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2 Holiday Hacks for a Stress-free Christmas Season

2 Holiday Hacks for a Stress-free Christmas Season
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Christmas is supposed to be a time of peace and pondering, a time of togetherness, a time of kneeling in quiet before the cradle of a King. It is supposed to be a time of joy and wonder; a time of memories and merry-making.

And while it usually is all that for the kids (and, dare I say, husband) of a home, for Mom, the FESTIVE of the season is often coupled with FRENZY. 

The inevitable list of extra TO DOs and additional scheduling demands have a way of draining every ounce of our time, energy, and attention...leaving very little to devote to God With Us.

But, it doesn't have to be this way.

Contrary to what the world would have us believe, CRAZY and CHRISTMAS are not synonymous. With a few purposeful plans, we can reclaim the rest that the Redeemer gave us with His birth and still provide all the wonder and excitement that our families have grown to love about the season.

Here are two simple holiday hacks that I have embraced over the years. They have helped me be PRESENT and PEACEFUL during the month of December. Consider them an early Christmas gift just for you!

2 Holiday Hacks for a Stress-free Christmas Season

Determine a new date

For most, the month of December tends to be a time marked by procrastination, not peace. For eleven months we act as if we are blissfully unaware of the impending stress of the holiday season. Tra La La. And then, once the last day of November falls from the calendar, we panic. Somewhere, somehow a countdown of madness begins like a ticking time bomb just waiting to go off on December 25th. (Christmas shopping at Walmart during the last week in December? Need I say more?)

The truth is, while some of the hubbub of the holiday season has to happen in December (like office parties, cookie exchanges, and dance recitals) most of it can be done way in advance (like shopping, decorating, and planning.) 

Instead of looking to December 25th as my FINISH LINE, I choose to look to December 1st. It's always my goal to have all of my shopping, gift wrapping, and decorating done on the last day of November. In addition, I wrap our countdown books, organize our Nativity countdown, plan and purchase all the items needed for our Advent calendar, and set up our Jesse Tree

(Because I choose to follow a debt-free living Christmas plan, I buy many of our gifts all throughout the year. The money just sits in the bank and can be spent whenever I get the notion to shop or when I find a gift at a rock-bottom price.)

Sometimes other mommas stand aghast when they see my tree, gifts, and other items all prepped and ready by the first week in December. But, trust me, there's nothing impressive about it! We ALL eventually have a tree, wrapped gifts, and special decor. I just choose to determine a new end-date to the madness. The work is the same. It just doesn't happen in December. 

Because let's face it, December with its extra parties, gatherings, and travel plans is busy enough as it is. These are all non-negotiables that simply can not be moved to any other time on the calendar. So, by moving everything that CAN be moved to another month, I am helping to make an already busy time less crowded. I can be free to be fully present at each of those unmovable events because I don't feel the pressure and anxiety of all the rest.

2 Holiday Hacks for a Stress-free Christmas Season

Establish a written procedure

Ok...ok...before you bristle at the thought of writing down a detailed schedule of the holidays, hear me out on this one. It's not as rigid as you might be thinking.

Research has shown that about 40-45% of our day is routine...habit. It's on autopilot. We don't even have to think about the rituals of that 40%. We can do that part with our eyes shut. I would venture to say that this percentage jumps even higher on a holiday...a day that is steeped in tradition and convention.

Most of us do the exact same thing every Christmas. We eat the same foods. We hang the same wreaths. We celebrate with the same people at the same times and dates. You get the idea. But, since Christmas and Christmas hullabaloo only happens once a year, all that SAME usually requires an extra measure of mental energy. We have to expel time and thought to organize all the SAME all over again.

But, what if we didn't have to? 

Here, let me give you an example. 

I host Christmas dinner for our extended family every year.
It's sorta my swan song to close out twelve month's worth of family memories.
With the exception of a side dish or two, the menu is always the same. It's a spread of all the family favorites. Because the menu never really changes, neither does the grocery list. By typing up a simple "Christmas Dinner Grocery List" that I can print out each and every year, I can lather-rinse-repeat the entire meal without even giving it much thought. It certainly takes less forethought to review and tweak a list than it does to reinvent it every time. And that, my friends, is one less pressure-point robbing me of peace. 

Of course, dinner is just one of a myriad of responsibilities during December. But, reproduce that same simple plan for every area of holiday prep and you've got yourself a calm Christmas that can practically unfold and inflate itself. 

Consider making printable routines and lists for the following:
  • Advent calendar activities (Keep a running list of family favorites that you can add to and detract from each December.)
  • Christmas card recipients (with printable address labels)
  • Decorating To Dos
  • Holiday baking menus and grocery lists
  • Post-Christmas sales shopping items (like wrapping paper, gift bags, Christmas cards, etc.)
By establishing a few written routines, you are streamlining your prep. You are basically removing one large step from each task...the PLANNING phase. Because in truth, there's no need to plan something that has already been established as a tradition. 

2 Holiday Hacks for a Stress-free Christmas Season

A final word

Because of the American BIGGER is BETTER belief, the holidays are doomed to be a little harried. The noise and clatter of the world seem to always invade the quiet of our best intentions. But, Christmas should be the exception. The month of December should be characterized by worship, not worry. 

Might I challenge you to clean up your calendar and streamline your schedule with these two simple hacks, so that you can be deeply present at the cradle this holiday season?


  1. Love this! Usually I have my Christmas cards out by this time but this year time slipped away. Having a finish line date of Dec 1st would work wonders for this busy time of year. Thank you!

  2. Shopping for gifts is the part I like least. So I start that part very early. Like August! I at last start thinking about ideas in August, as well as asking parents what their kids like, what they are in to, or what sizes they wear. I was done with all the nieces and nephews by September this year. I can shop for my kids later if I need to, but I do it a little at a time. Anytime from August on, if I hear my kids say "I want...", I say, "start a list now". So when others ask me what my kids want, I have something to tell them. I also shop off the same list, so if I see one of their wanted items on sale, I'll get it (as long as I didn't give that idea to someone else). Just yesterday, I needed to order something from Amazon. To avoid shipping charges, I ordered two extra things - one from each kids' wish list - therefore, getting some Christmas shopping done while avoiding shipping charges. Thankfully we don't really exchange among the adults - at most I'd buy for my hubby, my mom, and hubby's mom. That's it. No other adults get gifts from us. And they are welcome to not get for us either, as we don't really need more stuff. The one part I do procrastinate on is the wrapping. Usually Dec. 24th. I must get better at that part!

  3. This is great! I am usually all done by December 1st myself. It makes the month of December so much more relaxing - and FUN! My in-laws think I'm a nutso for always talking about Christmas plans in October. Honestly, I think it kind of upsets them that I'm always ready so soon...but other than them, being ready by the 1st of December is AWESOME!

    1. Yes! Don't worry about what others think. Do what works for you and allows you to fully-enjoy the season with your family.