Holiday Prep

The truth of the matter is the ways I prepare for the holiday season are far less glittery and bright than the holidays themselves. I wish I could write out my mother’s pizzelle recipe, my great grandmother’s pumpkin pie, how we make juniper garlands and deck the house, visits with family and friends, and bonfires in the backyard; the holidays are all those things and more! That being said, what I do to get ready to enjoy those moments is far more nitty-gritty and often a little messy too!

I usually begin with some good, old-fashioned inventory.  I think back on the year before now that I have some distance and scope.  I write down the things I enjoyed the most and were most memorable.  Then I plan similar events or activities if possible, making sure to put them on the calendar early, get tickets ahead if necessary, and contact friends or family who might participate.  Next, I take note of what I remember being especially stressful or difficult. Then I make a point of discussing them with my spouse, a trusted friend, or counselor to brainstorm how to avoid these situations for the season ahead.  This may include setting some different boundaries around relationships, having some pointed conversations in advance of potential problems, or setting new ground rules with loved ones.
In advance of the gift giving season, I have a conversation with my spouse about glamorous things like our budget.  It is never a fun thing to stay on top of, but especially so during the holidays. However, this allows me to start making purchases early and to take inventory of things I may have tucked away ahead of time.  Some years, this has led to establishing different approaches to exchanging gifts with family or friends, according to the limitations of everyone’s finances.  I know these conversations can be a bit awkward and finances are a private matter, but I have felt more peace and joy when I was able to give within my means.  It has brought me greater freedom, allowed me to bring creativity and ingenuity to gift-giving, and helped me to prioritize charitable giving toward those in need in my community that would otherwise have been difficult. Ultimately, budgeting for the holidays may be unpleasant but it will bring freedom.

While I am talking about unpopular topics, let me touch on one that often gets lost during the holidays, taking care of our bodies.  This can be as simple as planning to get enough water and rest during this busy time of year, by stocking the car with bottled waters and not planning events late into the evenings.  It is also making sure you have snacks available that fit your dietary needs and make your body feel good as you attend seasonal events.  If exercise is a part of your normal rhythm, make sure to leave room to keep it in your schedule during the holiday season as it is important for sleep and stress management.  Basically, take care of your body and keep your cabinets stocked with all the basic cold, flu and basic OTC medicines… just in case!
To prepare my mind and spirit for the holidays I also make sure to choose and order an advent devotional.  This year I am using “Emmanuel: an invitation to prepare Him room at Christmas and always” by Ruth Chou Simons.  In the past I have used “The Greatest Gift: Unwrapping the full love story of Christmas”,  Ann Voskamp, “The Dawning of Indestructible Joy”, John Piper and “Celebrating Christmas with Jesus: an advent devotional”, Max Lucado.   I also try leave a few minutes to jot down treasured moments with family and friends soon after they happen.  A wise friend once encouraged me to do this, because the memories will not stay with us forever and looking back can be such a blessing!   One final thing that I do is to make sure what I am listening to in the car (where I spend a lot of hours running to and fro) is uplifting and helping focus my mind on the best parts of the holidays.  Pre-loading some good books, music, and the Christmas story into my phone helps me remember why we are celebrating even on days when I cannot sit and be more reflective.

Even though much of this is practical, boring, and somewhat unappealing at best, these are little things that set me up for a successful and peaceful November – January.  I hope, that sharing honestly, hasn’t bored you to tears, put a sour taste in your mouth or dampened the Christmas spirit we all love! If it has, pumpkin spice lattes and peppermint mochas were created for just such and occasion. All my warmest thoughts to you as we look ahead to the most wonderful time of the year!  If you need a cheerleader and sister to walk with you as you tackle any of these daunting tasks… just say the word!

Ellie Hamilton