Guess what! As of October 2, it's only SIXTY days till December 1! If you don't want to be rushing around at the last moment trying to make your family's Christmas dreams come true while your dream of having time to enjoy the sights, the sounds, and the flavors of the holiday turns into a nightmare of never-ending chores, pull yourself together and start preparing now.
I hope your gift shopping and stashing are done or nearly done. If you're planning to give handmade items and homemade edibles that aren't made yet, you need to pull out a calendar and devise a plan. When do your gifts need to be finished? What dates will you be home and able to work on them? If you don't make a plan and plan for time to complete your projects, time will fly by and leave you gift-less. You know it's happened before; don't let it happen this year!
Next on your to-do list is your decorations. While you're getting out your fall harvest home decór, take time to check on your strings of Christmas lights. Plug them in and see first whether the strings work and second, whether each bulb works. Throwing out damaged strings and replacing burned out bulbs now will save time and stress later. Plus, you'll know how many strings need to be replaced and can buy replacements before "decorating day" comes.
Take time this month to think about a theme, if such things delight you. (They delight me!) Some of us enjoy wrapping gifts in coordinating gift wrap and decorative bows, making an impressive tableau around the Christmas tree. Some even select a theme for the tree decorations and the family's matching pajamas! I enjoy seeing all the different theme trees at the Festival of Trees, but I tend to just use the collection of ornaments I've already amassed rather than making or purchasing ornaments to go with a new theme. If your idea of a special Christmas is one where the tree, the gifts, the cards, and the kids all match, then make it happen while you have time to plan! One year I embraced the red plaid theme. My gifts had red plaid ribbon around them, and the whole family had red plaid pj's (gowns for the girls, pajama pants and tops for the boys). One year I went crazy with snowflakes: I bought some flocked snowflake ornaments to add to the upstairs tree, found pajamas featuring snowflakes for me and my teenage kids, and wrapped gifts in snowman gift wrap. If that sort of thing brings you joy, then go for it! However, if the very idea of that much planning makes you panic, then forget about it. If someone else in your family is willing and anxious to plan and carry out a theme, then let them handle it while you put your feet up and relax! (NOTE: other themes can involve a favorite color, angels, Santas, stars, polka dots, candles, candy, or country!) Don't feel guilty about not having a theme. This blog is not about guilt, it's about celebrating Christmas the way you want to without the usual hustle and bustle and last-minute rush to get ready!
Plan your volunteer activities. Will you sing in the Christmas choir, help collect or deliver gifts or food to needy families, go caroling at a nursing home, or adopt a needy child or missionary for Christmas giving? Planning in advance will save you from taking on too much on the spur of the moment -- or from missing an opportunity.
Have you planned where you are going to spend Christmas? (I haven't. I need to discuss this with my mother tonight. Either she is coming here, or we are going there!) Knowing whether you will be at home or visiting family or friends will make a difference in your holiday planning. It's not too early to plan your feast! Lack of planning keeps us relying on the same old recipes every year. That's fine if a certain meal is a tradition everyone enjoys and looks forward to. However, if you've been bored with the same ol' same ol' and want this year to be different, plan now! You'll make it happen.
[UPDATE: Mom has decided to drive the 500 miles to spend Christmas with me and any grandkids who are here, and she will bring her best friend, widowed this year, with her so that the friend (who is like a second Grandma to my kids) doesn't have to spend her first Christmas as a widow alone. I am excited to play hostess for an extra person this year!]
I'll check back in a couple of weeks to see how you're doing. Time is of essence! I really want all of us to be able to enjoy the celebration of our Savior's birth without regrets, without guilt, and without wishing that we'd been more organized. The more you do in advance, the more time you'll have to enjoy your family, your friends, and the message of God's love.