It seems like the holidays from Thanksgiving to New Year's gets busier and goes by faster every year. It's easy to get caught up in everything that's going on and forget about why we are celebrating in the first place. By New Year's you can be exhausted, cranky, and completely broke. After several years of making these kind of mistakes at Christmas, we work hard to keep our holiday season a little more simple.
There are so many fun things going on during the holiday season. Everyone is having parties, parades, and festivals. If we are not careful and schedule too many activities, we can end up with cranky, tired children and parents, and no time to enjoy just being together and doing things together as a family. During the holiday season we try to chooses activities that we can all do together and only do 1 or 2 things every week so we are not running around in different directions all week long.
Cooking is kept fairly simple throughout the holidays too. On days where we have something going on I try to do a crock pot meal or have sandwiches so there's no added stress of "What's for dinner?" I love to bake and have lots of little "helpers" so our baking projects are kept fairly simple too. We usually make chocolate chip, m&m, peanut butter blossoms (my favorite) and cut outs. Cut out cookies are probably my least favorite to make and the messiest, so to make my life a little easier, I buy already made sugar cookie dough to use for these. That way the children still have the fun of cutting out and decorating cookies, but we don't have to make a batch of dough that will result in 10 dozen cookies to cut out and decorate. For Christmas Day, I make muffins the day before and buy bagels and fruit for breakfast so the children can eat whenever they are hungry and we have a very light lunch. Our Christmas dinner is ham, potatoes, rolls, corn with a Birthday Cake for Jesus for dessert.
Presents. Who doesn't love getting Christmas presents? Our first few years of being parents, our children got piles and piles of presents and we bought presents for everyone in our whole family and close friends too. If we didn't have the money that was ok, we just whipped out one of our many credit cards. The children would get a pile of toys and most would be broken or at the bottom of the toy box before the week was out. What was the point? Once I became a SAHM and a few more children came along (along with more and more debt) we really had to look at this idea of gift giving and what would be reasonable and meaningful, but still fun for our children (and us too.) We had to stop buying gifts first for all of our family and friends or switch to homemade or baked gifts (enjoyed by everyone!) Then we made a commitment to not go into debt for Christmas. It is not fun or enjoyable when January rolls around with a pile of new bills that need to be paid. Then I read somewhere about a family who gave their children 3 gifts each symbolizing the three gifts that Jesus received and we thought that was a great idea. One present is a "big" present, something that they really want, and 2 smaller presents (one is educational and the other usually clothes.) They also get a few things like candy and coloring books, crayons etc.. in their stockings. I do not spend exactly the same amount on each child but do spend less than $100 dollars on each including their stocking stuffers. Art and I buy a few small gifts for each other and we also buy gifts for 3 angels off the Salvation Army tree and give to other charities during the holidays. All of these things come from money I set aside every month specifically for our Christmas Budget.
A few years a go, I even stopped sending Christmas cards. It wasn't really about the time it took to address and send them out (although that was a factor) but simply the cost. Even though you can buy cards fairly inexpensively, the price of postage keeps rising and rising. I do a Merry Christmas blog post and facebook post and for those of my dear friends who do not use a computer in any way, I will mail out a few cards.
However you decide to spend your holiday season, I hope it is a fun and joyous time spent with your family and friends celebrating the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!