This will be my 52nd Christmas, and therefore I am proclaiming myself qualified to lay down some laws:
1. Stocking stuffers must be small, and inexpensive. And by inexpensive, I mean less than $10 optimally. No fair blowing the whole wad on a stocking stuffer-the "big" stuff goes under the tree. And by "big" I mean meaningful. Diamond earrings? Under the tree. Cap gun? In the stocking.
2. Do NOT, under any circumstance, fill the stocking with groceries. And by groceries I mean deodorant, toothpaste, toothbrushes, soap, etc. That is a cop-out. You may, however, purchase a nicer-than-usual body wash or fancy chapstick. Along these same lines, no Oreos, but you can do Walker's shortbread. Unless you are of a class of people that ALWAYS has scottish shortbread laying around, then you're on your own as far as cookies go.
3. If you have multiple children, the number of presents per child must be the same. When your children are older, and you buy an ipad for one of them, and 5 presents for the rest of them that add up to the ipad, they MAY let you slide on the number of gifts, but that is doubtful. Save yourself the heartache.
4. If your kids say they believe in Santa, keep the dream alive by buying and keeping hidden the Santa paper. If you and Santa wrap your presents in the same paper, you'll have some 'splainin' to do, and it will probably not be the same 'splainin' as their friends' parents. In this same fashion, alter your handwriting when you sign the Santa tags. Kids are precocious.
5. Let the kids decorate the tree. This was the hardest thing for me, but better to let go of a little perfectionism than to kill my sweet boy's spirit. And anyway, he did an awesome job!
6. Don't mortgage the farm to make an impression on Christmas morning. 'Nuff said.
7. Christmas morning is for opening presents. Not Christmas eve. Although to take the edge off, I've been known to get everyone new jammies and let them open that. It's still fun. I wouldn't trade anything for the excitement of Christmas morning.
8. The sad truth is that Santa can't always make it to the poor side of town. Do whatever you can to help. You will get the greater gift, and that my friends is the magic of Christmas.
9. Relax. Enjoy.
Here is how I've planned our Christmas:
First, to keep costs down, I keep my eyes open all year long for sales. Amazon rocks. I purchased Club Penguin DS pack for a measley $10 about 5 months ago. I purchased most of my Christmas gifts this way. After Christmas I will buy wrapping paper, but only if I absolutely LOVE it. I still have enough paper for another Christmas or two, and it's all what I consider beautiful (and dirt-cheap!) I will also buy cards for next year. (Nice ones, cheap!) One of my favorite out-of-season places to shop is Hallmark. Check out their clearance racks. I purchased Keepsake ornaments for 75% off this year.
Have a couple of generic gifts ready. Last year my generic gift was the Cranberry candle from Bath & Body Works, coupled with one of my giant peanut butter cup cookies. (If anyone reads this and requests the recipe I will happily post it; they are crazy-delicious!) This way, my den leader assistant felt remembered and appreciated, and I didn't put a lot of time and money into wondering what an ideal gift would be for her (something I'm notoriously obsessive about normally.) For the widower at church, I packaged a couple of easy yet yummy soup mixes from Harry & David, for the widows those same cranberry candles with a small box of chocolates.
We will have a family "party" on Christmas Eve. This has evolved over the years from what was originally just an impromptu light dinner and cookie event into a hors d'oevres, cookie, and punch by candlelight get-together with family and friends. It's very casual, and the only occasion where my kids insist on punch. I try to have a balance of healthy finger foods as well as buttery cookies and chocolates. This is a huge hit, and probably the tradition that my kids will continue with their families. I have always wanted to have an open house on Christmas Eve, but my house may never be that together. We will read about Jesus' birth in Luke. We will pray and thank God for the gift of salvation available through his death.
Then it's early to bed. (wink wink) Hopefully at this point the kid(s) are exhausted and sleep soundly, and hopefully it's not a long haul from the stash to the tree. This year, I took advantage of my son's sleep-over at Grandma's to wrap everything and relocate it from the attic to the back of the deep (under the stairs) coat closet.
Christmas morning, child that I am at heart, I have traditionally been the first one up. Yeah, even when my kids were young. Mommy would wake them up at 5 a.m. to tell them that Santa came. We open presents, everyone is happy (or at least gracious,) and we drink coffee. I make pancakes, and we have a relaxing day with an easy yet special meal in the middle of it. This is normally spiral honey ham, macaroni & cheese (home-made) baked beans and Hawaiian rolls. Sweet potato pie and a cake of some sort for dessert.
That is our Christmas. Tell me about yours. Have a merry!