This post is written from the perspective of looking back through the years on a spectrum of holiday memories; some that make me smile while others I’m glad are in my rearview mirror. For the first time, after 28 years as a mom, I am home alone preparing a Thanksgiving feast for adult children making their way home for the holidays with my grandchildren in tow. What?! How did this anticipated season come so fast? Christmas on the horizon (okay, just 32 days away) doesn’t cause a panic attack any more. I must admit; however, during those intense child-rearing years there were times I didn’t think I would make it to the end of the day much less the end of the season . . . but I did.
The song, Christmas Shoes, came out the year after my husband died. The story in these lyrics hit tender places for many causing it to soar to the top of the charts for years. The line that always pulled at my emotions was, “Mama made Christmas good at our house.” If I didn’t already feel the need to meet this expectation in myself and my family, there was now a song to confirm my responsibility. As moms, we are the memory makers. As a single or widow-mom, the weight of this can be very heavy. Stress doesn’t look good on anyone. Grief plus stress can be an emotional train wreck waiting to happen. Christmas will be different without your loved one. There is no way to pretend that it won’t be tender and downright hard. It is with this in mind that I share an accumulated basket of ideas for not only surviving the holidays, but practical ways to prepare so that Christmas really is a special time with you and your children. Don’t try to accomplish all of these in your first year. Pick and choose thoughts that might work for your family keeping in mind that I was making Christmas good at our house for eight children. The best suggestion is to hold on tight to the Lord trusting in His promise to be with you. He will carry you through.
“You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.” Isaiah 26:3
- Ask for help with outside light installation or simplify with a lighted wreath or star shower light that illuminates the entire house.
- Take a friend with you to purchase the tree. Be intentional about making this a special time. We made eating dinner at Wendy’s with Frosty’s for dessert our annual tradition.
- Ask for help when you set up the tree.
- Allow the children to decorate their bedroom in some small way.
- Decorate gingerbread houses – buy a kit and enjoy this activity together. We saved Halloween candy for this purpose.
- Sleep under the tree movie night – the boys slept under the tree one night the week before Christmas and the girls another night. They received the gift of new pajamas / loungewear on that night. When they are little, you can let them fall asleep under the tree then tuck them back in bed so they will sleep well all night. You could also sleep under the tree with them for a special memory.
- Caroling party the Friday before Christmas. Friends brought sweet and salty snacks and we went around our neighborhood singing carols. This brought comfort to us so that we weren’t alone the weekend before Christmas. The caroling party became an annual event.
- Make a plan for your family to bless another family in some way. Giving always helps your own heart. Many take time to fill a shoebox with Operation Christmas child.
- Buddy gifts – my children exchanged names and shopped for one sibling. The name of their “buddy” was a secret to be revealed on Christmas Eve when they opened their gifts.
- Create a list of wishes on amazon. This will help prevent unwanted or unnecessary items from friends who want to bless you. Keep in mind clothing needs / tickets to activities you can enjoy with our children throughout the year (movies, restaurants, aquarium, etc.)
- Ask a friend to help you wrap presents ahead of time.
- Christmas codes / paper – each child had a secret code i.e. reindeer, snowman, etc. This allowed me to wrap their gifts along the way, but kept them guessing on what presents were theirs. They loved the idea of suspense.
- Allow someone the blessing of taking your children to shop for you.
- Schedule your month so that Christmas Eve is a time of celebration and not full of last minute stress.
- Set the table for a special brunch – invite others or enjoy with your children
- Go out to brunch
- Attend a worship service
- Go out to dinner before the service then come home for dessert around the tree.
- Buddy gift reveal – siblings get to give their gifts to each other.
The night before Christmas – Ask for help in the following ways:
- Assembling toys before Christmas eve. Trust me on this. One year, I found myself knocking on the door of our neighbor late that night asking for help in putting together big wheels.
- Ask for a helper in putting out Christmas for your children after they go to bed so you are not doing this alone.
- Keep baskets in your closet for stocking stuffers you find along the way. This is easier than finding these all at once.
- The Grinch stole the stockings one week before Christmas so I could start stuffing stockings before the last minute.
- Stocking Search on Christmas morning – the children had clues to help them find their stockings…a true treasure hunt. When they got older, the children created the clues for their buddies. This helped me feel that I wasn’t doing this all alone.
- Christmas carol and story – we started the day singing a Christmas hymn together then reading Luke 2. This set the tone for the entire day.
- We opened stockings before brunch – the kids raced around to search for their stockings then we enjoyed opening these together.
- Christmas brunch – we enjoyed a nice brunch together with special recipes unique to that meal. They always had a Starbucks drink in a bottle that we only splurged for on this day.
- Opening gifts – many families open gifts all at once. We enjoyed watching each other open the gifts in order to stretch out the day together.
- Happy Birthday Dear Jesus! Our Christmas dessert was a birthday cake for Jesus knowing that He is the reason for the season.