So, in order to avoid the pre-occupations of the world during this time, and to be able to celebrate all of the wonderful saints of this busy time, I have focused on getting things done ahead of time. I used to do this, back before I had kids, then the reality of four children slowly crept up on me and over the past few years I see how chaotic the Nativity Fast has become. So, here are the things I am doing this year to help me.
1) All gift shopping completed before November 15 (the beginning of the fast). This has been easier than I thought. I always keep a list of people for whom I need to purchase gifts, and over the past few weeks I have begun to slowly order items (love that internet shopping, especially right now when most stores are a halloween horror show). The only exception to this is there are a few homemade (food) items I give, which obviously cannot keep for 40 days :)
2) Christmas Cards finished before the fast - this year, my in-laws celebrated their 40th anniversary, and their gift request was a family portrait (that's 10 adults, 10 kids :). The picture is done (yay!) and in the next week the Queen will be creating our Christmas card (each year one of the kids illustrates an icon of the Nativity which I then photo copy as our Christmas card). I plan to go get the copies made as soon as she is finished and will be addressing envelopes on the long drive to DC in a few weeks.
3) Detailed lists of everything needed for the celebrations that occur during this time - the Presentation of the Theotokos, St. Barbara, St. Nicholas, St. Herman, and pre-purchase anything I can.
4) I am working diligiently to organize my Cycles of Grace binder for this period, which will hopefully be posted in the next few weeks.