I was determined to simplify our Christmas this year in order to make it more enjoyable for all of us. I have listed a few key areas that I want to improve upon to help make this a more meaningful Christmas.
One way to make Christmas easier for all of us is to plan out the budget. For years, John and I have had an old-fashioned Christmas account. We keep it in an online bank and add to it every month so that when it is time to buy for Christmas, the money is sitting there. I am typically responsible for the planning of the Christmas budget and I try to include everything that I can think of in there. I list out everyone that we are buying for making sure to include people that are sometimes forgotten in budgeting, like the kids’ school teachers. Once we have the list of who we are buy for, giving we are going to do and activities we will be doing, I put a dollar amount into each one and make sure it adds up to what is in the Christmas account. John will get the cash out of the bank toward the end of November and give it to me to divide into envelopes. I make an envelope for gifts, giving and activities and inside each envelope, I divide up the dollar amounts using post-it notes. That way when it is time to buy, I know exactly how much I have to spend.
In an effort to make Christmas more simple, we began drawing names on my side of the family a few years ago. We still buy for each of the kids but the adults do a name draw on Thanksgiving for the following year. My grandmother keeps a record of who drew which name in case we forget by the next year (we always forget). The jury is out on what to do on John’s side of the family. There aren’t many people to buy for (no kids except ours) so we currently buy for everyone.
The best memories during the Christmas holiday season are not the gifts that we give or receive but the activities that we do together as a family. We asked each of our kids this year to tell us what events make Christmas special for them. They decided that Christmas wouldn’t be the same without the “Pink Pig”, which is a Christmastime ride, and “Back to Bethlehem”, which is a walking trip through Bethlehem that a local church sets up. Both of these events are low cost and very easy to accomodate. They were not interested in seeing the mall Santa Claus, which is fine with us since that line is long and you can’t take any pictures unless you buy their overpriced packages. One of our local churches is also holding a Christmas Cantata at no charge that we might attend and a friend of mine is having a ladies cookie exchange.
Speaking of cookies, last Christmas, I made a cookie-a-day here on my blog. It is more effort than even I realized it would be before I started. I have decided this year to not repeat that process and instead just make the few cookies that I know my family loves. I have saved most of the cookie baking for this week. I asked each family member to tell me what cookie they love at Christmas and here is the plan: John has asked for Grandma Rodi’s Springerle cookies, Brittany loves the Peanut Butter Blossom cookies and Josh wants the Soft Sugar Cookies. I love the Snowball cookies and John and I might whip up a batch of Linzer Cookies together. We have already made the Big Soft Ginger Cookies for the cookie exchange and rolled out sugar cookies and gingerbread men for fun.
For entertaining, we are trying to keep it simple and fun by hosting a make your own pizza party for one part of our family and a traditional sit down potluck dinner for the other side of the family. I am not sure the plan to keep food simpler this year really worked since so much of Christmas in my heart is tied to food.
What do you do to make Christmas simpler and more meaningful? Are you successful? We will just have to wait and see how it all turns out after December 25th even though I will be gearing up for John’s 40th birthday on December 26th. Merry Christmas!