Ready or not it’s that time of year! It’s time to pull out those decorations from the attic, hit the stores, and make the necessary Christmas preparations. What’s your style? Do you like to keep things traditional or new and modern? Well, whatever your style might this is the time to really deck those halls!
There is so much to do in what seems like a short amount of time. Truth be told, the holidays can bring on a lot of stress with the amount of things that need to get done. Lucky for you we’ve got just the thing to help you stay right on track. This detailed guide will give you a breakdown of all the things to check off as you go.
Table of Contents : Quick Links to Each Section
Santa isn’t the only one who is making a list! In fact, you should make several lists and check them twice! From decorating to preparing Christmas dinner and everything in between, we’ve got you covered. Here’s the rundown on Christmas preparations you need to make to ensure everything runs smoothly.
Two Months Before Christmas
Make your family plans ahead of time where you will be spending Christmas Day. When you have in-laws and multiple family trips to make around the holidays you sometimes have to divide up the Holidays and on which days you spend with whom! Also factor in planning around religious events you will be attending such as Christmas morning service or Midnight mass.
If you plan on hosting Christmas dinner send out invites or make phone calls to guests so those who will be traveling can make accommodations. Book hall reservations if you will be having your Christmas dinner at a venue or location other than your home. You want to be sure the date will be available so the sooner the better. On the invites you send out ask if anyone has a severe food allergy you should be aware of. A trip to the ER is not a fun holiday memory!
If you will be traveling for the holidays, this is the time to book your tickets and make necessary reservations to ensure accommodations are made. Arrange pickup times with someone to bring you if need be. Also have a secondary airline in mind that you can book with in the event flight plans change or get canceled. If you will be traveling abroad you will need to have a current passport. Have all this done ahead of time.
Do you have family traditions of seeing a play or Christmas concert? If you are planning to attend an event such as a concert, musical, ballet, or other big performance this is the time to schedule and book your tickets. Booking at least 4-6 weeks ahead will ensure you get the seats you want without overpaying during the holiday rush.
We’re starting with the last week in November and covering the steps you need to take each week leading up to Christmas. It’s a mad rush from one holiday to the next so planning ahead will help spare you the stress and anxiety of getting it all done at once.
Last Week of November :
Create an online wishlist such as on Amazon for gift ideas. A wish list allows you to create a master list of all the items you wish to buy or get for Christmas for everyone on your list. This will also make shopping easier and better organized for budgeting. Speaking of budgeting, you should plan to make one.
Did you know over half of Americans don’t establish a budget for Christmas. This can easily lead to overspending and stacking up debt that will leave you feeling stressed post holidays. It’s easy to get derailed from a budget around the holidays but it can help you avoid from feeling the pressure of months in repayment. Take your current financial circumstances into consideration as well as future needs to devise a budget. If you can, set up a holiday savings account as early as September or October to put money aside specifically for Christmas shopping. Some banks and financial institutions offer these with the option of earning interest. Even if it’s too late to do so this year, set a reminder on your phone to look into this option for next year so you can stay on top of your budget.
If you’re planning on doing some Black Friday or Cyber Monday shopping having a gift list in hand will help keep you from overbuying. You may wish to start gift shopping early to space them out and stretch your budget. You might want to hold out on big-ticket items such as electronics for the weekend following Thanksgiving Day to get the best savings.
Wish lists also give you the current prices so you can better manage your budget. Focus on what the recipient would value most and shop the sales for the items on your list rather than letting the sales determine your list. Also have a master list in hand of who to buy gifts for and what to help avoid unintentional overbuying for one person over another. Did I mention be prepared to make several lists?
The Holidays are a very busy time of year. Schedule all of your activities such as buying a christmas tree, travel plans, events, upcoming parties, family activities, etc. onto a planner. You can pick up an inexpensive planner at any mass retailer, office supply store or even the dollar stores or download a pdf. to print out. Making out a schedule the week before December will help you cover all of the important things so you don’t miss out.
Create a list for Holiday cards and get updated addresses for anyone receiving a card or gift by mail. You can arrange your list and divide it up to spread out mailing out cards and gifts over a few weeks. Start with the ones who live furthest away and have the longest duration for receiving mail and packages. Buy your holiday cards, stamps, and gift wrapping and/or packaging supplies now.
First Week of December
This week you can start writing out and mailing about one-third of your holiday cards. In addition to sending out holiday cards early, this is the time you want to begin your christmas shopping. Many office parties and businesses like to have their Christmas parties earlier in the month rather than closer to Christmas due to all the busy schedules. Shop now for gifts for coworkers as well as family or friends that live out of town. Also get all of your online shopping or mail-in catalogs you plan on ordering from now! Shipping times can often get delayed as the holiday season gets really busy, so the sooner the better.
Before you begin decorating your home this is the perfect time to go through your stock of Christmas decorations. Inspect lights, ornaments, wreaths, etc. for damage or needing to be replaced. If your outdoor or lawn decorations have seen better days plan a day to update them with new ones. You can add this to your shopping list as you’re shopping for out of town family and friends. You can also start making plans at this time for your tree.
Will you be pulling out an artificial tree from the attic? Check the condition and determine if it needs to be replaced. Do you plan on getting a real tree? Now is the time to make plans on where to buy. If it’s a family tradition to visit a tree farm or Christmas tree lot make plans now to find one in your area and check business hours. Schedule a day to go with the family.
3 Weeks Before Christmas
Hopefully you’ve bought your gifts by now that you will be mailing off. This is the week to wrap them and send them on their merry way. This is also the perfect time to finish all of your holiday decorating. If you’re the type that gets this done as soon as the Thanksgiving turkey is put away for leftovers then you’ve already got this step covered. You can also mail off another third of your Holiday cards.
Start planning your Christmas menu if you are hosting lunch/dinner. Finalize your guest list so you have an idea of how many people you are expecting. If you will be needing extra tables and chairs make arrangements to get these ahead of time. Consider borrowing these if need be or renting rather than buying them outright for a one-time use.
Take into account if any guests have severe food allergies or specific diets. For instance, if someone is vegetarian/vegan consider having a few options you know they’ll be able to enjoy. No one likes to feel left out on the Holiday feasts.
In the weeks leading up to Christmas many stores begin running specials on common Holiday staples. Scan the weekly flyers for your local stores to shop the sales and stock up on non-perishable food items. Ordering items premade can be a huge time-saver and reduce stress if you can do so. If you will be ordering a turkey or ham from a specialty meat store or deli this is the time to put your order in. Same goes for baked goods if you have a favorite baker you like to order from. Be sure to have the person taking the order read it back to you to ensure instructions or specifications are clear and avoid mishaps.
When should you buy your Christmas tree?
If you are getting a new tree this year, now is the time to plan a day to do it. You can purchase an artificial Christmas tree at any time leading up to Christmas. Since they require no care for staying alive it really doesn’t matter. Just know the sooner you do so the better selection you will have. The same can be said for live Christmas trees, but depending on what type of live tree you buy and from where may determine how soon to buy.
A pre-cut live tree is best purchased sooner rather than later. The sooner you bring a pre-cut tree home to properly care for it the better chance it has at maintaining a fresh state and retaining needles. This is especially true if you will be purchasing one from a chain retail merchant such as Home Depot or Lowes. These trees arrive in bulk at the stores typically 4-6 weeks before Christmas and will sit there waiting to be picked.
If you are visiting a tree farm chances are you will have better quality to choose from. Tree farms or lots where you can choose and cut your own tree offer a little more flexibility if you tend to procrastinate. Since the tree is still in tact with its roots it will remain healthy a little longer than those that are pre-cut.
A living tree that is potted to be replanted afterwards is best to wait or plan on having it kept properly if buying early. It is not advised to bring or leave a potted tree indoors for longer than 10 days. Plan ahead if you will be buying a living tree earlier to keep it properly sheltered before bringing indoors.
2 Weeks Before Christmas
Finish all of your last minute shopping now! If you still have online shopping to do check the sites/retailers for estimated shipping times to ensure timely delivery. This is also the time to mail out any remaining holiday cards and gifts you still need to send out.
Finish wrapping gifts you’ve purchased already. If you still have gifts to shop for wrap them as you go as soon as you bring them home. This will help avoid stress from last minute wrapping the day before Christmas Eve. If you will be hosting Christmas at your home you can begin the cleaning process. Avoid the stress and hassle of tackling everything at once the week of Christmas by taking on half of the cleaning this week. Focus on decluttering low-traffic areas and guest rooms/bathrooms. Make necessary preparations for overnight guests. Ensure you have plenty of clean linens, extra pillows, blankets, towels, etc. for each guest that will be staying. Continue making preparations now up until Christmas.
1 Week Before Christmas
Deep clean the rest of your home ahead of guests arriving. Focus on the high-traffic areas of your home, clean the floors and organize your kitchen. If you haven’t done so yet, clear out the cupboards and pantry of any expired food. Do the same with your refrigerator. You will need the space to store remaining food and drinks you will need to buy this week.
You can take out any serving platters, bowls, dishes etc. this week that you will be using for your dinner. Wash them if they’ve been stored up and ensure you have enough cutlery, plates, and glasses for guests. If you like to have fresh, live plants or flowers in your home this is the time to get them.
Finish the last of your holiday shopping if you still have last-minute gifts to purchase. If you haven’t bought as you go, stock up on batteries for toys and gifts that are needed. Set a time plan for your meal and gift exchanging to avoid chaos. Allow time ahead for visiting and conversation and plan a schedule for meal-time and exchanging gifts. Having a set time you plan to serve the food/eat will also give you a time-frame to count back and determine cooking times and how early you need to get the turkey or ham in the oven.
3 Days Before Christmas
Buy any last minute fresh produce you still need for your Christmas dinner such as fruits, vegetables, herbs, etc. Clear out any old leftovers from your refrigerator to make room for food. If you’ve prepared dishes ahead that are frozen or have a frozen turkey or ham, this is the time to move it to the refrigerator to allow it to thaw.
If you are expecting a large crowd you will likely need extra tables and chairs to seat everyone. Take out tables and set place settings for your guests. You can also set table settings with linens, plates, glasses, and serving platters.
Christmas Eve Preparations
You can start cooking some of the dishes you’ve taken out of the freezer or side dishes that don’t need to be kept hot for serving. Finish wrapping up any last minute gifts. If you have toys or gaming devices you’re giving as gifts charge them the night before.
There is a great deal of planning and multitasking required when it comes to the holiday feast. Get your holiday meal on without a hitch with some of these tips for preparing and serving.
Use crock pots to cook and keep food warm up until serving time. Ask family or close friends to borrow theirs if they aren’t going to be in use. A slow cooker is great for use with foods such as Swedish meatballs, sauces, and . Another option worth looking into is disposable food warmers which consist of aluminum serving pans which sit in a wire holder with a chafing dish fuel can underneath them to keep food warm.
Ordering food trays ahead of time can be a great time-saver and save you on stress for appetizers. Also don’t be afraid to ask guests to bring a dish. If you have a large family to prepare a cooked meal and don’t have the budget to order pre-made dishes, ask if any would like to contribute a dish. You can keep it simple by suggesting small things such as easy finger foods. You can even have fun with it such as proposing a contest on the best pie/dessert. Have 3-5 people do a blind folded taste test to vote their favorite pie or dessert and have a small favor bag for the winner.
Traveling for Christmas | Preparing
As previously mentioned, if you will be traveling home or to relatives for Christmas necessary preparations need to be made. Hopefully you booked your plane/train tickets or made travel accommodations at least 1-2 months in advance. If you choose to wait until the last minute you can expect rates to be higher and risk not getting a flight. Check with the airline’s refund policy if you are concerned about having plans changed and need to change or cancel your flight ticket. Here are some additional preparations to make.
Map out your times. Be sure to coordinate your travel times to ensure you leave your house in plenty of time to make your flight as well as times in between connecting flights if necessary. If you will have someone bringing you to and picking you up from the airport be sure to coordinate the correct times with them as well.
Check baggage pricing, restrictions, and rules/policies of the airline ahead of time and pack accordingly. Airlines vary on their baggage policies for pricing so check with the airline you’re flying with to avoid surprise costs. Plan on having a carry-on that meets the size and weight capacity limits. Pack at least one change of clothes and essentials in a carry-on in the unfortunate event your luggage gets lost.
Pack smart and try to limit your luggage to save time when checking in and save money. You can save space when packing by rolling up clothes tightly rather than folding flat. Some airlines may even offer a slight discount if you prepay your luggage fees when booking.
If you are planning on bringing gifts ensure ahead of time they are allowed and meet specifications for flying. If, for instance, you were planning on gifting wine or alcohol it may be best to have shipped directly to them or get a gift card instead. Airlines have restrictions on liquids and may also prohibit alcohol.
Have a checklist of items you need to pack to ensure nothing gets left behind and also bring it with you for when you leave. Start packing at least 2 days prior to the date you plan to leave with items you don’t need immediately such as extra clothes and traveling toiletries. Check the weather pattern of the destination you’re traveling to so you know how to pack. If you are traveling to a place that’s typically warm in the winter months, pack accordingly but have a light jacket or sweater just in case.
A Few Planning Tips to Minimize Stress
Practical tips that might help make this time of year a little less stressful :
- Wrap Christmas presents as you go/as they come in rather than waiting to do it all at once.
- Prepare side dishes that can freeze well 1-2 weeks ahead to minimize prep and cooking the day of your Christmas feast.
- Have a wrapping party for last minute gifts. If you have gifts left to wrap and worried about getting them all done in time ask others to pitch in and make it fun. Just be sure to avoid having anyone wrap their own gifts or wrapping a gift for someone else that will be in the same room!
A lot of Christmas preparations can be made simple by planning ahead of time and having lists to keep things organized. If you find it hard to make the time to prepare and plan ahead, that’s ok too. Even with a plan in place work schedules and school activities can sometimes interfere and change plans. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. More hands can help save time and stress. If you’re having guests staying a few days in your home, ask if they can pitch in with food prep and assign specific tasks. Even kids can lend a helping hand and feel part of it by assigning simple things such as setting the table, place settings, or even making decorations they can hang up.
Why Do We Celebrate Christmas?
Christmas is recognized as the celebration of Jesus Christ’s birthday. There are various theories surrounding why we celebrate this on December 25. While it’s unclear the actual date of the birth of Christ, it’s origin comes from A.D. 336 Rome. One of the earliest Christian traditions states that Mary received news of conceiving a special baby that would come to be known as the Son of God on March 25. This date is also known as the Annunciation. December 25 marks 9 months following the Annunciation. It is typically commemorated with a service recognizing the birth of Jesus to give thanks to God’s gift to man. This is why we displays and performances of the Nativity scene.
The exchange of gifts is also unclear as to when it originated but seen as a symbolism of God’s gift to us. The concept of giving and receiving gifts has become widely established among societies and communities. It has also become customary tradition to send and receive greeting cards during the season.
Regardless of where you stand on your beliefs surrounding the holiday, the true meaning and spirit of Christmas surrounds family. It is the one time of the year families come together for bonding and creating special memories. For those who live far or even abroad it may be the only time of the year that families are able to come together. The food will come and the gifts may or may not be remembered years later. What’s important to remember is making memories that will last. While making your Christmas preparations remember to take time for you and your family to be together.