This is the first of several posts, starting with the things we can do the earliest -- cards, shopping and wrapping.
But before we start, I should say that I know everyone has their own way of doing the December holidays. And those holidays aren't all the same. There's Solstice, Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa and the ever-popular New Year's Eve. Some of us do more than one, others give it all a pass. (Or as Seinfeld would say, "There's Festivus for the Rest of Us.")
And while I do some of these, I don't do all, so if I leave out ideas or traditions that work for your celebrations, please add them in the comments!
November is a great time to get started on your holiday cards -- unless you want to spend the busiest part of the busy season looking up addresses. (And if you're making them or ordering them, it's absolutely essential!)
Now, I know a lot of people do e-cards and email letters, sometimes for the convenience, sometimes for the cost. Postage is pricey. And I'm glad to hear from anyone in any way they choose to communicate.
But there's something magical about anticipating what might be in the mailbox, seeing a hand written (or computer printed) envelope and open up a pretty card, a newsy note or photo!
|Unique cards are fun for special people! Here is part of our recent sale -- some of my cards and my friend Kate's calendars!|
My cousin David is a master at writing the tongue in cheek Christmas spoof letter. Everything is true -- and profoundly honest -- and they are always a hoot. This is a skill he inherited from his dad, my uncle Marty, and I'm glad to see the tradition continues. Meanwhile, his sister Mutty and her family always do a creative photo card riffing off of some current event. (I nearly killed them the year they did a take on the Bush-Gore indecision and included a confetti full of "hanging chads" in the envelope! But the card was great!)
So what can you do now? Well, you might not be ready to write your all-inclusive holiday letter, but you can address those envelopes (or look up those email addresses). Word on the street is that there are mighty cute Charlie Brown stamps this year, and getting those in November might save you a chunk of change in December!
And if all else fails, think "New Year's Cards!"
Gifts and Shopping
Here's another thing where everyone differs. I try hard to be done with shopping early in the month, picking up things off and on throughout the year. (And I've never been full-on done till maybe a week before Christmas!) It may not technically save money but it does save shopping angst in the crowds!
Rick, on the other hand, manages to drag me to my least favorite place in the world, the mall, the weekend before Christmas -- or later. These jaunts don't usually yield much except sore feet and a less than Christmassy feeling, but I have to admit I kind of like them. (Not the mall so much, but the doing it together at the festive time, sharing a pizza or whatever we might enjoy that night.)
|At our recent sale, Jane had wonderful jewelry. Supporting local artists is always a priority for me.|
You may be the Black Friday shopper (not for me!) or the Shop Local person (this is something I try to do) or a Support Your Favorite Local Artist (my favorite way to shop). But here are a few hints to make it a bit easier.
- Comfy shoes! Whether you are walking the mall or the concrete sidewalks, be comfy. You'll go longer and be much less snarky when you get home!
- Plan Ahead! I'm always willing to change my mind if I see something on my shopping trip that overrides my plan, but at least I'm not wandering (the mall, like we do before Christmas!). Make the list and check it twice!
- Keep track of what you already have! How many times have I bought for someone I already "finished?" Too many to count.
- What are you making? When looking at your list, remember what gifts you might be making for someone. Sometimes you are farther along than you think.
- Check for gift card deals. If you are giving multiple gift cards, certain spots (especially restaurants) might throw in a bonus incentive (for which you will be most grateful after walking the mall).
Guess what! If you are relatively organized and have your shopping under control, you can start wrapping now! I swear I am going to do that this year! Believe me, it's the last thing you want to do as the clock ticks down, especially if there is a lot of it. (And remember -- not everything needs to be wrapped!)
|Not everything needs to be wrapped! Display can be just as impressive!|
If you have a separate area -- guest room, an area out of the way -- you can set up a wrapping station. In most cases, I try to go with a basic color palette so it's easy to match up the ribbons and not keep digging for things. My favorite supplies are tulle (which makes a great bow) and is relatively inexpensive and in lots of colors, generally in the bridal section at a craft store. Wired ribbon is terrific too!
You can also go with the all-brown Kraft paper or white paper and take it from there! The kids can stamp or finger paint on the paper and you can use any ribbon or even something dimensional in place of a bow.
If you have wrapping helpers, remember to keep tabs on the stringier ribbon or items that might get swallowed, wrapped around an intestine and bring you a fortune in vet bills. This did not happen to me, but it did happen to someone I knew once. The cat was OK end the end. The budget after surgery was not.
|Gypsy was one for tissue paper and ribbons. If your pet is into this, you've probably already discovered the advantages of keeping it off the floor!|
My friend Susan used to always have a wrapping party. Come when you can, bring what you like or need to wrap. She'd have cider, cookies and snacks and we'd have fun while actually getting something done. We brought our own paper but if you're hosting and have some overstock, it's a great way to get rid of it!
Remember, things that need to be mailed should be wrapped first -- get them out of the house as soon as you can so you have more room for the incoming! And you will save a boatload if you get those mailed early and avoid the fed-ex charges! (And yes, I once spent more on mailing than I did on the contents to get them to arrive on time!)
My favorite "toppings" for mailing packages are very simple bows -- a simply tied grosgrain ribbon, twine, or even un-bowed but with a flat embellishment on top. (Old Christmas cards or outdoor naturals are great for this. Just use plain paper and the card image becomes your "bow.") These flat toppings pack well.
In our olden days family Christmases, we used to wrap anything not tied down. It wasn't unusual to find a pair of socks in two packages! Looking under the tree at the abundance of gifts looked almost embarrassing (until you thought about the double wrapping!).
|Patty, Mutty, David, me and our pals Gus and Jack-the-Chocoholic, early 1970s. We were big on wrapping anything!|
In fact, one of the traditions we used to have was wrapping a gift in an original fashion. Patty (above) once dripped candle wax all over a small square box so it looked like a candle. Aunt Iris hollowed out a green pepper, enclosed earrings and tied it off with a bow. When Mom got on her gingerboy kick (see last photo), Dad made her a giant gingerman and tucked jewelry in a seam (he won!). Everyone did something and we'd vote for small prizes. I miss that!
Time can change things. Time and being "the responsible one." If wrapping isn't your thing, there are a couple of great alternatives -- the ever-popular bags, which are cute and fun and the multiple wrap. A nice big box, some cute tissue and two or three presents that fit and you are doing three in one!
There will always be last minute wrapping (and assembling!) but it's a lot less stressful if most of the work is out of the way. It leaves you time for some fun things, the unexpected moment.
|My mother said that my dad offered a most colorful commentary as he was trying to assemble a difficult dollhouse after midnight on Christmas Eve when I was about three or four. I suspect it was probably rated R!|
My unexpected wrapping moment came about in 1995 when my neighbor invited me over on Christmas Eve. After dinner and church with friends, I went down the street where he greeted me with a big pile of presents on the table, a mess of wrapping paper and scissors and a frantic look in his eyes. We worked quietly, laughing and smiling while two tousled heads were sleeping in the next room, placed the gifts under the tree and then enjoyed some champagne and Christmas music and a good talk. Twenty years later, Rick and I are still wrapping, stuffing Christmas socks and enjoying the sounds of Christmas. It's one of my favorite Christmas memories.
I've gone on way too long! It's your turn! Share your favorite card/wrapping/shopping tips.
Coming up: Decorating!