I love September. Mother Nature still has a few hot days of summer waiting for us in Minnesota, and then before you know it, she flips the switch and the crisp fall air is upon us. It is then that I start counting down the days until Christmas.
It's also the time of year that I am reminded by the wonderful family and friends that surround me as my birthday falls at the end of the month. And the time of year when I hear my Grandma Dee's voice in my head, "Amanda, Christmas is the same time every year."
It's true. If you're talking about planning, Christmas is the one of the few holidays that has a month and a date (none of this third Thursday or second Tuesday business). For those of the Christian faith and believers of good will and peace on Earth, Christmas is always December 25.
So, I'm sure you roll your eyes (or hopefully crack up) when you see that meme of Buddy the Elf counting down the weeks and days until Christmas, but the truth of the matter is, counting down should be fun and not dreadful. If you dread all of the preparations, you can get ahead of it now (in my favorite month: September).
I think what my Grandma Dee was trying to impress upon me is that with all the time we have before Christmas comes, surely we should be able to be ready for it. Without going into every instance, I'm going to focus on Christmas Cards. I love Christmas cards (maybe even more than I like September). I love receiving them. I love the letters that accompany them. I love mail. I love hanging the photo cards around my house so that I can see the smiling faces of those near and far..but what I don't love is all of the time I spend panicking that I won't get them out in time. (Note to my friend: if you're reading this, you can even send out the ones that you worked so hard on last year and never mailed. No one will know. Consider it a head start.)
If we were to wait until after Thanksgiving to start the process, we won't possibly have the time to complete them with shiny distractions at every turn. So, that's why I say, "Start now."
Don't freak. Start now.
September: Take the Photo
Start by looking at your calendar. Find at least 3 dates where you and your family have ONE HOUR of time - and that hour should include the time it takes to get dressed and have the photos taken, by the way. Then, contact your photographer (or me, if you're in the MSP area) and see if they are available. Photographers love to take happy photos. And, quite honestly, if you cannot hire a photographer, or don't have time, simply knock on your neighbor's door and ask them to take your photo. For tips on what to wear, check out this blog post about wearing what is already in your closet.
October: Pick and Print the Photo Card; Update Your Mailing List
While you wait to preview your photos, update your mailing list. If you have an address book, you are already half way there. If you do not, Google does amazing things. Get on your phone or your computer and start a list. Then, when you get your photos, pick no more than 5 of your favorites. Depending on what you decide to do with your photo, you'll need a few to pick from. Nothing is worse than having your heart set on the picture, only to have it not fit in one of the pre-designed templates with your card company of choice; leaving you to find your new favorite. Find 5 photos you love (or can live with). Now, hold on to your horses - order your cards by Halloween. Here's why: there are companies that print bulk postcards and they offer savings... and, some photo sites have deals around Halloween, so you can take advantage of the sales at that time.
November: Make Labels and Buy Stamps
If you are a computer wiz, then November is the time to merge your address book onto some labels. If you'd prefer to hand write your addresses, then sit tight and wait for your cards to arrive sometime around the second week of November. Then, head to the post office and buy your holiday stamps. Avoid the lines in December, and get your postage in November (the holiday postage is usually released after Nov. 10). Once your cards arrive, add the stamps and the return address labels (the labels from your friendly insurance agent will work here - aren't they good neighbors? ...always there for you). Take a few each night and address the cards - get all of them finished before Thanksgiving. If your Thanksgiving deadline is a deal breaker, then use the long holiday weekend to finish things up while enjoying a holiday movie.
December: Mail Your Holiday Cards
You are ready to drop your holiday cards in the mail on the Monday after Thanksgiving, or anytime in that first week of December. Done.
Trust these steps. You will thank yourself for the gift of time this holiday season.
To see my samples from my Holiday Mini Sessions - please visit my gallery.