I managed to have a simple and planned christmas, and we found we lost weight and saved money along the way – truly a first for us!

  15. Kerry

    This is great, I love the idea of leaving a note for yourself for the next year too!

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