It's freezing outside (literally) and I have Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers' "Once Upon a Christmas" playing ("I'll be home with bells on..."). So - I'm officially inspired to write a Christmas blog. It's crazy how much money you could spend on gifts and charities and decorations and Black Friday and Christmas cards and yummy treats (have you had the Christmas beverages at Starbucks? The Peppermint Mocha is a York Peppermint Pattie in a cup!) and the heat bill is going to be triple what it was last month, I'm sure. Anywho, don't stress. Here are some of my bestest tips.
1. Here's my favorite gift idea. If you've had a family event during the year - i.e., wedding, summer picnic, reunion, holiday, etc. - I hope you took your camera. Giving people pictures already in a frame is a GREAT gift. It has a lot of personality and costs $0.20 to print a 4"x 6" at Wal-Mart. And don't forget my tip about how to buy picture frames. Or you could go to TJMaxx - they have AMAZING (and pretty inexpensive) frames - I just recently discovered this. This year I went to my cousin's wedding and got a picture of my oldest cousin with my Granddaddy. They're both dressed up and laughing and they have no idea I was taking a picture. It's so cute. And it was very inexpensive.
"Christmas without you, white Christmas and I'm blue..."
2. Opt not to give gifts. There are some people this doesn't work with. But I bet you have 2 or 3 people you typically get presents for that would secretly be relieved if you decided not to exchange gifts. Last year I did this with my bestest buddy and we went to lunch instead. We probably talked for an hour and a half and I don't miss the present. It was so fun we're doing it again this year. And we're going to use a coupon from restaurant.com (read this if you're unfamiliar with how it works). Can't wait!
"You made this a Christmas to remember. Springtime feelings in the middle of December..."
3. Just say NO to Christmas cards. Does this make me a Scrooge? Maybe. I'm not a fan of Christmas cards. I think I may have sent them out the first year I was married, but just gave up after that. Now I know people with kiddos make those cute cards with their kids' pictures on it and those are cool. But you could elimate some expense by only sending them to family and/or people NOT on Facebook. That should at least cut your list in half. Stamps are $0.44 cents now. So 10 cards is dinner at Wendy's. Just putting it in perspective.
"Knowing you're in love with me is the greatest gift of all..."
4. For extended family I make my world famous and globally adored chocolate chip cookies. Each groups of parents/kids gets a Christmas plate (purchased from the Goodwill) full of freshly baked yummy-ness. Cover with saran wrap and top with a festive bow. Yay!
5. Christmas can be busy, fun, stressful, overwhelming, nostalgic, beautiful and over before you know it. I have a massive list of traditions I have to do every year - without them it just wouldn't be Christmas. But there is one tradition I value above all the others. The Christmas Eve service at church is subtly extraordinary. For just under an hour we'll sit in the candlelit sanctuary, hear the Christmas story, sing carols, and take communion. It's kind of hard to explain the specialness of it if you don't already know what I'm talking about. But in those few moments I slow down enough to consider the hugeness of what happened when God left heaven and came to earth because of his immeasurable love for me (and you by the way). So, as busy as you are, don't skip this part of the season. And if you've never done it, go to church this Christmas and don't leave until you figure out what the big deal is.
"I never thought it was such a bad little tree. It's not bad at all, really. Maybe it just needs a little love." ~ A Charlie Brown Christmas