**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.
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.
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.
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.
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