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Baking holiday treats in advance can make a world of difference when the festive season rolls around. (Gina Bell)
Baking holiday treats in advance can make a world of difference when the festive season rolls around. (Gina Bell)

Gina Bell

Is there anything more stressful than the endless to-do list that accompanies the holiday season? Am I the only one who feels an overwhelming pressure to create a wonderful, magical holiday for my family (and at the expense of my own holiday enjoyment)?

The Christmas season really can be exhausting, but with a little planning, it can be fun for everyone. Today I am sharing my best tips for prepping for the holiday season in November, allowing for a more pleasurable and less stressful December.

First, it’s important to clean and clear out the clutter. Christmas comes with an onslaught of stuff, so getting rid of things you don’t need can make your home feel more organized and make Christmas feel less overwhelming. Sell and/or donate old clothes, books that have already been read and toys that are no longer played with.

You’ll also want to get an early start on planning for appointments, events and purchases. Book hair appointments, plan for holiday social events and shop for holiday clothing. If you shop online, you are going to want to order right away to ensure the sizes you want are available and there is enough time for shipping. Think about holiday party clothes, school concert attire and holiday-themed pyjamas, for example.

Of course, getting an early start on purchasing and wrapping gifts can be a real game changer. Make a list of presents you need to buy and diligently work your way through the list, checking the names off as you go. I like to draw names with family members to shorten my list and limit the number of presents I will receive. I also try to get most of my shopping done before Dec. 1. Early shopping ensures that shipping times aren’t an issue and it allows more time to focus on other tasks and activities.

Doing holiday baking in advance is another wonderful way to prep for the holidays. Most cookies can be frozen for two to three months if they are wrapped properly, so it’s not too early to start. If you have holiday cookies baked and in the freezer, they can be easily pulled out for unexpected holiday guests, served to kids with hot chocolate when it is time to decorate the tree and/or shared with Santa on Christmas Eve (when there may not be time to bake). I have a wonderful recipe for make-ahead gingerbread cookies on my blog (EastCoastMommy.com) and I bake them every November and stick them in my freezer.

Focusing on giving back and spending time with family is the most important part of the holidays. Don’t forget to plan, schedule and make time for the events and traditions that are meaningful to you and your family. In our house, we organize a letter writing to Santa party fundraiser, a Polar Express Christmas light viewing adventure and a Christmas tree-decorating party. Pick a few events that make your family happy and schedule the time you need to make sure they happen.

I promise, if you take some time in November to prep for Christmas, you won’t regret it. When you are relaxing beside the tree with a cookie and some hot chocolate (or wine) in December, you’ll thank me.

Gina Bell is a writer, blogger and busy mom of three small boys.She has contributed to several blogs and major publications, including Disney’s Family Fun Magazine, Canadian Living and CBC Kids. Her blog, EastCoastMommy.com, is full of fantastic ideas for easy and inexpensive family fun.

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