Happy weekend! I wanted to get a post out with some thoughts I had to help you get ahead on the holiday season. I’m always feeling like I don’t have enough time between Thanksgiving and Christmas and I think the key to lowering some of the stress is to start planning now, and making some decisions as soon as you can about what you are doing for both Thanksgiving and Christmas or Hanukkah and New Year’s Eve. The earlier you decide things, it takes a lot of pressure off and lets you truly enjoy the season, not fret through it.
A few things to do now
Order your holiday cards. Don’t have the perfect photo? Go through what you do have and try them out in cards just to see. That’s how I picked the last two year’s cards. You’d be surprised how good you can make things look with a pretty design and printing. Remember perfect is the enemy of good enough, and done feels pretty great! Update your addresses while you’re at it as well. Minted has been my go to for the past years because I love their modern styles. Paper Culture is another new card company to check out, and Artifact Uprising has these cool cards below, and many others..
Choose a house wrap and a few good ribbons to use on everything. This is such a great idea. Find a pretty wrap that is versatile and a bit luxe (think nice department store), a few spools of nice ribbon and you are set. I did this two years running now- one year with a faux bois paper, and another with a pretty gold. Sure you might need some cheaper wrap for kid’s toys and things, but having one wrap -or one color theme, makes things simple and it looks nice under the tree too. I love this California Holly, and on Amazon there are large rolls in a reversible plaid/dot and also a woodgrain gold and a reversible leopard/gold. Using plain brown kraft paper is another idea and you can just change up the ribbons and add natural bits foraged from the yard like below on Half Baked Harvest...
Some of the loveliest wraps here ..
You can save paper by using sharpies to creatively write names on family gifts. For others we use plain brown tags each year to make tags with rubber stamps. We have also repurposed old calendars and cards to make tags with vintage ribbon. Buy one set of brown tags and use them all year. I’m telling you this now, so you don’t go and buy a ton as soon as it all hits the stores. It can be fun to choose simple and improvise!
Buy one great gift to give all your friends. Maybe it’s a uber soft throw, or a book, hand creme or candle. Make it something you’d love to have that is a little luxury. I love the idea of finding a beautiful throw, maybe on sale early, and buying it in multiples. Same with a great candle. Keep them in a gift drawer and you are set for hostess gifts or friends. This cozy throw is one on my radar with the pom poms. Who wouldn’t want this on the couch for shows at night or on the bed this winter?
If you want to spend less this year, plan a gift to make and share. Some ideas are pretty vinegars, nuts, any fantastic family recipe (my dad always makes our secret family nuts). One year my neighbor made us the best vanilla extract ever and another made body scrub. Get creative, plan a weekend or a few nights and enjoy doing it maybe with friends even? I love this idea for a clutch for girlfriends from Martha Stewart.
Cookies are easier if you specialize in one. I used to go nuts trying to make all the Christmas cookies my family has made in the past. Then one year, I decided to just choose one and give that to everyone. Some years I have made biscotti, and others we have made sugar cookies. Even with the sugar cookies, we try and do multiples of one style- like a tree -and have fun with variations on that shape alone. They look cute packaged when they are all the same shape too. One year we did shortbread with walnuts (top pic) and they were very popular.
Family Calendars for 2021 are a great idea to make now. They take some time, so begin now. A thoughtful gift for all generations, with photos of all the family, you could add recipes, and even art by family members. It’s especially appreciated by grandparents with everyone’s anniversaries and birthdays on it. I love Minted’s calendars and when you order cards on many sites, you get a break on calendars. The same sites where you can make calendars you can usually make a bound book with family recipes ( I want to do this), special vacations or milestones that can make a precious gift for someone.
Plan a few meaningful holiday gatherings to look forward to. A holiday lunch out with girlfriends, or a small gathering of a book group, school or work friends is nice. You need reservations now. Not sure about large gatherings inside yet, but small get-togethers with vaccinated people are back this year and seem like the best idea. If you can pick a date and a place it gives you something to look forward to. If you need to keep it simple, plan to meet for a winter walk and a to-go coffee to tea with a dear friend. Or maybe get a group to meet up for a holiday movie at the theatre. If there’s a gift exchange, refer back to your go-to gift.
Don’t forget little things. Seeing the lights, caroling, and baking or crafts and special holiday movie nights are good things to add to the calendar so they happen. My family would rather do those things than have all the presents. If you can remember, it’s the rituals of the holidays that make it special, rather than gifts, you can have a lot more joy and take the focus off of buying stuff.
Can you buy less stuff? Do not just buy things to have more to open. Some families forgo presents and do holiday getaways as kids get older. Other draw names with adults and just gift the kids as families grow larger. I think anything that includes less buying makes for a better holiday. As our boys got older we did- something to read, something creative (a project gift), something to go to (tickets or a special meal/day), something to wear, and a gift card or cash. That took a lot of stress off having a formula. Tell them ahead you’re doing less. Also with family and friend exchanges can you do a meal out or a day together and skip presents? You might find a lot of others would appreciate the stress and cost taken off as well..
Keep your holiday meal plan, recipes, and shopping lists in a binder and update it with each year’s meals and details. Do you already have a recipe binder? We save the recipes we use and the shopping lists from each year. I have pages full of notes- and the post mortem thoughts too. You’d be surprised how much you can get done by just sitting down and opening up such a binder each year. We thought we’d remember what size turkey we bought- and how many pounds we needed for the amount of people, but each year we are glad to have it written down to refer back to.
In that same binder is torn pages for Thanksgiving themes appetizers, fun cocktails, and variations on stuffing and pies. The years of freenWilliams-Sonoma’s meal guides are fantastic. Some recipes have stayed in there ten years before we attempted them, but it’s wonderful to have it all culled there for the season! I highly recommend if you don’t already do this. All we have to do is open the binder, and we’ve got our guide and some inspiration. We also love Thanksgiving: How to Cook it Well , by Sam Sifton, with stories, recipes, tips and room for notes for each year.
Choose a charitable thing for the season now. A great thing to do is ‘adopt’ a family for Christmas and buy them gifts. Another is taking your kids or yourself to the mall giving tree and pick some people and make an evening out of shopping and wrapping for them. We would do this when the boys were small and they’d get dinner out for doing it too. My family has also enjoyed helping at a children’s holiday fair and another time served meals. November is the time to check with your favorite local charity and see what is going to be needed. Doing something for others gives this season a lot more meaning. The Mercury is another good place that will publish how to help many kids and families that need help by November 25. Our family held coat drive one year at the local school for One Warm Coat. You can also do it by having a drop box on your front porch. It was great having my guys help collect the coats and deliver them at the end to one of the participating groups that can so use coats during winter.
I hope some of these ideas will get you thinking a bit about how to tackle the holiday a bit early and help you enjoy the season more.
I would love if you’d share any ideas and traditions that you have make the holidays easier below!
Have a great weekend,
P.S. I will be sharing some of my Thanksgiving table ideas from this year and past ones coming up soon!
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