Last year was crazed. I was going home for the first time in three years, and throwing my first dinner party for 20-plus. To save my time and sanity, I did all my shopping on-line and had everything shipped to my parents' house. At the same time, I bought a few gifts for myself (like Philosophy's Message in a Bottle bubble bath), scanned the Web for recipes, and used Evite.com for the dinner-party invitations. This year will be another Internet happy holiday!
I de-stress during the holidays by hiring a service to clean my house from top to bottom the first week in December. I entertain frequently, and knowing that the house is ready for visitors is pure heaven. I can then concentrate on other things, like having fun.
Most people will roll their eyes when I say this, but I try to get all my shopping done before Thanksgiving, except for small gifts like stocking stuffers. I managed to do this last year and was amazed at how I got to enjoy the holiday season without stressing about how I was going to fit shopping time in around work.
My husband's large extended family of eight brothers and sisters makes it financially implausible to give gifts to everyone. Instead, I make and freeze sugar-cookie dough in early November and bake cookies for all the children and my coworkers. For the adults, I start a whiskey cordial in midfall that takes six weeks to cure, so it's ready by the holiday season. My husband and I either set a dollar limit of $100 to spend on each other or save up to buy one gift together for our house (this year it's a Stickley dining-room table and chairs). Planning ahead and simplifying creates more time to share the holidays with family and friends.
Fairview Park, Ohio
Stay organized and plan ahead. If you can be ready for drop-in guests and last-minute gifts, you will enjoy this time of the year without being so stressed. I keep Christmas music and eggnog ready for friends and for a moment alone. I also keep an expandable file on hand with sections to hold Christmas-card lists, stamps, cards, a Christmas buying list, receipts, and a holiday grocery list.
Newport Beach, California