As with most people, the run-up to Christmas is absolute chaos in our household. However, we have the double bonus of having twins with a birthday the week before Christmas itself. If you have children with a birthday around this already jam-packed time of year, then you know what I am talking about: a manic period of birthday AND Christmas shopping, birthday AND Christmas party preparations, birthday AND Christmas gift-wrapping, answering relatives' requests for birthday AND Christmas gift ideas. The list goes on. I love the Christmas season, but there are definitely times when I wish I could bury my head in the sand until Christmas day itself when everything is magically ready. If you want to how to be super-organised and glide seamlessly from a fun-filled birthday to a fabulously festive Christmas without breaking a sweat... then please let me know as I haven't worked that out yet. Until then, here are a few tips that I have learnt over the years that I find helpful. Maybe share with friends and family members who might not be quite so familiar with what you are going through. I don't promise this will make you less busy, but they are the honest tips that I try to keep to (unlike "start preparing in July." Fantastic idea. Never managed it.)
1. Do a clear-out of toys and games that your child doesn't use
It will look like Santa parcel-bombed your house shortly, so be fairly brutal. You could say, "If Father Christmas sees you don't have any room for gifts, he'll have to get you something small." That often focusses the mind. Or just do it when the children aren't around.
2. Do understand that when you ask people to "buy small" they will probably ignore you
Instead you could try to ask for "experience" gifts. Less immediately exciting for the child on the day itself, but it can be something special that the giver can do with the child. A visit to a fun attraction, cinema/theatre tickets. There are lots of choices. Book/magazine/comic subscriptions are also good.
3. Do prepare as early as you can manage
The earliest I've really managed to start is October. Before that you have all the added chaos surrounding the start of the new school year.
4. Do keep an ongoing "present idea" list on your mobile at all times
I don't just mean for the children, but you still have others to buy for and little time in your brain-space to even think about them at this time of year with everything else going on.
5. Do ask friends and relatives to come up with their own ideas (if you think they will be reasonable!)
I've found that one of the hardest parts of this time of year is how exhausted my brain becomes trying to keep track of everything I need to do. When you are also asked to come up with ideas for other people too, then it's ready to melt. Plus before you know it you've given away your best ideas! This is only suitable for those you trust not to ignore number 2 too much.
6. Do ask relatives to clearly label gifts they send from Amazon
One of the difficulties I have is that people very kindly order gifts for the children for both Christmas and birthday from Amazon, and I have to chase up, or look through emails, to get the explanation of which gift is for whom, and whether it's for Christmas or birthday and often who it's even from. I recommend you ask people to add the details in the address eg: "Lizzy Bennet (BD, from Granny)" or "Lizzy Bennet (xms from Aunt E.)" The added bonus is the ability to answer with confidence when you are asked "did you receive what I ordered?"
7. Do ask people to gift-wrap their own gifts
Sometimes it's not possible with online orders, but often it is, and you can tell people that for you it's really worth the extra it costs them. Ask them to buy a smaller gift if they don't want to spend the extra on gift-wrap (it's true Amazon does over-charge somewhat). It circles back to number 6 above, and also saves you a lot of sorting and gift-wrapping time.
8. Don't worry too much about keeping birthday and Christmas celebrations completely separate
There are certain rules of etiquette with a birthday around Christmas - you don't wrap a birthday gift in Christmas paper, you don't give a joint birthday and Christmas gift (though you may spend more on one than the other). I also used to extend this to only decorating the house for Christmas after the birthday was over. However, I've learnt that the fun of Christmas actually accentuates my twins' enjoyment of their birthday. The two are inextricably linked for them, and they look forward to opening their birthday gifts under the tree. Equally, I sometimes put Christmassy gifts in the party bags. Just go with it!
9. Do consider having an additional celebration for your child another time of year
Some people celebrate "half birthdays" so that your child can have a special day that isn't shared with Christmas festivities. Personally, we celebrate my twins' Saints Days (it's a French tradition). It doesn't have to be anything big - we gave a small gift and have a day where they get to choose a special meal. It's something family can also celebrate. It's additionally useful with twins as they not only share their birthday with Christmas but also with each other! This gives them an individual celebration, albeit on a smaller scale.
10. Don't be too hard on yourself
You will end up letting something slip, whether it's managing to do all the Christmas cards, or finding the perfect gift for someone. Keep a little time for the bits you enjoy about the season - I love making my own mince pies and Christmas cake. Yes, it adds more to my to-do list, but I get such satisfaction eating my own handiwork! Oh, and always put on some Christmas music and sip on a festive drink when doing the wrapping-up. The gift-tags may become haphazard, but the time will fly by!