As I type this, instrumental Christmas music plays quietly in the background. I am drinking coffee and sitting under a cozy blanket.
However, I don't have a single piece of Christmas or Advent decor up yet. Today is November 25.
I can't say that the lack of decor is based on principle. There are plenty of people who choose not to decorate for Christmas until the night before or on a certain week during Advent to properly anticipate celebrating the birth of Jesus. However, that's not the case for the Vettel household.
I actually love listening to Christmas music and seeing Christmas decorations go up after Thanksgiving but other than the music part, we are slow-moving around here.
In general, I need time to transition from one holiday to the next and this used to bother me. I wanted to be on top of things but just couldn't pull it together. This was especially difficult the first couple years we had kids because I was in the thick of procrastination and crazy overwhelm.
Do what you can, when you can.
Honestly, it took me years to realize that the first Sunday of Advent usually falls the Sunday immediately following Thanksgiving. I would focus on all things Thanksgiving and it would take until mid-December for me to even think about getting Advent decorations out. It all felt too overwhelming, especially compared to what everyone else seemed to be doing.
Those years taught me that even if the reason for our delay wasn't based on a principle of any kind, taking things slowly and decorating little by little can bring peace to the season. Thus, our gradual approach to holiday decorating and celebrating was established.
Like I said, this isn't based on any principle other than, do what you can, when you can because doing it all at once felt too overwhelming in the midst of raising little kids. We have stumbled upon a system that works well for our family and fosters peace for us during this busy time.
I'd like to share what works for us as we gradually prepare for Christmas in our own family. I share this because I hope it's encouraging to see that it's possible to do what you can, when you can do it and still have a meaningful and peaceful Advent and Christmas celebration. It will differ from family to family but I believe each family can find a couple things they'd like to focus on while setting aside other distractions.
We begin with two traditions during Advent.
I grew up celebrating Advent and we have continued the tradition in our family. This year, there is a week between Thanksgiving and the first week of Advent. Overwhelmed mamas rejoice! We have an extra week to get our act together.I have found that just by celebrating Advent before Christmas, we are forced to slow down as we await Christmas Day. Every week we do a little more than the previous week until Christmas arrives.
Instead of telling myself that I need to get all of the holiday decorations out at once, I only get out what we need for the first week of Advent. On each day of Advent we:
light a candle(s) on the Advent wreath (similar to what we have) and sing O Come, O Come Emmanuel
add an ornament to our Jesse Tree (we are using this booklet as a resource this year)
If nothing else, I get out the wreath and the Jesse Tree. The first two weeks of Advent may involve more Christmas decorations if it works out, but we often wait until mid-December.
We wear pink and put up a Christmas tree.
The third week of Advent is called Gaudete Sunday. As the anticipation of Christmas builds, the third Sunday of Advent reminds us to rejoice because we will be celebrating the birth of Jesus soon. Pink is the color used to symbolize rejoicing - the pink candle on the Advent wreath is lit and churches are decorated in pink.
This mama of boys loves Gaudete Sunday because although I am not one to wear pink often, it's fun to bust out as much pink as possible for this special day. Last year, each of our sons wore pink and it was such a fun way to celebrate the day and remember that we are excited to celebrate the birth of Jesus!
We usually put up our Christmas tree around this time as well. We set up the tree and only have lights on it for the first week it's up. Again, not for any particular reason but because all of this is a lot of work and if we tried to commit to doing all of the things at once, we'd be frazzled and screaming at everyone. Kudos to people who can get it done all at once - I love seeing your Instagram photos! It's just not how we roll.
For the past number of years, by setting up the tree with just the lights hung at first, our boys get used to having the tree around. We remind the baby not to touch the tree before all of the ornaments are added and there is less time for ornaments to be pulled off. (Honestly, ornaments basically look like a bunch of toys hanging on a Christmas tree, so I understand why it's tempting for the boys to try to take them off.)
Finally, we decorate the tree.
Last year, my husband Matt and I decorated the Christmas tree by ourselves on Christmas Eve after the boys went to bed. Our boys were three (almost four) and under and I had been dreading decorating the Christmas tree. It was so fun to have time just the two of us to unwrap ornaments from when we were kids and others we have acquired since getting married.
On Christmas Day, we had the boys hang a couple ornaments that were special to them but even that confirmed that decorating the whole tree as a family would have been more than we could handle that year. This year, we will probably involve our oldest who is now four, almost five. This is what works for us and we firmly believe in not making things more complicated than necessary.
More peace and less crazy this holiday season.
In addition to choosing a couple things to focus on as a family during Advent and Christmas, here are a couple more practical details I would add:
We review our calendar before Advent begins to determine when to do what (with the expectation that things can be adjusted if someone is sick, meltdowns occur, etc).
We try to get Christmas lists and shopping done before Advent begins to make it truly a peaceful season. Finalizing those details seems more doable when I'm not worried about also getting all of the decorations out.
I create a note in my phone where I can list how things went: what we ate on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, supplies needed (i.e. new Advent candles) and other details that I want to remember for the following year. It's been so helpful to go back and read through the list this year.
The bottom line is to ask yourself, what are a couple things we can do as a family to ensure that we experience more peace and less crazy this holiday season? Determine what they are, lean into them and then don't get distracted by what everyone else is doing. If you've been intentional about deciding what matters for your family, you have nothing to worry about.
Here's to a peaceful and joyous Advent and Christmas season!