Holiday table set for Christmas dinner party inside of a festive home

The Griffin grandkids joke about Christmas being ‘Ahma’s Super Bowl.’  That’s because in the Griffin family, Christmas is not just a one-day event. It is a season. A family-focused time of year when traditions are honored and gratitude takes center stage. 

Throughout our childhood, we never thought too much about how Christmas happened. It just did. Little did we know that behind the scenes (think of Oz in the Wizard of Oz!), there was a machine in motion.  Our mom (Ahma) and dad (Pop) worked magic. They always made Christmastime so special – and it seemed so effortless to us. 

It wasn’t until we were older that we learned the secret behind the well-orchestrated season.  Ahma had a week-by-week plan that she followed every year to ensure every detail was covered. The season wasn’t centered around delivering outrageous gifts or elaborate events, though.  The goal was always to find ways to spend more time with family and friends.  And the ‘plan’ was mom’s way to ensure the necessities were taken care of so we all could truly enjoy the season with less stress.

The Kick-Off

The first week of November marks the official kick-off of Ahma’s Holiday Plan.  Every week through the third week in December has a different theme.  And while the weekly schedule may shift from year to year (depending on life in general), the general ‘to-do’ list stays the same.   
Here’s an overview of the holiday plan details.  You can print out a sample plan here to use as a starting point and customize the tasks to include your own traditions and priorities:

Week 1 – Planning and list making

This is strategy week.  The most important part of the plan.  Set aside a chunk of time to sit down and plan out the season.  Make gift lists, errand lists and sync calendars with family members.  Send out ‘save the date’ notifications for parties and events.  Keep notes organized on a phone app, or the old-fashioned way, in a physical day planner.  Always make sure to have it handy, though, so you can cross off tasks during your regular weekly errands.

Week 2 – Christmas Cards

Check last year’s Christmas card list and make any necessary additions and update addresses as needed.  Select the Christmas card and the all-important photo (if using a photo card).  An added benefit of getting this completed early is the chance to take advantage of pre-season sales on the online photo websites. Print labels so they are ready when the cards arrive.  Or, if it’s an option, upload your list to the supplier website and have cards pre-addressed! 

Week 3 – Decorating

This typically falls on Thanksgiving week.  Pull decorating totes from storage areas and take inventory.  Do you have enough extension cords? Replacement lights? Timers?  Test your light strands early to see if any need to be replaced and pick them up (preferably at Ace Hardware!) before you begin the work.  For the Griffins, it is a two-day project:  Day one is for inside decorating (Christmas tree, fireplace, stairways) and day two is dedicated to outdoor lights and décor. 

Week 4 – Shopping Week

In the earlier years, this was the week that most of the gift shopping was done.  But now, with the internet, many of the Christmas gifts are purchased throughout the year.  But this is the week where lists are checked and re-checked to make sure everyone is covered.  Last minute items are purchased and gifts are wrapped early to avoid frantic, last minute Christmas Eve tasks.

Week 5 – Entertaining

Our annual Christmas Party is typically planned this week, the second week of December.  Typically, mom sets the theme during ‘strategy’ week (week 1), so the action items have already been scheduled for each day. One day is dedicated to organizing dinnerware and setting tables, another is for washing and planning out the serving pieces, the third day is for grocery shopping and the fourth, food prep. It’s also helpful to write out a kitchen and ‘day of’ timeline for last minute items.  

Week 6 – Baking

This is a big tradition in the Griffin family.  Every year during this week, favorite recipes passed down the generations are baked and gifted to neighbors, friends, family and our employees.  Christmas is not Christmas without Bama’s spritz cookies and lemon squares, or mom’s nutmeg logs and fudge. 

Week 7 – Gift wrapping and final details

The days before Christmas are spent finishing off gift wrapping and planning our Chirstmas day and mass schedules.  While many families enjoy a formal Christmas meal, our family’s gathering is a casual event – a lively gift exchange, festive cocktails, possibly a game of pool or tag football in the street and a simple buffet dinner.  The activities and excitement of the season typically leave us relaxed and content to simply enjoying each other’s company without a lot of fuss and structure.

Planning is the key

Our parents instilled in us the importance of slowing down and enjoying time with loved ones during the holidays. By simply thinking ahead and creating a detailed plan, you can reduce the stress and overwhelm that comes last minute errands and duties.  Whichever holiday you celebrate, we wish you a joy filled season!

November 10, 2021 — Stacey Jess