From as far back as my children can remember, our household has looked upon December 26 as the best day of the year. We literally greet each other that morning with some version of “It’s December 26th! The best day of the year!” Christmas is behind us, and very often we spend the entire day in our pajamas … because why get dressed? We go nowhere. We eat leftovers. We take naps. We look at the gifts we’ve received and decide where to put them, when to use them, or spend the day playing with them. It’s an annual tradition that I hope each of my kids will take into their own homes, as well.


For many people the entire holiday season can be joyous but exhausting. We’re surrounded on all sides by good things to do, eat, give, watch, make, listen to, read, buy, and more. But even good things can feel overwhelming if you’re already stretched thin. 


Soon, though, we’ll arrive at that last week of the calendar year. Some have this week off work; others may find themselves in a quieter space with few others around. This break in school and/or work can cause us to lose track of the days (is it Wednesday…or maybe Thursday?). We know January 1 is just a day on the calendar like any other, but still we find ourselves thinking about wrapping up one year and beginning a new one—and of the changes and improvements we might make in our lives. 


No matter how busy your life has been lately, wouldn’t it be nice to redeem the time during this last week of the year? What are some ways we can do that in our hearts, our homes, and our neighborhoods? 


Taking Care of Yourself 

Much like remembering to put on your oxygen mask before helping others with theirs, remember to take time for yourself during this week, especially if you’ve been really busy since November (or before). If at all possible, try to be sure there are some empty spaces on your calendar. Can you take at least one day of complete rest (like the December 26th described above)? Is there a book you want to read, a puzzle you’d like to complete, a recipe you’d like to try, or even some cards or letters you’d like to write? One thing I love to do during this week might sound a little unusual: I take a couple of hours to clean and organize the top of my dresser, which has been collecting all kinds of stuff—some worth keeping, some not—for an entire year. Starting a new year with a clean dresser makes me feel happy and at peace. Maybe you’d enjoy cleaning or organizing your bookshelves, your cabinets, your tools, old family photos, or something else that’s in need of a little care and attention. 


Taking Care of Your Neighborhood 

This (hopefully) quieter last week of the year is also a golden opportunity to connect with neighbors who may also be spending more time at home. Is there an elderly or homebound neighbor you could check on? Maybe you can take them dinner or homemade treats. Can you pick up a few dog biscuits to give to your furry friends? Is there someone in your neighborhood who has difficulty with taking down holiday decorations, shoveling snow, or de-icing their car? Perhaps you could help with that. What about delivering small after-Christmas gifts or treats? (You can use these printable gift tags.) You could put out some birdseed and attract winter color and activity to your yard that everyone can enjoy. And if you have a real tree to dispose of, you can share with your neighbors when and where they can recycle theirs, as well.


The week between Christmas and New Year’s Day can be a special time of rest and renewal in so many ways. Here’s hoping you’re able to take time for yourself and also find opportunities to bless others during the final week of the year.