Tips for a stress-free Christmas morning: the one day to curb your Penelope ways

December 23, 2013


Ah, Christmas morning. That wondrous time, where your home is beautiful, your gifts are perfect and gratefully received, your kids are well behaved and everything goes as it should. Right?

Not at my house. I actually think Christmas morning as a mom can be kinda stressful. Maybe it’s the pressure we put on ourselves to have that glossy, holiday magazine perfection.

Your best tool to ensure that you’re not a stress ball on Christmas morning is a “go with the flow attitude.” I know. Stop laughing.

Ok, two things you can do that really may help:

1) Think ahead about how things will go from the minute the kids wake up (early!):

  • Who is sitting where to open gifts? Does everyone have a comfortable place with plenty of space to move? Make sure this is decided beforehand, as kids love to argue over this kind of thing.
  • Where are the bags to collect the gift wrapping as it’s ripped off the presents? Get them out and have them ready.
  • Where’s your camera? Is it charged up?
  • Are you and your significant other on the same page about whether or not you’ll allow the kids to get into the gifts they receive? As in, can Little Jill open the new beading set she just received or does she need to wait until a later time? If so, when? Talk this through beforehand, I can’t tell you how many fights I’ve seen start over this very thing.
  • If the kids get candy in their stockings, are they allowed to eat it right then? Again, get on the same page here.
  • What are you going to wear? Have you dug out your cutest Christmas PJs? I know you have. You know you want lots of photos, which brings us to:
  • Are you going to put make up on before you let the kids go see what Santa brought them? You laugh, but I remember several Christmas mornings waiting anxiously for my mom to get her “face” on. I don’t care about this personally, but some people do. It bears planning in advance. Again, another place where fights can ensue. And nothing ruins Christmas morn like fighting between Mom and Dad.

2) Make breakfast ahead of time so you can just pop it into the oven while you’re opening gifts. I love to make gooey cinnamon rolls. My good friend Jennifer makes a delicious apple cake and has graciously shared her recipe:

Apple Cake

2 cups of sugar (try a mix of white and brown sugar)
1 cup of vegetable oil
2 eggs*
3 cups of flour (either white or whole wheat or a mixture of the two works well)
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
2 tsp cinnamon
3 cups diced, peeled apples (more or less…and don’t worry about the kind of apple–this recipe is forgiving)
1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans
Put all ingredients in a large bowl. Mix with your hands.(OK, if you can’t stand the thought of gunking up your hands, you can use a spoon. You know who you are. But really, here’s your chance to live a little on the wild side.)
Leave it all lumpy on top in the pan.
Bake at 350 to 375 in an ungreased 9×13 inch pan for about an hour. I give a temperature range because I like to cook more than one thing in my oven at a time, even if the second item is just some potatoes. (If you have pre-baked potatoes on hand, you’ve got an easy basis for a quick lunch.)

Cuts better when it’s cool, but if you serve hot it’s great with vanilla ice cream.

* To make it eggless (and vegan), use 2 tbsp of ground flax + 4 tbsp water as an egg substitute.

Let’s all vow to one another that we’ll try as hard as we can to let the morning unfold as it wants to, rather than the way we think it needs to go. This is hard stuff for us, but necessary. The best family memories happen spontaneously, so let’s take a deep breath, put down our mental lists and let Christmas happen.

Have a great holiday, Penelopes. I’ll see you after the New Year.

Posted originally on Dec 23, 2009. Updated for Christmas 2013, photo above includes my darling 2 yo, Jackson.

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{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Jesse {GoodGirlGoneGlad} December 23, 2010 at 9:52 am

I know I always think of things like that. That they will be glowing moments and no one will have a bad attitude. Then reality sets in. hehe Here is to hoping that Christmas will go off without a hitch!

Merry Christmas Meredith!

Ruthie December 23, 2010 at 10:23 am

I love how these tips can apply to so many situations, they are wonderful pointers!
Have a very Happy Holiday :)
ps – can I just say YUMMY to those gooey cinnamon rolls

Jennifer Tankersley December 23, 2010 at 1:17 pm

I know not everyone can decide when to have their big holiday meals, but since we do not live near family, I’ve learned to have our big meal on Christmas Eve. I learned my lesson when my elder daughter was a baby. I worried all through present-opening time about getting started for our meal preparation. Then I cooked all morning while my family was enjoying their new “toys”. Now, we have a big breakfast (bread pudding in my house) and eat leftovers the rest of the day. Perfection!

Karen (Scotland) December 23, 2010 at 2:45 pm

I actually take a little tub of dry cereal, a banana and a water bottle upstairs for each child when I go to bed. I really can’t function until I’ve brushed my teeth and had a shower so they can open their stockings first thing then eat the cereal while I dive in the shower. That way, when we come downstairs, we can get straight into the pressies without fear of them getting cranky through hunger (my second child gets MAJOR grumpy when hunger hits!).
I’ve done it like this since my eldest was teeny. I remember many a miserable Christmas as an older child/ young teen sitting in my PJs feeling skanky and just desperate to wake up properly so I could concentrate on what was happening (Seriously, I am NOT a morning person!)

Also, remember I have four kids (eldest just turned six) and my hubbie is at sea this year so… if I don’t try to maintain a wee bit order, the day will fall into the kind of chaotic day that scares the pants off me!

As part of that – no way to the big dinner. We’re having pancakes (crepes) – the kids favourite and a doddle to make. And I’m now seriously thinking of doing some sort of oven-thing for brunch too. Yum.
Karen (Scotland)

Wine Girl (Kitchen Doesn't Travel) December 23, 2010 at 3:30 pm

Oh my gosh…your comment about the make-up for pictures! My mom would never let anyone go see what Santa left until everyone was up, had their hair brushed, and were presentable for pictures! It used to drive my siblings and I NUTS!

Alea December 23, 2010 at 8:43 pm

I thought of you all today. I have to have my house totally uncluttered before bed on Christmas eve (I tell my kids Santa will check their rooms). Of course you’d never know I did after presents. How long can you all stand the toys everywhere before they have to get put away? I can usually let new toys live all over the living room for about 2 days before my husband sees the look in my eyes and gets the kids to pick things up. By then I have organized them by recipient several times.

On another note – our tree got pulled over today. What a mess. I thought we were beyond that. I think I’ve almost gotten over it.
Just needed to vent a bit – Merry Christmas!

Meredith Meredith December 24, 2010 at 8:49 am

@Alea: I think you’re doing great if you can wait 2 days before cleaning up all the toys. I think an entire afternoon is about my threshold. Our house is so tiny there’d be no place to walk!

Have a great Christmas, Penelopes!

julia December 26, 2010 at 4:18 pm

My favorite Christmas morning meal is baked french toast. I do a different version every year. But I love than I can prep it the night before and just toss it in the oven in the morning. Scramble a few eggs and we’re good to go!

Kristen December 24, 2013 at 8:44 am

This is why I love you! Absolutely. We do cinnamon rolls here (making them today to pop in the oven in the morning!). Santa always brings one big gift for each kid, and sets it up under the tree. So they can play with their hot wheels track/marble run/new doll right away. The kids get to open their stockings and play with their Santa toys in pjs. Then breakfast and showers before they get to open presents from mom & dad.

Karen (Scotland) June 7, 2014 at 1:49 pm

Freaky. Thought I’d found my doppelgänger when I was connecting to the comment above when I realised it was mine from 2010.
All still stands true – water bottles, banana and a roll to eat upstairs while I brush my teeth and have a shower.
Pancakes for dinner.

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