Picking up from where we left off in the last post, we’re going to continue thinking about doing Christmas your way. So lets look at tackling gifts now and all that’s attached to that pickle!
You’d be forgiven for thinking that this time of year is all about presents. Consumerism has taken centre stage to some degree but it doesn’t have to be that way.
Harking back to history, gift giving had traditionally been at New Year but was moved to Christmas as it became more important to the Victorians. Initially gifts were rather modest – fruit, nuts, sweets and small handmade trinkets. These were usually hung on the Christmas tree. However, as gift giving became more central to the festival, and the gifts became bigger and shop-bought, they moved under the tree. Some people love to give presents, it’s how they show love (if you haven’t read The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman, I thoroughly suggest you read it or do the test here).
But if you find the whole thing stressful (if gift giving is definitely not your love language) it’s okay to take the focus off of gifts. Tell your family how you feel about it and see what other arrangements you can come up with. I’ve heard of other families who have completely forgone gifts all together and donate money to a local charity instead. A friend of mine’s family gives each member a book that they think that person would enjoy – it sets their holiday reading up every year and gives the family something to discuss.
In my own family I’ve seen how we’ve change. When we were all younger, there were toys and letters to Santa to tip off my parents as to the one big ticket item we wanted, then it moved to gifting things that we all needed, and then when we got our own money we tried on Secret Santa and gave one present only. Now we value spending time with each other more so we moved to drawing a name out of a hat and taking that person out for an ‘experience’. My sister and I went for a fancy dinner for example, which we just loved. Now that several of us live interstate the format has changed again to gifting experiences instead.
If Secret Santa is something you want to start. There are several online programs that help organise the draw list, remind participants, arrange the value of the gifts and keep the whole thing totally secret.
Gifts and kids
If you do have youngsters, teach your kids the value of organising, decluttering and giving, by starting a holiday toy donation tradition. Help them sort through their toys and give as many as possible to your local Toy Library or op shop. This process will help you declutter your house as well as get kids to focus on children who are less fortunate than themselves.
Some great gift shopping tips are:
- Choose 3 signature ribbon colours and use brown paper as wrapping paper for every gift (even throughout the year).
- Avoid lines by shopping earlier rather than later and on weekdays if possible.
- Avoid lines altogether by online shopping.
- If needing to post things – buy stamps from Officeworks and avoid the post office at peak times.
- Record gifts in your planner or a small notebook so you don’t forget what you purchased.
- Store those gifts in a central location so they’re not scattered throughout your home.
- To keep track of receipts, dedicate an envelope to store all your gift receipts; exchanges and returns will be quick and easy. The following season, discard old receipts.
- Keep track of your holiday budget, write down the amount spent on each gift.
- Actually knowing what you have spent will keep you within your budget this year and in future years.
- If you find a great gift, buy it for multiple people on your list who won’t run in the same circles.
- If you find two great gifts for someone on your list, purchase both and save one for their next birthday. You’re already thinking about that person’s likes and personality, so capitalise on this and make it time well spent by killing two birds with one stone.
Food Glorious food!
The Christmas feast has its roots from before the Middle Ages, but it was during the Victorian period that the dinner we now associate with Christmas began to take shape.
The Victorians also transformed the idea of Christmas so that it became centred around the family. The preparation and eating of the feast, decorations and gift giving, entertainments and parlour games – all were essential to the celebration of the festival and were to be shared by the whole family.
While Charles Dickens did not invent the Victorian Christmas, his book A Christmas Carol is credited with helping to popularise and spread the traditions of the festival. Its themes of family, charity, goodwill, peace and happiness encapsulate the spirit of the Victorian Christmas, and are very much a part of the Christmas we celebrate today.
Some meal ideas:
- Don’t make your menu too elaborate.
- Hire a caterer or purchase dinner from a local restaurant or grocery store so no one has to cook. Consider starting a new family holiday tradition, such as ordering Chinese takeout or having a different themed meal each year.
- Don’t be afraid to put guests to work. Most will enjoy the tasks of setting the table or helping with food preparation. When guests ask if they can bring something, let them! Suggest specific items, though, to avoid duplication.
- By planning your menus well in advance, you can take advantage of sales by stocking up on non-perishable items, such as canned goods. You’ll also avoid long holiday lines.
- Make sure to also stock up on the basic baking supplies at the start of the holiday season, like flour, sugar, and butter.
- And don’t forget the beverages. Get these well in advance as they don’t go off like food.
- Keep an esky in your car for those times you need to purchase perishables at the stores but have many errands to run in the same trip.
The efforts that you make towards thinking about the upcoming holiday season are going to keep giving and giving.
Observe yourself and tweak your notes, what worked, what didn’t, do this and refine your organisation skills for next year and I promise you that next year’s events will be merrier than this one!
- Schedule and give as much time to undressing your place as you did decorating it.
- Take time to donate or throw out holiday ornaments and decorations that you no longer love.
- As you contemplate decorations to move along, ask yourself these three questions about each item.
- If you can’t answer yes to at least one, it’s probably clutter!
- Is it beautiful?
- Is it useful? (Don’t confuse this question with, “Will it be useful someday?”)
- Is it loved?
- Invest in sturdy organising containers to neatly separate and store tree trimmings and lights. Keep all holiday decorations in one area of your home. (Be sure to store in a dry area of your home.) Try to limit your decorations to one or two containers.
- As you undecorate, make a list of decorations, cards, etc you want to purchase for next year. Buy them at post-holiday sales, but only buy items on your list!
The holiday season, and end of year, is the perfect time to rejuvenate our minds and bodies as well as reflect on the good in our lives. Take advantage of the innate focus that comes with this time of year and evaluate how this year has been for you and consider where you’d like to be in six months time. By prioritising self-care, we recharge and are able to better handle the multitude of tasks that life throws us.
Remember that you don’t have to please everyone. Carefully consider the things you say “yes” to over the next month and a bit. See if what you do say yes to, supports your goals and priorities in life. If they are not truly important, you are not obligated to take part. If in doubt, say “Let me check my calendar and get back to you.”
We shouldn’t have to completely deplete our resources to enjoy the holiday season. In fact, this time of year becomes even more magical and meaningful if we don’t. xx