Archive for September, 2010

How To Make Your Own Christmas Traditions

When we think about Christmas traditions we think about Charles Dickens. We see the cities and towns made out of the type of old-fashioned houses the replica’s of which we nowadays put in our Christmas town decorations.

3128276344_f984e04ccf We see candle light, families around the table, caroling perhaps.

And we long for a time that is… that was different. Easier? Simpler? Less cluttered?

It seems it was a time when what Christmas really was and how to celebrate it was clear.

Somehow what we do now can seem less real. Less authentic.

New Real Family Christmas Traditions

But making your own Christmas traditions, your own family Christmas traditions, isn’t about newfangled things and ideas. It isn’t about being modern and coming up with routines that aren’t rituals, rituals that aren’t traditions.

A tradition is that which we always used to do. It’s what you tell your kid when you start to say "When I was your age we always…"

Making new family Christmas traditions is about finding the most pleasant we always used to that you can.

Watching "Christmas Story" every Christmas season, all together on the couch with popcorn and cola: that can be a we always used to Christmas tradition.

Getting the first box of Christmas decorations out. Always that one and always the day after Thanksgiving. That can be what your daughter will carry over to the next generation; what she will remember from her Christmases and will show her children how to do.

Sitting together the first evening of the Christmas vacation, dad taking a moment for a short speech in which he welcomes everybody to the Christmas vacation. Or mom sitting down and telling everyone the same night story she used to tell around Christmas when we were all small.

From New to Old Christmas Traditions

What we see from back then? From Dickens? Those were new fangled modern nothings back then. Things happening but many of them not tradition yet.

Go ahead, make your own family Christmas traditions. Who knows which one of them will be what future generations long for?

Setting Up Christmas Without Mess Or Stress [Organizing]

Face it, as Christmas grew larger in your life, or as your family did, Christmas became more and more of a Project to execute. Getting a tree, setting it up, decorating it and throwing a few decorations around the house – that was yesterday. Today your life is much more complicated and if you don’t watch it, Christmas becomes a messy stress.

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But preparing for Christmas, from getting out the decorations to setting up the Christmas tree, doesn’t need to be a series of stressful, cluttered, jumbled days. If you have put away all or even just some of your Christmas decorations organized in boxes, setting up Christmas will be an easy thing to do this year.

If your Christmas decorations are not organized at all – no problem; you can still follow along the lines of our Christmas decorations organization. Watch out for the notes!

Count The Weeks

Take basic inventory. How many Christmas boxes do you have? 4? 8? 10? If you’re a family and you’ve been doing for a couple of years, you’ll likely have between 8 and 12 boxes. At least.

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Or; how many zones do you have that need to be Christmas-ized? Entrance, kitchen, room, bedroom. Bathroom?

Or; roughly how many types of Christmas stuff do you have? Christmas items to hang, to stand. Christmas decorations for the tree. Maybe Christmas dishes for the kitchen, right?

Don’t forget the tree, setting it up and decorating it. If you have a permanent, artificial Christmas tree you’re set for that. If you need to buy a tree, add one number to your list.

You’re now going to have a number.

This is the number of weeks before Christmas that you have to start putting your Christmas decorations out.

Add 2: one for unforeseen circumstances, one because you don’t want to finish the week of Christmas itself.

Why so many weeks? No matter what you do in your daily life, the chance that you have every day, all day to decorate your house for Christmas is very, very remote. Highly unlikely. So you work, have a job, paid or not. Family things to do and look after. You’re not going to want to decorate from 6 PM to 10 PM. And once it’s Christmas and you may have some free days – you don’t want to use your free days to “work” again, do you?

That means that in (relaxed) reality, you’ll be using either a day in the weekend or a few odd moments during the week to put that week’s Christmas items out. Goes smooth and almost automatically. You’ll see :)

Christmas One Week At A Time

Take one box out. Not more. Never more than one at a time.

Bring the box to where it is handy for you to work. This can be a table in a dining room, the kitchen counter, even the floor.

If you followed our Christmas Organization you know what’s in the box and are putting out precisely what you intended to put out.

Put out the items that you like. Maybe you have so many Christmas decorations that it’s a good idea to rotate them yearly – but putting them all out is good too; Christmas comes only once a year and not nearly enough in a lifetime!

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Often you’ll find that it’s easier to decorate your home by removing the other, common decorations and items that take their place all year round.

Simply take those other items and put them in the current Christmas box you’re working on.

If you’re not organized yet, or this box isn’t organized yet, decide what you want to put in this box and label the box already as such (see: Putting Christmas Decorations Away). Once it’s time to put the Christmas things away you’ll know what’s going to go where.

Wrap It Up

  • Count how many boxes or bags of Christmas items you have to go through in order for Christmas to be ready for you
  • That’s how many weeks before Christmas you have to start. Add at least 2 more; one week for unforeseen circumstances, one week because you don’t want to work during Christmas
  • Take out one box or bag of Christmas decorations at a time. No more
  • Put things you want gone for the Christmas days in the same box as the Christmas decorations that replace them came from
  • Once you’re done with a box, move on to the next
  • Work a little every day, every week; or work in the weekend every week

What is Christmas Joy?

What is Christmas joy? Real Christmas joy?

It’s an easy to answer question if you’re not honest, a hard one if you are.

christmas tree with gifts There are things we’re supposed to say about Christmas joy. That Jesus is the reason for the season, for example. Or that real Christmas joy comes from giving, not from getting.

But honestly, those things aren’t part of my feeling of Christmas joy at all.

What Christmas Joy Is For Me

Christmas joy, for me, is a Season, a happening. An experience. It’s like a long story, a big book or a really good movie. And like the TV events of old we all used to talk about around the water cooler the next day, this is a huge shared experience.

It starts when December draws closer. The music comes, the decorations appear. It’s getting darker — and colder. Inside it’s warmer and cozier.

It’s here, inside, the Christmas joy experience takes place, mostly.

All the Christmas movies we watch, every evening another. With popcorn and diet cola because we save calories for later. Every week we take out another one of our Christmas boxes and put up some decorations; this way decorating for Christmas is relaxed and fun instead of stressful work.

On my computer’s desktop I have Christmas desktop wallpaper. Like the movies, usually another one every day. Oh, not that I have that many just for Christmas; I have some winter landscape ones too.

What thrills me is that we’re all in this together. And that isn’t about family or friends; it’s us as a country all together into Christmas.

Santa Claus Christms Music in the Mall Commercials, stores, store windows, music on the radio, people doing Christmas shopping, Christmas decorations appearing everywhere, everything Christmas themed. On TV popular series have the time in their make believe world synced to ours and we see them having Christmas. The Christmas classics appear.

For a couple of weeks we’re all one, sharing the same experience, living the same life. It’s not that I’m a dreamer but that experience, that us approaching Christmas thing … that’s what I point to when you ask me "what is Christmas joy?"

Using a Christmas gift buy list

Ever had that? You think that you have a bunch of gifts, more or less divided equally among recipients, but when it comes time to wrap those gifts you realize you have a whole bunch of nothing for one person, a pile of tiny stuff for the other, and one really big expensive gift for yet another?

What happened is that you have been shopping by intuition and impression. You buy what you think you need for the people you thought still need "stuff".

The solution: a Christmas gift buy list.

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The Christmas gift buy list

Think of a Christmas gift buy list as a sort of inverted wish list. instead of a list of gifts somebody would like to receive, you have a list of gifts that you intend to give.

It works like this.

Following our year-round Christmas gift shopping routine you buy a gift. As soon as you come home you store the gift in your designated Christmas gift box. You then write the gift on your Christmas gift buy list.

If the gift is intended for a specific person, either write his or her name behind the gift or use a separate page and list the gift there. Which solution you will use depends on how many people you are shopping for.

Additionally you can write both the value and the price of the gift.  Sometimes you will pay a lot less for a gift versus what its real value is. Writing down the value helps you to estimate how much value each person will receive this Christmas versus what you paid for that person’s Christmas.

Gifts that you can’t assign to a specific person yet go on the Anyone list (or you write Anyone behind the gift entry) where you write anyone behind. This is your gift stash.

Bring Your Christmas Gift Buy List

Your Christmas Gift Buy List should be portable. If possible you should have it on you or bring it with you at all times. You never know when you walk in on what seems to be in good deal  When you have your Christmas Gift Buy List with you, you can quickly reference it to determine if you really should buy someone yet another gift.

Or, sometimes you run into a nice gadget or other tiny stuff and then you might want to check your list to ensure you’re not buying one person a whole bunch of nothing.

Use For Christmas Gift Budgeting

By noting both the value and the price of the gift you can use your Christmas Gift Buy List to budget this year’s Christmas and set yourself a fixed maximum amount of money to spend on each gift recipient.

How To Finish Christmas Gift Shopping On Time [Organizing Christmas]

Recognize this? This year you’re going to do it different and get the right gifts for the right person at the right time. You’re going to shop early! In November, maybe, already!

As you plow your way through a slow moving shopping mob, you suddenly realize Christmas is two weeks from now – and you still need to do most of your Christmas shopping!

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What’s worse, almost, is that everything is hugely expensive; even those items you saw on sale "just now".

Why Christmas Shopping Doesn’t Finish on Time

The reason why no matter how well intentioned we may be our Christmas gift shopping always ends too later or at the very least has some stress involved is our mind’s bad sense of time.

Be honest, when you thought about shopping in time and on time you thought "three months before Christmas – heck, even two months before Christmas is good: two whole months!"

But you know what two whole months translates to? To about four or five  chances to go Christmas shopping.

Look, if you’re anything like me you don’t have all the time in the world. This needs to be done, that needs to be done. Usually both need to be done at the same time!

Those 60 days ("two whole months!") of shopping? That’s fake. Most of those days you wake up from the alarm clock and by the time the day is finished enough that there is time for what you want to do in life, you certainly don’t want to go out and so some considerate Christmas shopping!

Which leaves the weekends. In two months that’s just 8 weekends. Can you take time every weekend for 8 weeks straight to say "ta-da, I’m out shopping!"

              »» Get Organized Now Holiday Planner «« 

No.

Realistically speaking we can’t (see: there’s always something to do).

So those two whole months you have? That’s just a handful of trips to the mall, countable on indeed one hand and each trip closer to Christmas with everything getting more expensive while at the same time more common: there are no special Christmas gifts around Christmas time.

Buying Christmas Gifts Year Round

The trick is to buy your Christmas gifts year round, starting the day(s) after Christmas with the expensive stuff that’s suddenly at half price.

Because following the logic of real time as available to us, one whole year of Christmas shopping isn’t that at all! Right? It’s what? It’s about 52 weekends – so no more than 50-52 chances to pick something up for someone. And yeah, we might not be able to go every time we want to. And we don’t find something every single time we go to a shop.

So according to our real Christmas shopping time calculation, that’s 20-30 Christmas shopping trips.

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As you develop the habit of thinking about buying Christmas gifts no matter if it’s the season or not (and of course you’ll be applying this to other gifts and seasons as well!), you’ll get a hang for it. You’ll develop a special sixth sense that will home you in to "on sale" items that are really on sale (versus just being cheaper than the day before). You’ll start to find items that are really special. And as you’re buying gifts because you want to and not because you need to right now or else… you’ll start to match up the very best gifts to the right person.

Better yet; as that gift you gave was bought in May the person receiving it won’t have seen it in all the shops for all the weeks leading up to Christmas. It’s really unique!

Store & Track Your Christmas Gifts

Once you come home with a Christmas gift, store it in your dedicated Christmas Gifts Box.

You should also note the item on your Christmas Gifts List. If you know for whom it is, make a note of that. If not, leave it in the anyone section.

Wrap It Up

  • Count the number of weeks you have before Christmas and divide that number in two or three: that’s the real amount of times you’ll be able to shop for Christmas gifts
  • Start Christmas gift shopping the day(s) after Christmas, buying the luxury items that are now on 50% and better
  • Buy Christmas gifts year round
  • Store the bought gifts in your Christmas Gifts Box
  • Note down what you bough (and for whom) on your Christmas Gifts List

Holiday Planner

Image credit: Huahe, bensonkua