Your Epic Christmas Planning Guide + A Free Workbook

A complete guide to help you plan everything from Christmas dinner to what gifts you're giving. PLUS a free workbook with all of the lists and worksheets you need to make your Christmas EPIC

I know it's Thanksgiving week, but that means that Christmas is right around the corner. If you haven't already started planning your holiday, you better get started because it will be here before you know it. This will be our first Christmas in our new home and I am so excited to start decorating it. Instead of shopping on Black Friday, I will be pulling out all of our Christmas decorations and decorating our home. And probably make some of the pretty diy decor that you can find in the workbook.

Click to Tweet: "An EPIC Christmas planning guide + free workbook via @abbybarstow. Plan food, gifts, & more!"


This post is broken up into four sections:

  • Menu Planning

  • Prepping Guide

  • Decorating

  • Gifting



, Christmas isn't necessarily celebrated around food, I usually set up a sort of "grazing" buffet for people to eat on Christmas Day. And I think for Christmas Eve we are getting Chinese take-out, at least that's what we did last year. My favorite part of the Christmas festivities is decorating, I am so excited to decorate our new home for the holidays and to host our family on Christmas Day. And to see William being all adorable opening Christmas presents.

There's still a lot of planning if you're hosting any bit of Christmas, even if you're not making a full meal, so I've created this beautiful and


 guide to help you out.

If you find this post or the EPIC workbook helpful in any way, share a photo of your Christmas meal or decorations or festivities or your workbook notes using 




Section 1: Menu Planning

Since I love

menu planning

, I love planning holiday meals. I'll be making brunch on Christmas day and then having yummy food and a hot chocolate bar out for the rest of the day. Not sure what to include in your Christmas Dinner or Christmas Day Brunch? I've got you covered.

Christmas Dinner

Really, you can make whatever you would like for your family's meal but here's a list of what is typically included in the meal.

In the workbook, I have more details as well as links to recipes.


The Main Dish -

typically roast chicken or turkey, ham, or beef tenderloin

+ Potatoes

+ Salad

+ Green Beans

+ Dinner Rolls

+ Cheesecake

+ Egg Nog

Christmas Brunch

My mom always made a french toast casserole for breakfast on Christmas Day, so it's still one of my favorite items to make for Christmas Brunch.


Coffee and Hot Chocolate

+ Quiche or Egg Casserole

+ Cinnamon Rolls

+ French Toast Casserole

A complete guide to help you plan everything from Christmas dinner to what gifts you're giving. PLUS a free workbook with all of the lists and worksheets you need to make your Christmas EPIC

Section 2: Prepping Guide

Prepping for Christmas involves more than just prepping food. Plan ahead of time and you can have Christmas gifts bought and made and wrapped ahead of time so that you can just sit back and relax on Christmas Day. You can also prep cinnamon rolls or quiche ahead of time. And Christmas cookies. They can be frozen months and months ahead of time!

Prep List

Here's a list of everything that you can prep ahead of time, both food and non-food.

+ In November plan out Christmas gifts and start saving money and picking items up at pre-holiday sales. Start making handmade gifts as soon as you have them planned and supplies are gathered.

+ Make extra creamy mashed potatoes ahead of time and freeze in a larger freezer bag.

+ Pie crusts or cheesecakes can be made and frozen ahead of time.

+ Prepare the dinner rolls and freeze the unbaked dough (go through all of the recipe steps and stop before baking).

+ Cinnamon rolls can be frozen unbaked, you will just need to thaw them and allow them to rise before baking. You can also freeze them baked but not iced, just heat them up in the oven before icing.

+ Freeze french toast casserole by covering the pan of unbaked but full prepped casserole with plastic wrap and then aluminum foil. Thaw overnight in the fridge before cooking.

+ Quiche can be completely cooked and then frozen, wrap in plastic and then aluminum foil.

A complete guide to help you plan everything from Christmas dinner to what gifts you're giving. PLUS a free workbook with all of the lists and worksheets you need to make your Christmas EPIC

Section 3: Decorating

There is nothing like putting on some Christmas music (

get an exclusive Christmas Spotify playlist in the workbook

) and decorating the Christmas Tree and hanging stockings. I always loved pulling out ornaments one at a time with my mom and remembering the memories behind them before putting them on the tree. Now that I have my own home, I force Seth and William (kind of) to do the same.

Outside Decorating


Please, oh, please, do not be that neighbor with multicolored flashing lights that shine into your neighbor's home. Let's be classy, people. Unless you use your home as a Christmas lights tour destination, keep the flashing to a serious minimum if at all. Completely wrapping smaller trees always looks beautiful and be sure to also wrap your lamp post and/or mailbox. 


Create a beautiful and inviting front porch/step with a beautiful Christmas wreath, some greenery, and lights. Add some more unconventional colors, like bright green and pink and gold with some matte and some glitter colors. The fun colors and textures keep things inviting but fun. 

For More...

...check out my Pinterest board "

outside Christmas decorating.


Inside Decorating

The Tree

Before adding your personal Christmas ornaments, fill the tree with Christmas ball ornaments. Mix the textures, some shiny, some matte, and some glittery. I personally have a set of bright colored ball ornaments and I love them. Be sure to place the ball ornaments into the center of the tree, by the trunk. This makes the tree look fuller. Keep lighter ornaments towards the top of the tree and the heavier at the bottom, where branches are typically thicker. 

Place the tree somewhere where it won't be completely in the way and in a spot where you still have room to place gifts under it. I love when you can see Christmas trees from the street so we will be putting ours by one of our front windows.


If you are lucky enough to have a fireplace, don't forget about the mantel. Drape a real or fake evergreen garland and be sure to add some color within it with fake holly berries, mini ornaments in an array of colors, or even with some fake snow or some glitter. Vary the heights of the decor as well to create some interest. I love those cone style decor Christmas trees which you can make or find in all kinds of different colors and patterns.


Give your furniture a Christmas update with Christmas-y throw pillows (like

this one


this one

) or throw blankets (like



The Table

I found this post on

10 Farmhouse Style Christmas Tablescapes

and I am in love. I usually like a more eclectic approach to decorating, mixing modern with vintage, but I really love a few of those designs. Make or find a simple Christmas-y table runner (I know Target has some good options) and go crazy. Or go simple and put some tea lights in mason jars and wrap some greenery around the jars.

A complete guide to help you plan everything from Christmas dinner to what gifts you're giving. PLUS a free workbook with all of the lists and worksheets you need to make your Christmas EPIC

Section 4: Gifting

Gifting Organization

Keep yourself organized by making a list of everyone who you would like to get a Christmas gift and then keep track of when the item has been bought and when it has been wrapped. In the workbook, I included a link to a handy Google Docs sheet for you to use for yourself.

Gift Ideas

It can be hard to narrow down ideas for what to get people. In the workbook, I've given you about a dozen gift ideas, some DIY and some not, but all are gifts that anyone would love to receive. If you still can't figure out what to get someone, consider getting a gift in someone's name that will go to help someone in another country. In the past, I've gotten a friend a dozen chickens that a family can use for food and to make money. My friend doesn't have to take care of the chickens, but she knows that that gift will help that family for years to come. In the past, I have given gifts from

World Vision

.  Here are some of my favorite gift ideas from World Vision:


Three ducks

for $21


Share of a pig

for $25


Share of an ox and plow

for $50


Small bussiness loan for a woman

for $100


Share of a home for vulnerable children

for $50


New Mother and Baby Kit

for $95

Don't forget to share a photo of your Christmas festivities and workbook using #littlecitychristmas