1. Prepare for Advent first.
For the past several years, the order of my planning and preparation goes like this: Thanksgiving, December festivities (all those parties, concerts, shopping trips and other things happen in December), Christmas, Advent. See anything wrong with this picture? I sure do. In my world, Advent has become an afterthought - something that I scramble to focus on around the time we light the pink candle. Here's a few ideas to prepare, in advance, for Advent.
- Get out your Advent wreath and make sure that you have fresh candles - If you need them you can get some here...Mega Candles - Unscented 10" Advent Taper Candle, Set of 4.
- Have on hand a daily devotional that you can use for prayer during the Advent Season. I am planning to use Advent and Christmas With the Saints (Advent and Christmas Wisdom). I love this series, which contains volumes for Advent from St. Padre Pio, Archbishop Fulton Sheen, GK Chesterton, St. Augustine and more.
- Make a plan with your family to set aside time each day to light the Advent Wreath and spend time together in prayer. Pick a time that works for all of you - it could be dinnertime, or first thing in the morning, or right before bedtime. Advent is a penitential season, so this may require a sacrifice to fit in. However, as with all sacrifices, God will not be outdone in generosity and the blessings will flow.
One of the things I dread most about Christmas is the influx of new stuff that invades my house. While I am immensely grateful for the generosity of friends and family, I stress every year about where to put new toys, new clothes, new ornaments and that new 17 Piece Nativity Cookie Cutter Bake Set that I just had to buy.....
This year I am resolving to spend the next few weeks of November purging the house of old toys, clothes which have been outgrown or worn-out, kitchen gadgets that never get used, broken ornaments, used books, dusty trinkets and more. You name it -it's going. Advent begins the new year in the Church and I am aiming for it to begin a new, tidier, more organized year in my home.
3. Make a list, check it twice and get it done.
- Buy, write, address, stamp and seal Christmas cards - I won't mail them till Dec. 20 but I sure don't want to be addressing envelopes that day.
- Send Christmas wish lists to grandparents and family of the kids sizes, likes and dislikes and any banned gift items (please Auntie, no Electronic Voice Transformer this year)
- Pick up Christmas outfits and pj's for the kids and for yourself and hubby too!
- Buy all Christmas gifts - including a few spare gifts (I am thinking of mugs stuffed with Hershey kisses) for those unexpected, unplanned, or (heaven forbid) forgotten people.
- Stock up on wrapping paper, labels, tape and bows.
- Wrap a few gifts each day, as opposed to power-wrapping for 8 hours straight.
- Plan ahead for Christmas cooking and baking - making as few trips to the grocery store as possible - better yet, find a grocery store which delivers and save yourself the trip.
- Cook and freeze as many healthy meals as possible.
4. Plan to try a new Christ-centered activity.
December brings with it a flood of invitations and opportunities for celebrations. While those are generally all fun and festive times, they can also easily and quickly lead to burnout, exhaustion and in some cases, depression. It really is OK to say no to holiday events and even to certain "traditions." Pick an evening in November and sit down with your spouse, a calendar and a glass of wine if you think it will help and plan out what events you will attend and what you will not. Having a united front, well in advance, is essential to winning the battle for time in the month of December and will help to eliminate a lot of stress, hurt feelings and arguments.
6. Keep it Healthy
My December diet consists of the following 5 food groups:
- Holiday dinners - Italian style
- Holiday leftovers - Italian style
If I graphed my December sleep and exercise schedule, in comparison with my stress levels, you would see one soar while the other two plummet. Folks, this is not good news. This year I am determined to be kind to myself by making a concerted effort to eat right, exercise, sleep and stay sane. How will I accomplish such an amazing feat? I have no clue. I certainly can't give up the eggnog or the cookies.... In all seriousness, like everything else, my plan is to schedule in time for exercise and to cook ahead as many healthy meals as possible. As for the lack of sleep, I am hoping that keeping our schedule manageable and completing the majority of Christmas errands ahead of time will minimize the late nights.
December stress happens - to some extent it is unavoidable. By the time Christmas Eve rolled around last year my behavior more closely resembled Attila the Hun than any great saint. If you find yourself getting tired, grouchy and just plain Scroogeish, take a deep breath, find a quiet spot, meditate on the blessed peace and silence that must have accompanied the Lord's birth and offer all your struggles up to Him. Pray for those who do not yet know the name of Jesus; pray for the person who is bugging you the most at that moment; pray that the world experiences the peace that the Savior brings. In the end, there is no such thing as the perfect Christmas celebration - only the perfect Christ. Let's all keep calm and focus on Him this Advent.
Read related posts here:
7 Ways to Celebrate Advent With Your Family
Our Advent Book List
Christmas Gift Ideas For Kids: Catholic Style
Head on over to This Ain't the Lyceum for more Quick Takes.
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