Christmas is coming, mama! Professional organiser Nathalie Ricaud breaks down the steps you can take to get ahead in your holiday planning
Are you spending Christmas away from family, relatives and friends this year? Maybe the thought of being apart at that time of the year is making you sad. I understand; the year my son was born, we decided not to put our 3-month old baby (read ourselves!) through a 20-hour journey, a 7-hour time difference and a 30-degree Celsius temperature difference. Despite the joyful new addition to our family, Christmas didn’t feel quite right that year.
Maybe, on the contrary, you are happy to not go back because you find successive family reunions over the holiday season to be a bit overwhelming (I can definitely relate to that, too!). Yet you can’t help feeling guilty for being away.
Whatever your situation, here are 3 Christmas preparations you should tackle in November if you want your loved ones to cope better with your absence.
1. Settle the Christmas presents
A thoughtful present is a good way to show your loved ones you haven’t forgotten them and care about them. One condition, though: they have to receive their present on time for Christmas, otherwise you are in for some stress and them for some disappointment, especially if the gift is destined for a child.
Start by making a list and set a budget for each person you are planning to give a present to. If you struggle with ideas, ask for wish lists. I personally keep a list of gifts ideas in Evernote for the people I usually give presents to and also for myself in case I’m asked (hint, hint, Honey!). I add ideas onto that list all along the year whenever someone expresses an interest for something. As Christmas (or a birthday or an anniversary) approaches, I will subtly (hopefully!) try to figure out which one they would be more excited about.
Opt for lighter presents such as clothes, accessories or, even better, vouchers to lower the international postage cost. Or buy online in the country where the recipient of your gift resides and get it delivered there directly.
Inform the recipients of your gifts that they should expect a package and ask them to unpack it only at Christmas.
2. Settle the Christmas cards
You might not be able to afford to send a present to everyone, but a small gesture like a Christmas card can go a long way too.
Go through your contact list and make a list of the people you want to send your wishes to. Again Evernote (did I tell you I’m a big Evernote fan?!) is a good tool to create that list, as you have a ticking option once you’ve completed a task (for instance, ticking the name of the person when you’re done writing the card).
If you’re planning to send the cards by post, count the number you need, and add a few extras, before buying them. Buy the stamps at the same time.
Alternatively, if you are the creative type and can afford the time, design personalised cards using online tools like Canva or Paperless Post and send them by email. You can add a family picture, a scanned kid’s drawing or a personalised message that will make the recipient of the card feel special.
When you start receiving cards, check your card list to make sure that you have sent one to that person. Otherwise add their name onto your list and send them one. Keep the card list so that you don’t have to start from scratch again the following year.
3. Plan virtual Christmas dates
Technology can also help cope with the distance. Schedule Skype video calls on Christmas Eve or Christmas day, or in the days leading up to it, or after, depending on time zones and the closeness of your relationships. If you cannot find an agreeable day and time, take video of key Christmas moments such as the day you put the Christmas decorations up, or when the kids open their presents, or when you toast to the New Year. Share them with your loved ones. It’ll make a lot of grandparents happy, trust me!
Of course, none of the above will replace your physical presence but at least it should offer your loved ones some comfort. As for yourself, spending time organising this “long distance Christmas event” should bring you some enjoyment. But of course don’t neglect your own home and make it as cosy as possible. Do some decluttering to make room for the Christmas decorations as well as the new presents to come. If you’re hosting a party at home, check my tips on how to prepare your home for a stress-free Christmas. And plan meals with your favourite traditional holiday foods; it’s bound to put you into the Christmas spirit!