So are you ready for my tip?
Make a hybrid bucket-list-schedule-thing for the month of December (or whatever you consider your "holiday season" to be). It should include lots of little things, not too many big things, and many of those little things should be things that you feel an "obligation" to do, for one reason or another (like buying gifts or sending cards).
You would think making a list of lots of little things to do with your family for the holidays would make things more stressful, but planning ahead for all of those little things will actually help you avoid the panicky feeling of, "oh no, it's Christmas Eve and we never even baked any cookies!". I know it sounds frivolous but if we are honest with ourselves, I think most people are with me on this- it may not be baking cookies but everyone has things that, if left undone, stress you out.
I will be using the same advent calendar I made last year for my daughters- you can read more about my muffin tin calendar, with a small activity to do together each day in December, by clicking on the picture:
I planned a small activity for each day, and I'll be changing some of those this year now that the girls are older but many will stay the same (you can see my full list from last year, when the girls were 2, in this blog post). Things like driving around to see Christmas lights, wrapping presents, putting up the Christmas tree, singing a Christmas carol... you get the idea. The key is to break up bigger activities/tasks (like decorating the house) into smaller chunks (like putting up the tree, putting up lights, decorating the tree etc) and turn your "chores" into "activities"!
You don't need a fancy advent calendar to accomplish the same effect though- you can easily write something down for each day on a calendar or even just make a list to hang on the fridge. The important thing is that you make a plan in advance, before you get caught up in the hustle and bustle and things get lost in the shuffle. Just don't get too attached to the plan- that's why I call it a hybrid with a bucket list. Start off knowing that you will want to move things around, switch up the days, or replace things as you go through the season.
The last point to keep in mind is to prepare everything you need for anything you are planning to do in advance as well. This is actually the key difference between stressing out over all the things you want to fit in and being able to enjoy doing lots of fun things without the stress. Buy the gingerbread house kit, pull out the Christmas lights, buy the tickets for the Christmas train ride. Have all the materials ready before Thanksgiving and then sit back and enjoy the season! Last year I gathered everything around Thanksgiving time and stored everything in a closet that the girls don't use. Then each day I knew I just had to pull out what I needed and we were good to go!
What are your top tips for enjoying the holidays? I'd love to hear your ideas in the comments! I'm also linking up with some other bloggers so check out all of the other awesome posts below for more great ideas :)