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My #1 Holiday Mom Hack: How I Actually Came to Enjoy the Most Wonderful (but Busy) Time of the Year



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**We’re taking a little break from gift guides today, but come back tomorrow and Monday/Tuesday for more.

The universe/society has really done this cruel thing where they’ve made the busiest month of the year work-wise (oh AND  kid-wise -ha!), also typically our favorite month socially and sentimentally. I’m looking at you, December.

Now, I’ve always decorated early for shoots, and frankly LOVE IT (which is where the disorder/philosophy was born), but this year as I was putting away the Halloween decor I had the epiphany: what if I don’t just decorate early, but actually start celebrating early so I can do it more slowly and enjoy it? I would take our family’s favorite month of traditions and holidays and stretch it into two months. After I made the decision (and Brian was on board), I breathed a MASSIVE sigh of relief. Our Christmas would span two months and NOBODY CAN STOP US.

If you don’t have young kids, don’t celebrate Christmas or perhaps aren’t as into sentimental memory making as I am, you might be annoyed, I get it. I worked at RiteAid in high school and was irritated to have to set Christmas right after Halloween, although it was the ’90s so I had to pretend to hate everything.

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Shop the Look: White Tree | Faux Garland | Lights | Large, Medium, Small White Ceramic Houses

But spreading it out has actually been so great for our family. Speaking as a work-outside-the-home mom, I can say that typically moms get DESTROYED during the holidays by end of year deadlines, as well as our own guilty hand. The pressure comes from all angles and while you might say “be kind to yourself,” “relax” and “slow down,” sometimes work doesn’t allow for it in December. Work is always at a high with every deadline due before the end of year, then add in the fun social plans, decorating and shopping…you really have no free time. You want to celebrate with your kids, your coworkers, go to your friend’s parties, see the street with all the lights. You want to go caroling, make presents for grandparents and cinnamon rolls for your neighbors. You want to do meaningful service projects. You want to take the time to properly teach about the importance of the season, regardless of what you believe. You can’t give them an awareness of the base construct of consumerism in a 15-minute lecture on Tuesday morning while getting them out the door. Sure, we have too much information, temptation, speed and pressure these days, but mostly unless we quit our job or forego doing any of those social things (which is a legit option) then we simply don’t have enough time. And yet we power through and we do indeed do it, but at a pretty big cost to us physically and mentally.

Operation More Holiday Time had a clear mission: To spread out the holiday feeling over two months instead of cramming it into one; to slow down the pace of my favorite time of the year and thus possibly enjoy my time and most importantly be present with my kids and family. We could create the memories and traditions that mean a lot to me and them in a more enjoyable way.

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Shop the Look: Small Tree | Merry and Bright Pillow | Joy Pillow

To be fair, this year there are only 3.5 weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas and two of those weeks, I’ll be traveling to the east coast so I’m running on more of a deficit than usual. My mom said my most distinct trait as a child was good time management, which couldn’t sound more boring, but maybe it’s true. Girl knows how to look ahead, adjust and try to fit it all in.

As I flipped the calendar to November 1st, put on Bing Crosby holiday, went to Michaels for DIY ornament ingredients and Target for garland and candles, I got side-eyed from strangers, my team and friends for sure. But you know who was psyched? MY KIDS. And when the skeptics came over to hang, after the first hour of being around my “first layer” of holiday, they remarked how nice it was and how happy they felt.


So here was my strategy as to not be a total freak:

Pre-holiday month (you might call it November): Bring in winter vibez (not dissimilar to this post, which perhaps really gave me the idea). Winter vibes include greenery, wreaths, sparkly lights, tree figurines (no tree or ornaments yet, although I think a tree with lights and no ornaments is totally fine) cozy textiles…fine maybe a MERRY AND BRIGHT pillow moment. But can’t we be merry and bright year-round?

We did it casually on a Saturday and Sunday with the kids, some wine and holiday Kidz Bop playing, and they were/WE were, SO happy. We were in no rush, and just played with the decor, nothing had to be placed perfectly it was just kinda a slow unboxing and the kids could really engage with each piece.

Start DIY-ing the ornaments and gifts with the kids. I’m going to show you all what they did (guys, I got really into it) in another post, but on the next lazy Sunday, we sat for hours in the craft/play/garbage room and made so many different types of ornaments both as gifts and for our tree (all dated with names).

Starting early also gave more time to really assess what we have decor-wise and what I need to shop for (if anything). I shopped slowly, went on Pinterest for ideas, and had a leisurely time at decorating. We aren’t done, but this first layer helps me understand that I want a lot of greenery and lights with some pops of red. Some whimsy, but not too much stuff.

We’ll add more this weekend, but likely will wait to decorate the tree and go “full Christmas” the weekend after Thanksgiving. And our neighbors should expect some cookies soon.

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Oh, another quick hot-tip: One year we were super late ordering/sending all our special chocolates to our clients/colleagues, and they didn’t arrive until the first week in January. The response was INSANE. Everyone gets so bombarded in December that it might have been lost in the noise, but after the holidays, when you are sitting back in your office and possibly a little depressed that it’s all over, and you get an awesome box of special treats, it brightens your day. So now we forego the holiday gift and send New Year gifts instead. In the same tone, if we didn’t have time to make cookies for our neighbors in December, we’ve done it in January as “New Year cookies” and guess what? We didn’t get arrested.

The thing is, once you put on that music and have some faux garlands with lights around, you are in the spirit which is the point of it all. You can start making your list of the goodwill you want to do, the thoughtful gifts you want to buy/make, and homing in on the real memories you want to create, not just checking the boxes of all the sentimental options out there in the middle of a December hustle. By getting in the mindset earlier, you have time to be more present and thoughtful.

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Shop the Look: Wreath with Candle | Glass Trees | Pot Holder

So that’s my mom holiday hack. Maybe I’ll end up being one of those year-round tree people who decorate a Valentine’s Day tree, Easter tree, etc. WHO KNOWS. But the thing is, per usual, it’s whatever works for your family and this hack works so well for ours. Already I’ve engaged in a way that makes me feel good, fun and like a good parent. I want my kids to get the best of me and they are right now because I’ve changed the parameters of our life. YOU are in charge of when and how you celebrate and give. For us, two months of Christmas has relieved so much stress and allowed me to enjoy the day to day. And that will equal a very merry Christmas for the Hendersons.

So who is with me? Is Christmas too short for you, too? Thoughts?

***photography by Veronica Crawford

For anyone who’s on board and ready to start decorating NOW, go scroll through my previous holiday reveals if you want some ideas for new things to try this year.

Fin Mark


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I’m glad an approach that I find kinda evil (just kidding … kinda) brings you so much joy. Go for it.


We just moved into a house 2 weeks ago so i’m busy settling and unpacking and making it ours. It’s twice the size as our last house and I work from home so it’s been feeling….lonely. I decided last night what we need is a little Christmas so I brought out my 3 year olds Christmas box last night and we decorated her room and read her Christmas stories and she spent 2 hours playing with her (very breakable) ceramic nativity scene that was my husbands and it was just what we needed. I’ll be ordering garland soon and this… Read more »


SOOO with you! I aim to have all gifts purchased EXCEPT my kids’ (we’re minimal..they get thee significant gifts each + stocking stuffers) by Thanksgiving. That way extended family gifts are DONE and I can focus on my kids’ gifts only and make sure they are truly meaniningful — and also so I can focus on Christmas, family time, traditions and take things generally slow without the distractions. (Also so I have time to arrange and rearrange and arrange my nativity set regularly – my all time fave part of Christmas since childhood!)


I’m with you… I think gradually adding in Christmas over November makes way more sense. BUT my husband is team Thanksgiving and wants all the pumpkins and fall things out through Thanksgiving. Not sure how to mix the two? But I have already been shopping and stashing my shopping bags to reveal Christmas the day after Thanksgiving.

Also random question, but where are you curtains and curtain rods from? 🙂


I hate seeing Christmas early in stores and as a new mom of two, I LOVE this. Why not stretch out the happy season and slow it down? Delaying the Christmas tree helps keep it in check, too. Another clever (and beautifully done) post!


We are November 3rd people when it comes to Christmas decorating (one child has a Nov 2nd birthday, so we wait). It is exactly how you say, happiness. We could have happiness in December, but why not November too? More nights of Christmas movies, hot cocoa, baking, decorating, etc. I can’t tell you how many times my little kiddos have said, “Christmas makes our house so happy.” “I love our pretty christmas home,” “our tree is so special looking” “our tree makes everything so beautiful.” Bring on more joy, kindness, and gratitude. Also, my kids are a lot less focused… Read more »

YESSSSSS. I’m so happy that I didn’t figure this out when they are 16 and 18. Being so young and having this revelation … i’m just so happy. xx


We do the same thing at our house! The (faux) tree goes right up after Halloween with white twinkle lights, and ornaments and wreathes go up after Thanksgiving. We spread all of our Christmas activities — mostly baking and making gifts — over two months. We have a six year old daughter and twin three year old boys. Agreed about being grateful that we started this early!


We’ve been a firm “do not decorate until after Thanksgiving couple’, but we’ve had a couple of tragic losses in my family just recently and I need some brightness and joy in my life to temper the grief. I’m going to start going through decorations this weekend and put out everything but the tree. Thanks for the push reminding me how festive this time of year can be. xo


Condolences and kind thoughts to you.



YES to two months of holidays! Lights are my favorite part of the holiday season because it is just so sand and dark outside without them. I wish they were up any time of year when it gets dark before 6pm.

YES to the spirit of this – to figure out what works best for you and your family and do that, regardless of what works best for others and their families 🙂


Christmas forever. Christmas starts November 1st around here and I love it! Sure, it’s still in the 80s as I take out twinkly lights but guess what?! We’re here for it! I;ll take a break for some mashed potatoes and pie but that’s just fueling me to be a cheermeister.


For 25 years, my husband and I have been united in not starting Christmas until the first full weekend in December. But we’re doing something similar to you this year — not quite as early, but definitely gearing up now on some things and planning to decorate earlier than usual, too. It’s partly because of the small amount of time between the two holidays, as you pointed out, but also because I am thoroughly tired of not having time to do things I love, like cookie baking and ornament making. We don’t have kids, but my 87-year-old dad (who has… Read more »

thanks, Stephanie. I hope you have a lovely long christmas (and I can relate as someone who had a great aunt with alzheimers live with us for most of my childhood – rushing really isn’t an option – i should do a post about aunt flossy, i don’t think i’ve ever really talked about it and it was extremely formative – and also why i used to have that partnership with Sunrise). anyway. merry christmas. xx


Thanks! I would love to hear more about Aunt Flossy, and I’m sure others would, too. Living with and caring for someone with Alzheimers is a unique experience, and more of us are going to be in that position with parents aging (particularly as the large population of Baby Boomers gets older).


My only comment is WHY DID YOU WAIT UNTIL NOVEMBER 21 TO TELL US THIS REVELATION?! I am all in for next year!

I’m sorry!!!! I was too busy celebrating christmas (but you have this weekend – make cookies!!!)


I do this same exact thing! I put up our tree in early November with just lights, but this year, my 4-year-old found the ornaments, so guess what? Now we have a full blown Christmas tree up. And we all love it. He will go over and just sit and stare at it. There’s nothing wrong with bringing on the merry a little early. 🙂


For me, enjoying the holidays means being prepared. My oldest daughter (almost 8) is a December baby, so come early November I always email core family to get special dates on the calendars, including her birthday celebration (one with family, another with kids), our core family gift exchange, and our annual Christmas cookie baking/lunch afternoon with aunts. There are very few weekends around the holidays, and they fill up fast! Also, I enjoy making a batch present every year to hand out – this year I made little jars of homemade cutting board conditioner. This year, that task was accomplished… Read more »


Not a mom, just a Christmas enthusiast, and SO ON BOARD. We purchased our tree today. We are living in another state while my husband gets his PhD. So after traveling home for Thanksgiving, we will only have 3 weekend of Christmas! And one will be spent traveling again to visit family. I was STRESSED and SAD when I discovered that calendar conundrum. So I opted to deal with the side eye and pull out the decorations 6 weeks early and it’s SO NICE. Our house/dog sitter that’s going to be staying at our place while we’re home next week… Read more »


Will you give an update toward Dec 25 to let us know if you are OVER IT? That’s my worry.

I will not be. i can tell you that right now. Last year due to a shoot we decorated mid october – FULL BLOWN. We didn’t start any of the celebrating or traditions, it was more of a deadline shoot. But by christmas NOT OVER IT. i don’t think that’s a possibility for me, but I was raised mormon, enneogram 7, love to celebrate anything and when my kids are happy i’m happy. SOOO…… 🙂


Fellow 7 E here! My family used to tease me by calling me “Martha” when I was a young adult and could host stuff. I still love hosting, even though my twins are grown and our family is smaller by many relatives now 🙁 I STILL revel in the decorating, the menu, the vibe… etc. When my twins were young children we did December like nobody’s business. They both danced in the Nutcracker for more years than I remember; I still have my Mom’s cookie cutters that we used every year for rolled cookies. No surface was left untouched by… Read more »


Yes! I’ve been doing the same thing. I have two small children. This magical time goes by way too quickly. I’m enjoying every second!


I just have to comment on the photography in this post. I’ve never appreciated the aging brass, furniture patina, wood beams and textile texture as much as I have in the photos in this post! Brava! Veronica!

thanks so much, Donna!! 🙂 this put the biggest smile on my face!

Amanda Henninger

Love it! But Im super loving these tight, close up photos in this post. Really really cool and seems different than your usual shots of your house. Love it!

thank you 🙂 it was intentional – its not a full reveal, but we also have a new strategy happening over here re photography and styling. Stay tuned 🙂

thank you, Amanda! 🙂


Yes I am here for bringing in the special festive feelings early! However my husband is a grinch, who would happily never decorate/celebrate at all! But now we have a toddler, he has melted his icy anti-Christmas heart, and helped us put up the tree mid November! It is magical to see them pottering around it every night, playing with the ornaments as I cook dinner. Inevitably there are like 70 ornaments clustered on one branch! Adorable!


I always say I’m going to start my baking early, because most of the cookies I make freeze so well. But then I put it off, and I have one or two weekends to get it all done. I think rolling out early and slowly, especially when you want to do homemade gifts, baking, and crafts with kids is such a great idea! Love all the touches so far, and I can’t wait to see the crafts you did with the kids!

[…] post My #1 Holiday Mom Hack: How I Actually Came to Enjoy the Most Wonderful (but Busy) Time of the Year appeared first on Emily […]


Another early decorator here. This year I am not hosting Thanksgiving so it was easy to pull the Christmas decor out right after Halloween. Having the tree up and garlands hung is a big stress-reliever. It is an effort to decorate so why not enjoy it longer? I suppose using real greenery would preclude such an early start, but I use artificial.


This year, because of the short 3+ weeks in between the two holidays, we did exactly this!! The whole family was on board and they love it!! Great article.


100% Team Start Early! I start decorating the week after Halloween and it really makes the transition to winter here in Michigan so much more pleasant. The cold weather and getting dark outside early doesn’t bother me as much when my home feels so cozy.


My mom always sent Valentines to her friends and family with a picture of the kids and note as it was one thing she didn’t prioritize over the holidays but had plenty of time for in February.


I love the set up in the back corner of your living room. The chair, stool and tree look very nice. You might consider putting a plant there when the tree comes down, something similar in size. Here is a crazy thought, have you considered painting the back of the bookcase an accent color? I wanted to comment when you had the last thread up about the living room but I thought my answer might get lost in all the comments. I love dark colors and painted mine a dark grey but you may not want to go as dark.… Read more »


Karen over at The Art of Doing Stuff has been doing the Christmas Pledge for years. Basically she sets out a November schedule of stuff to do each day to get you set for Christmas by Dec 1. I’m firmly in the ‘DO NOT decorate for Christmas before December’ camp, but I fully endorse getting all the planning/shopping out of the way as soon as you can. Who wants to be in a mall in December?

It’s a bit late for this year, but take a look and maybe bookmark it for next year?


Thanks Michelle! I feel like I’m in a safe space here, under the anonymity of being on Emily’s blog and not my own so I can say – yeah, I’m totally behind on my own Christmas Pledge, lol.????Cookes and appetizers are made and frozen but shopping isn’t done yet! On the plus side, I have on the other hand, watched 742 Hallmark Christmas movies. ~ karen

Roberta Davis

This is really exactly where my mind is at right now! Husband not on board as much as yours. Especially this year, with such a late Thanksgiving, I have started with some Christmas-flavor decor, some inspired by your recent post. Thanks for all the inspiration (and validation!).


I came to the same realization this week when my kids asked me when we can start decorating. Although we can’t get our tree until the weekend after thanksgiving, I suggested we start putting up lights and faux garland this weekend. I was surprised by the genius of this idea and wondered why no one had thought about it before . . . until I read your post! Not such a unique idea after all, but still genius 🙂


My family has dutch heritage so we do our gifts with the extended family the first weekend in December. Sinterklaas! It makes the actual Christmas week so much less busy because we just need to do dinner and presents with our own kids. Love spreading it out!


The year my daughter was born, I made “Happy Holidays” cards with her picture, but actually getting them in the mail just didn’t happen. I ended up sending them as Happy MLK Day cards and they were a huge hit!


I don’t even have little ones anymore (and our Canadian Xmas is in October) but I adopted this plan this year! Decided with all the rotten headlines that we needed to have a seasonal wonderland (not necessarily Christmasy) thru the month of November! It’s a joy to have all those lights twinkling and faux greenery about during such a dull month! Why not change it up?


I love this so much! Especially the part where you didn’t get arrested 😉 but seriously- why do we go essentially autopilot and live our lives by societal standards when it comes to how we celebrate/enjoy our lives. We don’t have to have traditions that don’t make sense for us. Building up Christmas decor so you can intentionally design a happy space ( killer idea) More importantly- no one is going to call the police if you decorate for Christmas early. A mind shift that could relieve a lot of undue stress during that holidays. Brilliant! Thanks for sharing.


I have a Mother’s Day hack that’s totally in line with this post: make Saturday your Mother’s Day, to spend enjoying your kid(s) in whatever way you wish (including taking the day off if that’s what you need). Then on Mother’s Day you can engage in all the traditions and expectations without feeling put upon by family demands, or disappointed that things didn’t go quite as you hoped.


I agree with this and have been taking somewhat of a similar approach to starting things a little earlier than in the past. That said – I wish more of the holiday would extend AFTER Christmas to extend the season. Everyone who decorates early seems to tear everything down the day after Christmas. I don’t get it. Why not continue to celebrate and enjoy and do holiday things — through the New Year holiday at least. We no longer celebrate Christmas during the “Christmas season.”


that’s exactly what I do–Christmas goes up Thanksgiving night and mostly stays all the way through January. My Christmas stuff is mostly wintry and not overtly Santa anyway, so it works.


I do this, except the two months are December and January (or rather, Thanksgiving night through January). We live in Minneapolis so winter is long and dark, and December and January are the darkest. The glow of the lights makes it a little warmer and happier–hygge maybe. I know some people tear down Christmas on the 26th because they can’t stand the clutter, but if you wait to put it up it’s actually really nice.


Love this! We always put our tree up mid-November and we decorate the following week. We like to enjoy the holiday as slowly as possible… plus I know our last weeks before Christmas will fill up quickly.

We have sent out Happy New Years cards before and it was much less stressful

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