16 Nov, 2010
Getting ready for 25 days of Christmas
It’s that time of year agaaaaain. *jazz hands*
Are you ready for this?
For those of you who weren’t with me last year, or the year before, here is my attempt to explain ”25 days” the best I can. :)
The month of December is a busy time of year for just about everyone. And no matter how much I tried, I found myself struggling to find a way to balance the fun of the holidays with my growing list of things that needed to be done. I knew I needed to get organized, but more importantly, I needed Christmas to be joyful again, not just for myself, but for my family.
A few years ago I hit upon a solution that helped me stay on top of the chaos and enjoy the season; I replaced our traditional drugstore brand chocolate-filled advent calendar with 25 small paper envelopes of my own design. I fill each one with a fun task, seasonal event, or family activity. No chocolate, no shopping, and no cheap gifts — just family time.
This will be our fourth year (?!?) with our homemade countdown calendar. It takes some planning but the end result is worth it.
To summarize: my 25 Days of Christmas is about a few different things.
1) Getting organized.
2) Being mindful.
3) Not letting the month of December get away from me.
4) Making it fun for the family and creating some great memories.
I sit down with my agenda in late November and schedule the most time-consuming activities (such as trimming the tree) for early December. Once I’ve pencilled in the things we need to do, I fill the remaining days with things we love to do, most of which are inexpensive kid-friendly activities. The result? Twenty-five days of happy, organized holiday fun which emphasizes family instead of stuff.
It’s been fascinating to see which activities our girls get the most excited about. It is almost always the simplest things that they enjoy the most. As an added bonus our countdown calendar gives me the opportunity to get organized in time for the busiest month of the year. Buying and decorating our tree, giving to charity, and baking cookies were all things we were doing anyway. Planning it out in advance this way made it easier to handle and made it feel like Christmas again. Hallelujah!
How to make your own countdown calendar
Non-crafty types, don’t fear! These are very easy to make. Just be Zen with imperfection. Don’t stress if you can’t cut a straight line (like me!) or you’ve creased your envelopes. No one will notice.
You will need:
- Paper. Scrapbooking paper is ideal because it’s a little heavier (and is often double-sided) and is more durable. You can also use old Christmas cards, wrapping paper, or magazines.
- Glue stick
- Envelope template
- Miniature clothespins and ribbon (optional)
1. Print the template onto heavy card stock (adjusting size as desired) and cut it out. Use this to trace the envelope shape onto your paper of choice.
2. Cut along the outside lines, fold along the dotted lines.
3. Glue the bottom flap to the two side flaps let dry. See! A tiny envelope!
4. We count down to Christmas Day so I number our envelopes from 1 to 25. Use a word-processing program to print your numbers, cut them out and paste them on. You can also use rubber stamps or just write them out.
5. Print your list of activities and cut them into individual slips. Don’t seal the envelopes or number the slips. Add each activity the night before in case you need to switch it at the last minute. (For example, if there’s no snow you won’t be able to go tobogganing.) Use the clothespins to attach the envelopes to a pretty ribbon or display them in a big jar or bowl. Whatever works best for you.
You can count down to just about anything. How about a countdown to Kwanzaa? Or counting down to a visit with grandma and grandpa? Or Winter solstice? Incorporate own holiday traditions and your kids will remember it forever. And they won’t miss the chocolates. I promise.
If 25 is too much, just do 12! Trust me. I get it.
Here is a super pretty photo of a few envelopes I made for an article I wrote for Canadian Family Magazine in 2009 as well as a link to a list of suggested activities.
Keep these few tips in mind:
- Keep your activities fun and family-oriented.
- Consider leaving “shopping” off the list.
- Do the bigger tasks early in the month (I learned this the hard way).
- Mix it up with some cheap and kid-friendly fun activities: building a snowman, stargazing, sledding or skating, making paper snowflakes, hot chocolate, going carolling, giving to charity, etc. See above for link to a longer list of suggestions. Better yet, add your own in the comments of this post.
This may sound like a lot of work, but it is totally worth it! Not only do you get yourself organized for the month of December, but it puts the emphasis on family, rather than gifts.
Anyway, last year I blogged and twittered and Flickrd and was all over the WWW with this and it became a giant group effort, and although it was a lot of fun I think I’m going to be a little quieter about it this time around. If this blog post inspires you to do it and blog about it and link back here, or tweet (#25daysofChristmas) great, but I’m not organizing a big collective THING this year. I will post about it every once in awhile, but I don’t want to let it dominate. I want to save my energy for the important stuff. You know what I mean? :)
Now g’wan and get Christmassy! And let me know how it goes!
ETA: If you want to use the “25 days” image at the top of this post, or the smaller that’s in the lower right-hand sidebar — please do!