Thanksgiving and Christmas

In the US, two big holidays are coming up. I thought it would be good to start a thread for people to give tips or tricks, vent, moan, plan, whatever.

We've changing from putting on a meal to going out with just my spouse and kids to a restaurant. We focus on relaxing at home during the 4 day Thanksgiving weekend.

For Christmas, every year I try and do cards with a newsletter, and send gift to my 4 siblings and parents who live across the country. I try and get things wrapped and ready to ship by Thanksgiving, so I only have to deal with gifts for my own children for December.

My kids are older now, and do most of the Christmas decorating with my supervision. It's become part of our traditions, which really helps. I keep decorations to 2 rooms and a bathroom, for ease of putting up and taking down.

I love to cook. We have traditional foods that the kids look forward to all year. They are “secret” recipes. Last year, I let the older boys help in the prep work. Each gets a secret dish and must guard the recipe and steps to make it. It’s kinda cool and they are really goofy about it. I help supervise and give guidance where needed, so I still get to be involved. We still get our home cooked favorites, but I don’t feel like I’ve been run over by a truck at the end of it all!

As far as decorations, we keep it simple. The Yule tree, and stockings and that’s it. It’s too much to go all out. It’s simple and quite beautiful.

That is so cool Grumpy! My son and I have a secret ingredient for our pecan pie! We live in Vermont so I bet you can guess what it is but we put our finger to our lips when anyone asks! We now make it with a Pillsbury crust but it is tote-able wherever we go during the holidays and really very simple to make. He is 20 now but we still enjoy our "secret"!

That is too funny, Michael! My husband is from Vermont and we have the secret ingredient for our candied sweet potatoes. One year, for Thanksgiving, I realized I was out of vanilla (a key ingredient in our sweet potatoes). I called my mother-in-law and we decided to improvise, and now we have the best candied sweet potatoes I've ever had! I have to make a super big batch every holiday because the boys go absolutely nuts for them.

it's nice to find that you can make new and treasured memories with your kids even when they think they're too cool for you.

I LOVE this time of year! We do a lot during Advent, so I start preparations EARLY.

We've been working on Christmas gifts since October. This year, we decided to give everyone our favorite things, so got a stocking for each person, and are each contributing something ... Me: my favorite organic coconut lip balm (arriving in co-op package tomorrow), my husband: dried wild mushrooms he's harvested and dried himself (done), 15 year old: Reese's peanut butter trees (bought), 13 year old: trail mix (we're making it today), 11 year old: homemade soap (done!), 8 year old: gum (purchased); 5 year old: mismatched socks (done!).

We spend Thanksgiving in PA with my husband's family and do a little Christmas celebration while we're there.We're in CT, so 8.5 hour drive on a good day. We get the kids up at 1:30AM Thanksgiving morning and are on the road by 2AM. Everyone usually falls back to sleep within the first hour, and I drive. We have snacks, water, and music cds to entertain us, as well as travel bingo (where we look for things like barns, railroad tracks, bumper stickers, etc.). I stop every once in a while to stretch and apply hoteeze patches where I need them as I drive. I get to crash on the couch for an hour or so upon arrival, before the main festivities start.

Advent is big in our family. Each morning the kids get to unwrap a Christmas-themed book and we read it together. Along with the book is a clue to that night's Bible passage, so the kids have all day to try to figure out how the object (this year there's everything from duct tape and tissues to a rock and a cross) relates to Advent. I've already wrapped the books and objects and today I'll be printing out the Bible passages and putting them in the Advent calendar. I'm also packing for one family member a day - with seven people in our family, it takes seven days to get us all packed that way! LOL I've also been packing food (I have celiac and 3 gluten-free kids, my husband's family tries to accommodate, but I bring some of our food) and supplies for the trip for weeks now. We bring our airbed, because that's more comfortable for me to sleep on than the sofabed at my grandmother-in-law's where we stay. Spacing out all the packing helps a great deal.

We return from PA on the first day of Advent, and since I have all the Advent stuff done already, we simply get to enjoy ourselves. And since we've already gotten Christmas gifts done, I don't have to worry about that as well.

We celebrate St. Nicholas Day on December 6, so the night before the kids either hang their stockings in the living room or leave their shoes outside for St. Nicholas to fill with goodies. I happen to have my Remi infusion later that day, so my parents are taking the kids overnight and my husband and I are making the kids' gifts that night ... or should I say, I'll watch my husband make the kids' fleece sleeping blankets/bags that night! LOL On Christmas Eve we have a potluck brunch at my sister's house and we go to church (3 of us sing in the choir as well!) in the evening and then have a simple family dinner at home (usually something I have going in the crockpot to make it easy). The kids then get to open up their gift from my husband and I before going to bed. Christmas morning we all get to open our "Christmas Angel" gifts - on Thanksgiving night we put our names in a hat and then buy or make that person a gift for Christmas with a $5 spending well as secretly doing nice things for that person during the weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas. These are usually the kids favorite gifts! And that's it for gifts (3 gifts - one on St. Nicholas Day, one on Christmas Eve, and one on Christmas Day) until we got to my parents' house for a lasagna lunch, where there are gifts from grandparents, aunts, uncles, etc.

We used to do tons of gifts and activities and running around and craziness. I like our 3 gifts on 3 days with lots of anticipation in between and our daily rituals of book reading, Bible reading, and family time.

I should mention that the St. Nicholas gift is always an activity (and some chocolate gold coins!). This year the three youngest and I are going to see Straight No Chaser (2 days later!!!) and our teens and my husband are going to see the Hobbit the following weekend.

So I guess I"d say that doing as much preparation beforehand and simplifying things is what has worked best for me.

Donny Downer here. We decorate some.m We have seasonal boxes of stuff we rotate)

Thanksgiving we volunteer (depending on where we are needed) at the church community dinner, senior center or local shelter and have since the kids were little. Christmas eve open house and dinner for local family and neighbors (understand thats over 60 people) Its a pretty simple dinner. A couple of prime Ribs, a couple of salads, taters, and pot luck dessert. We then go to candelite services or midnight mass. Christmas Day we either go sledding, X-Country skiing, or occasionally fly somewhere warm for a few days.

Gifts are easy, we don't do any and never have. We do pick up lots of blankets, coats, mittens etc my wife on sale after the holidays for the next year . We have the grandkids help with that and make a day of it. Sometimes I offer a prize for the best "shopper"

We have had large and small Thanksgivings and prefer the smaller ones.This year it was supposed to be just us two but now we're collecting strays. Which is fine. As they are all bringing sides and they all cook well. We're Jewish so this year, for the first time in like 350 years, Chanukah and Thanksgiving overlap. So we'll be having potato latkes as sides and I've been begging my partner for gluten free noodle kugel along with pumpkin pie.

I love Christmas (we're not practicing Jews...) and putting up the tree and I enjoy playing 12 days of Christmas and wrapping silly small gifts for all the days leading up until Christmas. I'm also terrible at keeping secrets from my GF so I inevitably buy her something really cool then spill the beans way early! We have been known to rewrap gifts so there will be something to open at Christmas! Oh and with our friends we celebrate Epiphany (12th night). This came about because one friend has a son and shares custody with his ex so rather than celebrate the holiday and only have his some there 50% of the time they moved the holiday. Our 12th night dinner is a marvel. Usually several courses over several hours.

The one thing I truly love about Chanukah and Christmas are the lights. In the depths of the gloom there are always candles and garlands lighting up the place. That's worth the hassle of untwisting the light strings in my book!

I soo LOVE the holidays. I rest every chance I get! That’s the only way I got through it last year!!