Easier Holidays

It’s the first of December and I can’t stop thinking that for many people out there, the most stressful time of the year has begun.

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Why are we creating such a mess on what’s supposed to be the happiest time of the year? Sure, some of it is not our own doing – snow blizzards, frozen windows and cars that won’t start in the morning are some that we can’t really control. But somewhere, the kiddie in me wants just to watch the snowflakes dance and not worry about a thing.

So I’ve put together a list of what I’m going to do to create stress-free ..well, easier Holidays for myself.

1. Decide if you’re visiting, hosting, or neither.

For many of us, Christmas, is the time when we go visit the relatives. I hear so many people complaining that their winter holidays are just a string of visits, polite questions and politically-correct answers.
Decide early – even in October! if you’ll be staying at home, visiting or receiving family or friends. Set a time, and make a conscious choice to spend time with those you love. And you know, it’s actually ok to pass on the “polite” visits, once in a while.

2. Buy the food early.

My mom, who is the embodiment of perfect planning (with its good and bad) surprised me by already buying most of the food for Christmas dinner two weeks ago. Actually, when you think of it, the week before Christmas is crazy in most supermarkets because of the meat. You can get veggies at pretty much any small store.
Buy the meat early, freeze it, and cook it on Christmas Eve. Most people cook traditional meals, so you must already know the recipes you’re going to use. That’ll make shopping for ingredients easier! So why not buy the ones you can store, or freeze, even earlier?
You can always make a quick trip to a small (and not crowded) store in the week before Christmas, for smaller things you will (always!) remember you still need.

3. Avoid the week before Christmas for shopping.

What usually happens is that most people rely on the week just before Christmas to decide on everything – their plans, gifts, food…you name it. So the roads get blocked (add the snow on top and you have a gorgeous traffic jam with festive lights!) and everyone’s cursing.
Except for the travelling, you can move pretty much everything earlier. And even if you do remember something urgent, try getting it online, or at a smaller store nearby. Or even better, try preparing handmade gifts!

4. Do an advance list of gifts.

The one thing that always scares me before Holidays is lack of ideas about what I’m going to buy as gifts.
This year, I found a few inspirational sites that have made it easier for me: This list of cheap (er) gifts from The Nest, or this profiler from Gifts.com.
Even if you won’t buy the exact same thing for your friend/mom/spouse, try jotting down a few items and match them to the people you pass presents to. Then draw a list and figure out where you can find those items. I’m pretty sure at this stage you can also draft a budget.
That’s it! gift shopping made easier!

PS. You might want to insert a line in your gift budget for yourself. After all, you deserve some pampering too :)

5. Make a happy Christmas list.

I know, this sounds rather childish – but aren’t holidays just about being fun?
Here’s what I look forward to, this month:

Eating chocolate each day from my Adventkalender
Buying an Adventkranz and lighting candles each Sunday
Cooking a turkey dinner with my mom on Christmas Eve
Listening again to Tori Amos’ Midwinter Graces (which always gets me in the mood)
Drinking special winter tea
Cooking a punch/boiled wine mix to share with friends
… and the list can go on.

Don’t shy away from your planner these days.
This is the time of the year to be focused in the present and enjoy, but at the same time look back and learn, and plan for what’s going to come.

Enjoy and wish for a snowflake!

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