Simplifying Advent and Christmas

Andy Wade –

Confession time: I’m not much of a planner. I know how to plan and can do it quite effectively when it comes to my work, but daily living? I’d rather fly by the seat of my pants. If that sounds exciting, well, for an introvert, it usually just means hanging around the house and puttering in the garden.

That’s why what I’m about to say may come as a shock to those who know me best. One of the best ways to simplify Advent and Christmas is to plan ahead. Even as I write those words I can feel my body tense up. For me this idea is completely counter-intuitive. Let’s relax and just play the holidays by ear, is my inclination.

I’ve learned over the years that “playing it by ear” over the holidays doesn’t work so well. With all the parties, events, expectations, and obligations, this approach ends up leading to more stress. Planning ahead sets limits I can be comfortable with. Yes, I’ll have to negotiate those limits with my much more outgoing spouse, but together we can find balance.

What are your favorite Advent and Christmas events? How can you plan ahead to make sure they are simple and low-stress?

Saint Nicholas DayDo you like cookies around the house during the holidays? When our children were younger we celebrated St. Nicholas’ Day (Dec. 6). We would bake several different kinds of cookies ahead of time and wake up to a “taste of Christmas” on St. Nicholas’ Day: candles filling the table and room, St. Nicholas’ stockings, and plates filled with one or two or each kind of cookie.

I remember also the stress of needing to get cookies made because the day had snuck up on us and we were unprepared. Some years we prepared well, other years not so much. But what if we shared this idea with friends, got together for an evening of games, and talked about our favorite Christmas cookies. We could then each plan on making an extra-large batch of our favorite cookie and come back together in a week for a cookie exchange. Presto! I baked one or two kinds of cookies and ended up with a wide variety of my friends’ favorites! Planning ahead just became fun and simplified my life without sacrificing tradition.

Do you give presents at Christmas? Are there ways you can cut out or cut down the shopping and opt for home-made gifts?

Andy's CalendarThe past few years I’ve created a photo calendar for my family. With online tools it’s both easy and affordable. But I’ve also tended to wait until the last minute. I’ve made calendars for my wife’s side of the family and for my side. Each calendar is personalized for the family with birthdays, anniversaries, and other important dates.

Planning ahead actually makes this a fun experience with time to reflect and pray for each family member as I collect the dates and enter them onto the calendar. Failing to plan ahead results in stress or just abandoning the project and settling for store-bought presents.

Do you like to host parties? How might you collaborate to turn planning and prep into a time of celebration with friends?

My parents love to host parties. For many years they partnered with close friends to host a New Year’s Eve party. One year at my parents’ home, the next at the Cromptons’. They planned together and hosted together, which made the event much easier and more fun. Too often we think that if a party is at our house then we need to do all the work. That’s simply not true!

Find some friends, share the load and enjoy the laughs. Simplifying Advent and Christmas can be fun!