Don’t Plan Ahead (too much)

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This is a photo of the plaza outside my town’s city hall and library. Yes, those are Advent candles. They were mounted a few days ago.

I attended 2 meetings last week–a staff meeting at the school where I teach, and a planning meeting for women’s ministry at my church. Christmas was heavily featured at both of them. A friend posted on Facebook that the first Black Friday information has already been posted online. Walmart and other stores already have their Christmas decorations, cards, and other items out on the floor for sale.

On some level, Christmas is beginning to break into the awareness of many people. In the past, hearing about Christmas in October would start to get me angry. I would exclaim that “I’m not ready to think about Christmas yet!” Shortly thereafter, I would give in and start making my to-do lists.

So many of the books and articles I have read on how to get Christmas under control focus on planning ahead. Just plan ahead, they seem to promise, and you won’t be stressed at Christmas. Planning ahead will make you more organized and you will feel happier about Christmas.

I’m not going to tell you not to plan ahead for Christmas at all. I think a certain amount of planning ahead is necessary. However, planning ahead is not the whole answer to taming Christmas. No matter how much you plan ahead, it fails to do one thing that is a very big part of my purpose for this blog and my e-book (available here). Planning ahead doesn’t keep Christmas in its proper place–as one day of the year, or maybe a week or two if you look at Christmas as a season. Planning ahead may make you more prepared for Christmas and reduce your stress level around the holiday, but planning too far ahead will still give Christmas a larger presence in the year than is necessary or beneficial. Do you really want to be actively engaged in ┬áplanning Christmas for 3 months, or 25% of the year? I don’t.

You may not be able to get away with refusing to plan for Christmas in October. Certain things need to be planned well in advance for them to go smoothly when the time comes. Our school had to plan field trips and Christmas program practices. The ladies at church needed to settle on some details about the Christmas luncheon and cookie swap (which is held early in December). And those poor maintenance guys need to put up trees and lights all over the city in preparation for the tourist season, so they need to start early. However, you can contain the planning and refuse to get too deeply into your own planning until Christmas is closer.

As Christmas comes into your awareness in little bits and pieces, try to evaluate whether it is something you really need to deal with yet. For instance, I did discuss the cookie swap with the church ladies, but I stopped short of planning what kind of cookies I will be making when I attend. That’s something I really don’t need to plan for quite yet. Our school may have it’s field trip and party schedule in full swing, but I don’t need to plan any details of my class’s party yet.

As you decide what things you really need to plan at this time, I hope it will give you peace to let go of the rest until Christmas is closer. One thing I do start to plan in October is gifts. Since I crochet and sometimes sew some of the gifts we give and some of our holiday clothes, planning in October will allow me the time I need to finish these projects early. Completing these projects at a more leisurely pace in October and November allows me not to hurry with them in December and gives me a greater sense of relaxation as Christmas draws near.

Did you like this article? My ebook, Taming the Christmas Monster, is full of ways to take the stress out of Christmas, leaving only the joy and peace of this special time of year. Available on Amazon for Kindle.