Welcome to the fifth and final installment of “All Done By December 1,” our group effort to get organized for the holidays early so we can enjoy the month of December and actually experience the joy and wonder of the season. After exploring our own hopes for a simpler, more meaningful Christmas 2012 in Week 1 and whittling down the gift lists in Week 2, managing the wrapping, packaging and Christmas cards in Week 3, and planning ahead for holiday food in Week 4, we’re nearing the end of October and looking ahead.
With five weeks until December 1, we still have plenty of time to put a serious dent in the assorted tasks of the holidays. If you haven’t accomplished everything you had hoped to this month, don’t fret. Celebrate every step you’ve taken, even if it’s just letting your subconscious ponder the ways this Christmas might be simpler and more peaceful. Wherever you are in the process is fine. Breathe deeply, be kind to yourself and know that you’re on the right track.
When I first announced this challenge, many of your comments resonated with me. I suspect that for most of us, the reason we long to get organized is so we can have some meaningful time during the holidays with less emphasis on the commercial aspects and more time for family, friends and the spiritual part of Christmas that often seems to get waylaid with all the busy-ness. “I’ve been looking for ways to make Christmas exciting and magical for my children without making it chaotic and stressful for me,” wrote Kelly from The Simplified Family. Yes! You, too?
How can we incorporate more meaning into the holidays this year and help our children, grandchildren and the other young people in our lives do the same?
I’ve thoroughly enjoyed reading your comments throughout the month, and many of you plan to find ways to spend meaningful time with family and give back during the holidays. Annie from Haphazard Homestead (don’t you just love that title?) plans to buy ten $10 gasoline gift cards and pass them out randomly. She’s going to send some money to pay for someone’s heating bill, and she hopes to take a carriage ride in the city or go ice skating with her family.
Di from The Impeccable Me in Copenhagen, Denmark plans to take time to listen to Christmas music, drink hot chocolate and tell her kids what Christmas is all about. Marie from Ma Tanière…My Den (who posts in both French an English) plans to spend more time for family and friends, take a relaxing soak in a hot spring, make homemade Christmas decorations and stop in a tea shop for a hot drink.
Will you continue to share your thoughts and experiences about this topic in the Comments below? Meanwhile, here are some ideas for how to celebrate Christmas in a more meaningful way:
* If you have people on your list who seem to have everything for whom you still feel inclined to give a gift, consider giving to an organization like Heifer International. You can choose wonderful gifts that will help other people, from a flock of ducks or a goat to an irrigation pump that will provide clean water. If you order early (before December 1, perhaps? :)), Heifer will send you a beautiful card that you can give your recipient.
* Get together with some of your neighbors and go Christmas caroling. This doesn’t need to be complicated – just print out lyrics to some popular Christmas carols, announce a meeting place and go for an hour.
* Talk to your nearest assisted living or nursing home facility, and find out if there is a resident who does not have regular visitors who could use a little cheering up. Visit someone who’s feeling lonely at the holidays, and simply give the gift of yourself. If you can bring your kids along, all the better.
* Say a prayer and ask God to help you be aware of someone’s unspoken need this holiday season. Then be prepared for some fun. As we often discover, when we’re helping others it often blesses and uplifts us at the same time.
* Make an effort to simply smile as much as possible during the holidays. Spread the joy!
* Give a Christmas present to the animals. Put some birdseed out for the birds, go to your local shelter and pet the older cats for an hour or make a donation to the Humane Society.
* Put a bill or two in the Salvation Army pot on a chilly day, and thank the bell-ringer for his or her service.
* Read a Christmas devotional each day during the holiday season and begin your day with a prayer or meditation.
* Make a joyful noise! Some families gather around the piano, sing one Christmas carol each night during the holiday season and explore the origin of the carol.
* Give an anonymous gift to someone in need. (My sister and parents have an annual tradition of making a gift basket for a family that has fallen on hard times. Somehow God seems to show them just the right recipient each year, and they have some hilarious stories of trying to be stealth in delivering the baskets and sneak off without being discovered.)
* Do something kind for a homeless person. Give a warm pair of socks, a hat, a little cash or something yummy to eat.
* Have each family member choose one activity during the holidays, so that each person has some personal involvement in your family’s celebration.
* Read the nativity story from the Bible as you set out your nativity scene. Or watch The Nativity Story movie together as a family.
* Go hear a performance of Handel’s Messiah. If you’re a singer, join along!
* Talk to store clerks. Ask them how they’re doing, and engage with them.
How do you add more meaning to the season? We’d all love to hear your traditions and ideas.
I’ve truly enjoyed going through this month of early holiday planning with you, and hope our experiment has helped you get ahead of the curve for Christmas 2012.
Please continue to share your thoughts and experiences, and here’s to your most relaxed, peaceful, meaningful and enjoyable holiday ever.
I’ll end this series with an old Irish Christmas blessing. Here’s what I hope for you and yours this year:
“The light of the Christmas star,
The warmth of home and hearth,
The cheer and good will of friends,
The hope of a childlike heart,
The joy of a thousand angels,
The love of the Son and God’s peace to you.”