I’ll confess, I don’t love to shop, especially under pressure, and even more so, when I am buying gifts for eleven children and other family members. Over the years I’ve developed a few strategies that I am passing along if you are interested.
Several years ago I began following Flylady.net and although I didn’t embrace all of her ideas, there are phrases and routines that have stuck with me. Three years ago I followed her Cruising Through the Holidays plan. The basic idea is that all of the work of Christmas preparation is completed by Dec. 1st so you can enjoy the holiday rather than be in a frenzied rush up to the last minute. She offers a free Holiday Control Journal that can be downloaded from her site and has proven to be useful to me. I’ve customized it to be a notebook that is more specific to my family. Each year in October I review my notes from the previous year and begin planning for the upcoming Christmas.
One of the best aspects of the notebook is the list I make at the end of each Christmas season which tells me what I need to purchase for the current year. This year my list says: Christmas ornaments for 2008 already purchased, To buy: 1 roll of wrapping paper (I already have the rest), candy canes, wide ribbon, new white lights, and advent candles.
I keep a page with gift ideas for each member of the family, then as I purchase items, I check them off and put the amount spent in a column.
We also have a family meeting to discuss what is important to each person during the Christmas season. One child likes to make special coconut candies, another may want to host a caroling party, and somebody else might want to plan a day to go snowboarding. We also set dates to get our tree and decorate so none of the older kids with busy schedules miss it.
Keep Gift-giving Simple
In the last few years, as the kids have grown in both age and number, we have settled on a tradition of two gifts per child from Mom and Dad, a stocking with small gifts, and a gift exchange among the siblings. It still takes hours to open gifts since we take turns and watch each gift being opened.
Give Classic Gifts
Last year I wrote a long post about our favorite toys which you can read HERE if you like. For the most part we give gifts that we expect will be enjoyed for many years. Sweet Pea has a collection of P.G. Wodehouse books that she has been adding to little by little each year. The boys often get backpacking gear, tools, books or things related to playing music. Some years Mimi asks for books, especially poetry. Most of all, we try to give gifts that will be enjoyed for a long time.
Create Your Own Traditions
Our traditions include giving each child a new Christmas ornament each year. They love unpacking each one and remembering it as we decorate the tree. My Mom did this for me and my sisters when we were growing up so by the time we were married, we had enough ornaments to decorate our own trees. Best of all, she still gives me an ornament each year – one of my favorites has a glaze made from Mount Saint Helens ash given to me the year after it erupted.
Another tradition is opening stockings first on Christmas morning, then having breakfast and reading the story of Christ’s birth before opening gifts. It makes for a long and lovely Christmas morning.
Our most loved and enduring traditions revolve around the dinner table and Advent. There were years when I wanted to have an advent wreath, but didn’t actually do it because I didn’t have my pink, purple, and white candles, but since starting my notebook, I’ve been prepared. . At the end of dinner we read the daily advent reading and light the candles. Sometimes we sing a related hymn such as, O Come, O Come Emmanuel. We end the meal with our well-loved Advent wall hanging which has handcrafted felt pieces that are added one each night to the advent wall hanging until little by little the scene is filled in. The kids have loved this for 20 years.
I could write more, but I am out of time. I realized a few days ago that I really need to go back and write about our trip to Ethiopia. Fortunately we did keep notes that I can refer to and I have many photos to share.
And just in case you aren’t inspired to begin your Christmas preparations – I am already done shopping for Honeybee, Dimples, Boo, and Eby and it feels great! Only seven to go.