Christmas preparation in July

Over the past couple of years I’ve started doing some initial planning for Christmas in July, and this has helped me stay sane and get some sleep in the lead-up to Christmas. Previously, without kick starting my Christmas planning in July, at times December look a bit like this:

• I decide I want to handmake gifts for the kids’ teachers. I choose a simple craft item, which inevitably takes longer to make than I anticipated. The kids are too tired to help (or I don’t have the patience to let them help). For several nights I’m up until after 11 pm finishing said craft items.

I frantically finish writing all the Christmas cards in the remaining days before Christmas, crossing my fingers that they’ll make it to their destination before the big day.

I make the dreaded trip to a large shopping centre along with more than half of the population of Melbourne on the final Saturday before Christmas to complete the present shopping.

Christmas: the where, when and who

My parents and much of our extended family live in Mildura. For the past 10 years or so, we’ve alternated between spending Christmas in Mildura or Melbourne. There are years, though, when — due to various circumstances — this changes. Having babies, attending weddings and availability of family all need to be considered when working out where we’re going to spend Christmas. Determining where we’ll be and who’s hosting Christmas in July gives me more time to meet my responsibilities and get our family organised.

Choosing a theme for Christmas

A recent addition to my Christmas preparation has been to choose a theme for Christmas. I have friends who’ve been doing this for a number of years and my friend Justine in particular showed me how well it can work. For example, it:

makes the decision-making process in relation to necessities such as cards, decorations and wrappings much easier

simplifies the choice of Christmas accessories you make/buy for the house

allows a simple and coordinated look for your Christmas celebrations

can help guide the menu for the big day

adds to the memory (‘It was the “gold” Christmas!’).

The theme can be very simple, such as choosing colours (red and white), or it can incorporate a motif such as birds or angels. I have friends who choose a theme right after Christmas for the next one and take advantage of the discounted prices on Christmas decorations. I don’t buy new decorations every year as that would not fit in our budget, but I do make simple, inexpensive decorations to go with the theme. For example, if you choose a natural theme early in the year, when winter comes you can start collecting things such as pine cones and acorns — free natural materials that you can turn into decorations. You may like to consider the themes described below for your next Christmas.

A natural look

• Use pine cones to make a wreath.

Cinnamon sticks can be used as tree decorations.

Try brown recycled paper and twine for gift-wrapping.

Use dried branches decorated with baubles as a table centrepiece.

Red and white

Buy a traditional, basic wreath and add red and white ribbons to it .

Using red and white patterned paper, make doves to hang on the Christmas tree .

Try combinations of red and white stripes and red and white dots for wrapping gifts.

Fill white bowls with candy canes for table decorations.

Blue and silver

Make a blue-and-silver bauble wreath .

Make gorgeous glittery string baubles .

Alternate blue and silver paper with silver and blue ribbon when wrapping gifts.

Put floating candles into shallow blue bowls to use as table decorations.

Non-traditional bright colours (pink, blue, green, yellow, orange)

A button wreath made from scraps of fabric is easy to put together with the kids .

Make funky paper baubles for tree decorations .

Plain, brightly coloured paper with thick clashing ribbon is great for wrapping gifts.

Try tall glass vases filled with brightly coloured baubles as table decorations.

Handmade Christmas gifts

For me, there’s something special about receiving a gift that someone has spent their time creating especially for you. I’m not a great sewer or crafter, but I do like to make simple things on my own and with the kids to give to people for Christmas. My dear friend Cath, however, is very good at craft, but not so much of a planner. Over the past couple of years we’ve combined our skills to start making handmade gifts in the middle of the year.

Cath and I start with a planning meeting where we find ideas and choose a number of them to make. We then meet every few weeks in the evening and work on the projects together. This is more for my benefit, so Cath can show me how it’s all done. I also make simpler craft items with the kids. It’s great for them to be involved in making the gifts they’ll be giving to their teachers and other important people in their life. By the time November comes we’ve handmade a pile of gifts for friends and family.

With the proliferation of craft blogs on the internet, there’s no shortage of ideas and inspiration for simple, handmade projects. Now if you’re thinking, ‘I’m not craft-minded’ and plan to skip over the list, you should know that if I can make these, anyone can! There is no sewing required, and children can make most of the items with assistance. 

Some handmade Christmas gift ideas include:

fabric-covered notebooks

bath salts

fabric-covered stationery


hair ties

chocolate sauce

chalkboard notice boards

tea for one

cinnamon sticks

• rocky road gift packs.

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