Why I start planning for Christmas in July!
If you know me at all then you will know that Christmas is my absolute favourite time of the year! It has always been this way but particularly since I came to live in England. The snow (or at least cold), the lights, the goodwill and cheer by most to most at this time of the year are some of my reasons for loving the season. In my mind, it’s ALWAYS almost Christmas! So we better get going! So why do I start planning so early and what exactly do I do? Well here goes:
I never ever write a list but it’s always in my head! And I don’t go looking for specific gifts either, I just know I want to get one or two things for my nearest and dearest. The kids always write a list near to Christmas (as if they don’t know I’ve already done my shopping) and to satisfy that, I buy one thing from their list.
Well, I host Christmas at my home every other year. The next year it’s hosted by my twin sister. And when I say I host Christmas, I don’t just mean Christmas dinner. Oh no! Christmas holiday for us is from the day in December when schools close to the day in January before schools reopen! Yes, we take it that seriously. So if my sister is hosting Christmas, my family packs our stuff and we drive over and we are there for the few weeks. If I am hosting, she packs up her car with her family and drives over to me. Mind you, this driving is no more than six minutes but it’s a part of our Christmas tradition.
Shopping for gifts
We love to give the kids a lot of gifts! Now before you stone me, let me explain. It’s all a lot of little things that add up and seem a lot! We always make sure to include at least one book, one electronic item, clothes and or shoes, personal care items etc. These items are bought at different times throughout the year, usually on or around payday, but always in a sale, whether in the shops or online. Sometimes we include giving a gift card that allows them some choice in what they get.
You might be wondering what kind of food shopping we can do in July. Well, being Jamaicans, it’s traditional to have sorrel drink at Christmas. But fresh sorrel is only available around Christmas time and quite expensive too. We outsmart this by buying a pack or two of dried sorrel each time throughout the year that we do our regular grocery shopping if we see them in the shops. We also order the sorrel drink online months in adance. We also buy things like dried peas, and dried fruits like raisins, prunes, mixed fruits etc to make our traditional Christmas cake. This is then soaked in a bath of something that keeps our cakes lasting for months: (red label wine) until we are ready to do the baking. In fact, throughout the year we do shopping for anything that we will need around Christmas time (anything that is, except meats, fresh fruits and vegetables) in fact, some meat we purchase long in advance, season properly and freeze. On Christmas day our meals are awesome, I can’t even begin to explain.
Each year we do up three trees, one in the empty house, and two in the ‘house of the year’. This takes a lot of decorations and we do try to make them look different each time. All we do is re use and recycle the decorations and add a few new ones each time. The new things are usually home- made using ideas we get from Pinterest. We foolishly used to put real candy canes on the trees and the little ones would eat them off long before the big day came. So a few years ago I made fake ones using…wait for it… Red and white beads and a bit of bendy wire or pipe cleaners. I made it in secret when the kids weren’t looking so imagine their shock when they tried their usual trick and found that they weren’t edible! I should have set up a hidden camera, lol.
I don’t only prepare gifts for my family. Every year I make a conscious effort to prepare a gift for each of my close work colleagues and also for children whose lives I want to impact (can’t do all but I do look out for, and help some). Last year for my work colleagues I used the time to make some crochet items from as early as September and October! Some were quite pleasantly surprised as they didn’t even know I could crochet! Each item was different and made with the recipient in mind. Now that’s a good way to spread the festive cheer!
Craft and card making
Being frugal (as well as trying always to be creative) and doing my bit to save the planet, every year after the Christmas festivities are over, I put away the dozens of cards we’ve all received. Then, one day, it’s craft day! Using card, paper, glue, glitter, ribbon, fancy scissors etc, we make gift tags and Christmas cards using bits of card cut off from the old ones. Clever, isn’t it? We would’ve spent much more buying cards and not had half as much fun!
So why do I start preparing for Christmas in July? Because it’s smart to do so! Simple! It’s way too hectic and expensive to do all this near to the big day. Here’s a top tip too! I wrap each gift in plain or non-Christmas wrapping paper and put them away in a closet with the name of the recipient on (written on masking tape). So if the kids search and find them, they’ll know that yes they’ve got gifts but they have no idea what’s in the boxes. Talking about boxes, I keep neat ones that held various items purchased or given throughout the year on the back porch in a larger plastic storage box with a lid. Yeah, I know I’m clever, lol.
So when the big day is near and I start wrapping, I just need to put on the Christmas paper which I buy in the sales late December or early January! Sometimes even I don’t remember what’s in all the boxes so when it’s opened finally, I’m almost as surprised as the recipient, and my screams of cheer are even louder!
Hooray for me and for Christmas. Do you have Christmas family traditions? When do you start the preparations? Would you even have it any other way? I go weak in the knees for Christmas. Do you? Ho Ho Ho and Jingle Bells and all that.