Christmas can be sweet and relaxing. Or it can be tiring and costly. It depends on how you do it and your approach.
How is your Christmas feeling so far? If you would like to simplify Christmas a little here are some good ideas! Just for you. Today.
Don’t aim for perfect. Seriously, no one minds if the windows are sparkling clean or not, or if you baked your own ham or bought one. Be kind to yourself and make it do-able. Then your mood will be merrier!
Also, like any big event or project, breaking it up into little stages and tasks feels calmer. Set aside time to get things done. Getting ready for Christmas can be so joyful if we are not in a hurry! I spread my preparations over a month and then they generally feel fun! I also let go of some other things right now to free up time. I also write a lot of lists, and grab a few more things everytime I pop into the supermarket.
Bring and share to simplify the Christmas food. It’s a big job to host and therefore it’s nice if everyone brings food to help out. The last few years I set up a whatsapp group for anyone coming and we worked out the food in the group. This planning is easy and fun too. A good idea is that those who drive the furthest get to bring the simplest food. Bring and share means there is always the right amount of food, and a wonderful range!
Take advantage of ready made Christmas foods. As much as I love cooking for Christmas, I want to enjoy making a couple of my favourite things rather than having to do it all and feel stressed. Some easy buy-ahead items we always get are a nice ham and some smoked salmon. You can also buy delicious ready made potato salads and roast chicken.
Set aside some time for your own family unit. The main day of Christmas can be busy with relatives so we always have a special time with just us on the day before, or after the get together with the relatives. Our children love this time so much and we have made our own little traditions. It is always a quieter time when we eat some extra special things and give each other our gifts within our own family unit. We often do a puzzle or play a game too. In Sweden the main Christmas celebration is on Julafton (Christmas eve) and in Australia everything happens on the 25th. Now when we live in Australia we have our special smaller family time on the 24th.
Secret Santa makes Christmas shopping a breeze! Take the stress, cost and shopping focus out of Christmas by having a Secret Santa gift exchange. Instead of finding 20 gifts for every single relative that’s coming over, each person buys only one thoughtful gift, and every person receives one. Even my parents joined in this year and they are so relieved. Everyones names go into a hat and a name is drawn out for each person to go buy for. Agree on an amount that everyone will spend. One person in the family can even manage this and notify everyone. My 16 year old was the Secret Santa manager and she actually used a website that worked it out. There are also Secret Santa apps.
Family gift exchange. Another method is where each family unit buys a gift for one other family unit. My two siblings and I did this for some years. A three way exchange on the day. We often got each other something the whole family could use like a game. Last year we got my brothers family a mini ping pong table which his kids really wanted. If you are only buying for one other family then you can get a pretty good present.
Drinks. I am hosting this year and I asked if everyone could bring 1 litre of drink per person (soda water or juice). I usually put them all in my big glass drink dispenser with mint leaves and ice, and top up as the day goes on. ‘Christmas punch’ makes the easiest and yum drink. I also set the drink stand on a little table of its own. I always have a marker so we can mark our cup too. especially the kids.
Have/take things for the kids to do. Put out some lego on a mat or puzzles or games. Maybe set up the pool. If all the children are happy the adults can relax. This also means your children and nieces and nephews feel cared about and included.
Create a Spotify Christmas playlist ahead of time. There is nothing like happy and relaxing Christmas music to put everyone in a good mood. Then you don’t need to think about music during the day. If you don’t have Spotify or a bluetooth speaker just ask your teen/nephew/niece to organise this!
Use your notes on your phone. Make a list in Notes in your phone called 2019 and make a new one each year. Then you can look back next year if you forgot what you gave your mum for Christmas last year! On your notes you can keep track of what you want to get for each of your children and what food you need to buy. Making notes makes any trip to the shops much more effective. And if it is in your phone you can’t accidently leave that note at home!
Decorate early. I like to decorate early so it is over and done with and then I can focus on gifts and food. I find this extremely helpful. Any big project can be calm if you spread it over enough time. I have learned this from massive projects like moving countries!
Understated is beautiful when it comes to decorating. Some meaningful decorations dotted through the house is nicer than congestion. I keep our Christmas decorations in shoe boxes inside a big wooden chest in the shed. When I pull them out in December I put away my normal everyday decorations into the same boxes for that month. Then the house still feels airy and we can see and appreciate the Christmas decorations more.
Remember the meaning of the season. Christmas is about remembering when Jesus was born. Although he is God he came to earth in an extremely humble, no-fuss way being born to Joseph and Mary in a stable. He did not choose to be fancy or rich as he came for the broken and the lost and everyday people of this world. If we turn Christmas into a fancy and expensive event we miss the whole point of what we are celebrating. Let’s keep it meaningful, slower, simpler. Special.
Merry Christmas from Siobhan.