Our daily duties of excelling in full-time careers, compassionately parenting, being a loving spouse, and maintaining who we are as individuals are not enough during the holidays. We are also expected to be Santa's helpers, decorate the home, attend holiday parties of all sorts, volunteer and be cheerful to everyone while doing so.
1. Prioritize the "Joy" traditions and skip the rest.
We all have traditions that we follow during the holidays. That's part of what makes this season so wonderful, but some of them just make it more stressful. Choose to carry on your most joyful traditions and that is it. If someone misses a tradition you've dropped, they'll pick it up if it is missed enough. – Monica
2. Create a Holiday Routine.
Every year, our family opens presents on Christmas morning, has a big breakfast with our best friends, and then gets in the car to visit family for a few days. We've been doing this for the last eight years. It might seem predictable, but there are no surprises, which cut down on the chaos, and it automatically builds in holiday traditions that make lasting memories. – Kristen
3. Guided Wish List: "Want, Need, Wear, Read."
Each year our girls create their wish list based on the "want, need, wear, read" concept. You can only write one thing for each category. If multiple people ask for a wish list, create a different wish list for each, but always keep the same categories. This not only helps the budget and time shopping, but also creates more thoughtful kids. They no longer list the entire mall on their list; they prioritize what is most important to them. Use this as your shopping guide for everyone on your list. Download now. – Monica
4. Limit Gift Giving.
Somehow we have been blessed with children that don't make a big deal out of Christmas. This has made it easy to limit the number of gifts we give them. We choose one "big" gift--for example, an X-Box, or even a trip to Great Wolf Lodge--and then four or five small gifts, like a book, pajamas, etc.
We also don't give store-bought gifts beyond our immediate family. This saves us money and time spent shopping. –Kristen
5. Shopping Date.
My husband and I take the same day off from work and spend that one day doing all the holiday shopping together. Then we have dinner out and sometimes even a movie. The babysitter gets the kids after school and helps them make Christmas presents for us before their dinner and bedtime. This allows my husband and I much needed time to reconnect, and we both are fully involved in the gift giving process. – Monica
6. Shop Online.
We have given up on the crowds at the mall over the last few years. Amazon Prime is awesome. – Josh
We make lists in a shared Google Sheet for all the kids, make sure everyone is getting relatively the same amount based on a budget, and purchase as many things using Amazon Prime as possible. They all get shipped to Grandma's house and are wrapped (with Grandma's help) on a random weekend "personal adult" day. – Dan
7. Enlist Family Support.
Lucky for us, my wife's parents, brother and family live in our neighborhood. We all rely on each other during the holiday season to take turns watching kids when we need a break. Grandparents take the kids for sleepovers when we need to shop, finish some to-dos, or spend time out with friends. – Dan
8. Alternate Holiday Celebrations.
Before I had kids, we were ok with visiting my family and my wife's on the same holiday. Since having kids, we alternate where we will be on the actual holiday and if we are not going to be at my/her family's house on the actual holiday, we go there the day before/after to spend time, give gifts, eat Turkey, etc.
This is true for holiday parties as well. If you can't skip a party all together, set a time limit to how long you will stay and speak to those VIP attendees first. – Josh
9. Spread the Cheer – Celebrate through the New Year.
Trying to cram all your celebrations into one day or one month is not only stressful, it's nearly impossible. Plan on visiting friends and family between Christmas and the New Year. Added bonus – people tend to be less grumpy after Christmas is over. – Monica
10. Neighborhood Merriment.
Given how much time we spend with the family over both the Thanksgiving week and Christmas/New Year's week, we maintain fun nights with neighborhood friends. My wife will have several girl nights and I will have guy nights over the holiday season. This allows us time to enjoy adult friends and minimize cabin fever during the consecutive days at home with so many kids (five)! – Dan
11. Let Go of Perfection.
I love the way the house looks at Christmas time especially the decorated mantel over a roaring fire. A few years ago I let go of the decorating responsibility and asked my kids to do it, then ages 6 – 13. The one rule was I got to decorate the mantel. I could not believe how relieved I was to come home and have everything done. The kids were excited to help and proud of what they accomplished. It wasn't how I would have done it, but it looked great and it was done. – Monica
12. Give it Away.
The one thing that stresses me out more than any other is clutter. When I see clutter I see a never ending to do list. Just before the holidays, I start to give away as many things as I can. The jacket I haven't worn for over a year – donated. The sandwich maker that is only used to hold up dust – gone. The shoes I love with holes in the sole – taken to the trash. The local second hand store is replenished and my house is refreshed. Win – win. – Monica