Raising Mary: Potluck Rules!

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Stay-at-home mom Tracy Cooper enjoys her solo 10-hour gift-buying marathon, but draws the line at cooking for everyone.

From shopping, delivering and wrapping gifts, to cleaning and decorating the home, to juggling the dates on the calendar and cooking the Christmas bird, there’s so very much to do this time of year. It’s easy to get overwhelmed with tasks that prevent you from enjoying the holidays.
How to not just survive the season, then, but experience it joyfully? I don’t have a magic answer (let me know if you do), but here are my techniques:


A few years ago, I had left all my gift-shopping too late; my excuse is that my kids were then three and one. When Tom had a day off and could stay with the girls, I left at 8 a.m. with a long list of gifts to buy.
I went on a 10-hour shopping marathon, hop-scotching to various locations. I was exhausted at the end of the day, but got everything done, and rather enjoyed having lunch and dinner on my own, thank you very much. It was a fun day off.
Plus, I realized how inefficient my previous Christmas shopping ways were. So now, I do most of my shopping on one day and have more time for other holiday events, planning and errands on other days – not to mention getting in more winter fun moments outside with Tom and the girls.


The downside of doing most of your Christmas shopping on one day leaves you with an alarming credit card bill in January. You must plan ahead for this so that you aren’t paying that bill in tiny increments the rest of your natural born life – or at least, the rest of the year. Buying throughout the year helps with this. You know when you see that perfect item in January or July and you

think “That would be perfect for so-and-so for Christmas”? Buy it right then and there! Having a budget is essential. 
You WILL spend beyond your means if you don’t! We always give a coffee card to the girls’ teachers, the school secretary and some of the other professionals in our lives. This year, I am determined to bake them some of my tasty banana bread instead, along with coffee cards of slightly lesser values.


Last year, it was our turn to host my side of the family, a group of at least 25 people. I followed the lead of many of my friends and made it a potluck. We made the turkey and potatoes and provided all the beverages, and then I assigned green veg, bread and dessert. It was a hard sell initially. It’s not because of the money or lack of enthusiasm for the happy work, it’s because it’s so MUCH work for one person or couple, who end up utterly spent by the time everyone is seated at dinnertime. Instead, spread the work and spread the cheer!
I have fantasized about throwing an annual cocktail party but am intimidated by the lovely ones we’ve attended through the years. As the kids get older this will become more feasible.
Another way we keep the holidays sane is focusing on the spiritual reason for Christmas. We have a carved wooden Nativity scene that we lovingly unwrap and give pride of place in our home throughout December.
We also love going to Christmas Eve Mass together, listening to the gorgeous hymns and pausing to rejoice and be thankful. Whatever way your family celebrates the holidays, take a deep breath, get done the tasks you can, and let the rest go.

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