It has occurred to me that my most enjoyable holiday season was the one where I had actually planned ahead and incorporated holiday preparations into our normal day to day activities from early on. Try it. It is so rewarding!
- It is apple season, so stock up on apples this fall. Picking apples is a very fun family activity. Can’t work it in to your busy schedule? Farm markets seem quite charming to young children, and even the grocery store has good apples now. Visit a cider press and see how cider is made; it freezes easily and can be used throughout the winter as needed. Apple sauce is easy to make and can be frozen as well, to be served with a pork roast or in a holiday confection. And while you are immersed in apples, why not get a few friends together to make lots of apple pies for the freezer. Take an unbaked pie out as needed, pop it in the oven and- voila- fresh baked home made apple pie! Allowing children to see where these staples come from provides an opportunity to learn about process and the work involved before these commodities reach the shelves; to their knowledge these things come from “the store”.
- On a rainy afternoon make your favorite cut out cookies for the freezer to decorate later. This will afford the extra time necessary for child involvement, without the added tension of limited time and an overwhelming holiday to do list. And remember this: some cookie recipes are better without decorations!
- Have a Girls Night Out with your friends to cook and freeze for the holidays: soups, casseroles, baked goods, dishes to pass. This will allow a night for friendship and hilarity or heart to heart, when ordinarily we are reluctant to indulge ourselves because there is simply too much to do.
- Go on a fall nature walk with the kids. Collect dried milk weed pods, teazles, acorns, chestnuts and pine cones, etc for making angels, wreathes, and other ornaments. There are numerous children’s nature craft books filled with ideas and methods for making gifts and decorations.
- Rotate with other moms (or dads!) to do gift projects with the kids. If three parents take turns, each will have a couple of hours to do whatever needs to be done, be that wrapping or spending some quiet time to oneself. Perhaps more importantly, having the kids involved in such a hands on way in their gifting to others, the focus becomes more on the excitement involved with giving rather than the commercial aspects of receiving.
- If you are like me, you start collecting gifts months ahead of time as you find the perfect remembrance for those dear to you. Wrap gifts as you get them, or have them wrapped (eg, lots of places have free wrapping sponsored by various organizations- make a small donation, save lots of time and money on wrap). Make sure to keep a well-hidden list, lest your mind is a sieve like mine!
- Start writing those holiday greeting cards to long lost friends. Writing letters in longhand is such good therapy, and doesn’t take too long if you do one or two at a time. Most people would rather receive a personal, handwritten letter from a long lost friend or relative than to receive another something that they have no use for. Then squirrel the cards away where you will find them, for mailing the day after Thanksgiving!
We want so badly to create family traditions and to provide the magical experience we like to remember. All too often the holidays are upon us, and we try to achieve a set of unrealistic self-imposed expectations that makes us and everyone around us miserable. By jump starting preparation, we are able to actually relax and enjoy the season in a way we would not have thought possible.