Brett walked in the door from work last night to Nat King Cole crooning Christmas carols. I wasn’t sure how he’d respond but was pleasantly surprised when he smiled and said, “I like it. Bring it on.”
“Like bring it all on or just the carols?” I clarified.
“Everything. Let’s start decorating. We’ve always loved this, and it never lasts long enough. Why not start now?”
And this, my friends, is why I married him.
We’re in the holiday window right now, folks–the three weeks before Thanksgiving where people publicly make their proclamation on where they stand with the timing of holiday celebrations. And people are passionate about this. I get it, I get it. Thanksgiving is separate from Christmas and deserves to have a little limelight of its own. And I get not jumping the gun too early because there’s something so special about that little sliver of the year when the magic of tree lights greets you early in the morning that you don’t want to “overplay” it and risk losing any of its enchanting effect. I get that holiday commercialism can force feed stress that takes away from what the holidays are really about, so boycotting it this time of year helps people protect the sacredness of simplicity, togetherness and gratitude.
That said, Thanksgiving is about gratitude, and you know what I’m grateful for? I’m grateful for people getting to choose what they’re grateful for, and I choose twinkle lights, Christmas music and the smell of balsam & fir. These things make me happy, and I combine them with gratitude and quiet nights at home and huddling together with my family because this time of year is not about choosing one or the other but about combining things that make us feel joy with things that remind us of our purpose. So I choose the trickle effect. What’s the trickle effect, you ask? It’s drawing out this season I love into small pleasures that start now and grow each day to savor the anticipation and to give us daily doses of joy. I start early because there are so many things about the holidays that I love from wrapping packages with pretty touches to frosting snowflake cookies at my kitchen counter while It’s a Wonderful Life plays on the little T.V. in the corner. I don’t feel pressure to do these things–I really, truly love them; and I don’t want to cram them all into one month because then it does feel like pressure, and I don’t enjoy them as much.
So today, I play Christmas music. And I pull out one bin full of garland from the garage. And I hunt around the Internet to find the most special little treasures for stockings because it makes me happy, and I like to share it with you. And I push my cart straight to the back of Target where the Christmas aisles are erecting every time I’m there not so that I can buy, buy, buy but so that I can look, look, look…because looking at the lights and the wreaths and marveling at the creativity of product designers and the way they capture the cozy, festive feelings we love from tiny ornaments to the perfect tissue paper makes me feel inspired to keep making and dreaming and decorating and celebrating.
If you’re one who also loves the early November Trickle Effect, here’s a few things I do this time of year to enjoy the process and space the celebration out.
Think about how you are going to decorate.
With the excitement of the first holiday decor aisles released, it’s easy to want to buy something for that hit of holiday enthusiasm. But I’ve too often made the mistake of bringing home that tabletop Christmas tree only to realize I don’t have a place for it or I bought something similar the year before once I open my decor aisle bins. Because most of us keep our holiday decor packed up for the year, we forget what we already have. So think before you buy. Pull everything down, take a look at what you already have and come up with a holiday decorating plan before you willy-nilly buy that wreath.
Print some wintery photos.
It’s an easy and inexpensive way to add holiday cheer to your home, and since it requires a little prep, now’s the time to do it. Go through old folders and find your favorite holiday moments from the past to print out and display this season–last year’s first snowman, your kids on Santa’s lap, the photo you captured of that colorful line-up of mittens on the heater.
Plan a Thanksgiving tablescape.
My parents were so good at making our table look beautiful for the holidays growing up, and to this day, I remember the feeling of knowing it was going to be a memorable meal just from the details our table included–centerpieces and place mats, name cards and special occasion napkins. I still recall Christmas breakfast at my dad’s one morning when I was in my twenties and how he tucked the silverware in little mittens on each plate. Creating holiday table scenes is one of my favorite things to do during the season, and I love taking time to put in some creative planning on how to make it special.
Pull out your calendar.
The season will fly by before you know it, so now is the time to put things on your calendar. That Friendsgiving you always wanted to host? The Nutcracker you dream of taking your mom to? The night of girlfriends in their pajamas watching Elf on your couch that you say you want to plan? Pull our your calendar now, pick your dates, text your people. Make it happen. Plan in November so you can enjoy in December.
I make more lists this time of year than ever, and they are far more “This is so much fun and makes me so excited to write this stuff down!” than “This list shall hold you accountable, and you shall check everything off.” I make lists for recipes I want to try during the holidays, lists for people I’m inviting for holiday cocktail night, lists for stocking stuffer ideas, gifts I’ve bought, kind things I want to do for people, things I want to pack for our Chicago trip, new songs I want to add to my holiday playlist. I use pretty pens for my lists, and sometimes I practice writing them like how I would imagine Mrs. Claus would. I love holiday lists. And yes–sometimes they do have the added bonus of actually helping me stay organized.
We buy special ornaments for our kids every year to represent something about them–things they like this year, new things they tried, etc. Now is a fun time to poke around the Internet to see what crazy ornaments are available (I’ve been searching for a rat ornament for Lainey and can’t find a good one).
Pregame Holiday Mailer planning.
I know some people dread sending Christmas cards, but it’s something Heidi and I look forward to all year long because we’ve turned it into an event that we accomplish together, and we plan for it with the silliest but most delightful details–finding the perfect pen we’ll use to address them (I’m in comparing stage now, and I am happy to report I tested five different pens at Paper Source yesterday and narrowed it down to two), picking out our holiday stamps and return address labels, tucking away vintage Christmas stickers to enclose in the envelopes. Do these things really matter? No, but we’ve made them matter because it’s fun. When everything is ready to go, we turn it into a magical night of Christmas movie watching and cocoa drinking and hand-addressing our envelopes together.
Pull Out the Winter Kids’ Books
Ever have a February organizing blitz in your kids’ rooms only to find a collection of Christmas picture books you forgot about, and now it’s two months too late? Go through the bookshelves and pull them out now–all the wintery stories. Display them in a basket next to the bed or a special shelf so you remember to read them in the coming weeks. Cozy sweet memories guaranteed.
Host a Planning Breakfast.
Love the holidays and want to share it with friends who also love the holidays? Host a holiday planning breakfast in the next couple of weeks. Make lists, swap recipes, give each other stocking stuffer ideas, talk about your favorite traditions, offer your silver chargers for your friend’s holiday brunch tablescape. I’m having one of these tomorrow morning…let the games begin.