The December holidays may be weeks away, but they will be here before we know it. Take the time to prepare for the busy holiday season ahead during the month of November, so you can actually relax and enjoy the festivities in December.

1. Send out holiday cards.

Don't wait until the last minute to send out those holiday cards; get them done now. Whether you write a letter, stick with pictures of your kids, or just sign your name to some beautiful greeting cards, there's no reason you can't do this during November. Mail them the day after Thanksgiving and check them off your list.

2. Start baking.

Baking cookies and other holiday goodies is one of the joys of the season — unless you're in a last-minute rush. Think now about which varieties you plan to make, and stock up on the necessary ingredients. You can even make and freeze cookie dough now, so all you will need to do in December is bake up a batch of fresh, homemade cookies whenever you need them.

3. Decorate.

Traditionally, I like to have my Christmas decorations up by Thanksgiving. If you prefer to wait and decorate in December, spend time shopping for and organizing your holiday decor during the month of November so you can accomplish the task easily when you're ready to go.

4. Mark your calendar.

December is a busy month when you aren't prepared. Choose a day in November to sit down with your calendar and a cup of coffee and pencil in parties, school functions, and holiday events. Check local parenting magazines and websites for family-friendly fun you don't want to miss.

5. Buy an Advent Calendar.

An Advent Calendar is a fun and simple way to count down to Christmas with your kids. Every year, I plan to do this, and every year December 1st sneaks up on me. This year, I'll spend time in November looking through these 35 Great Homemade Advent Calendar Ideas, though in all honesty I'll probably just end up buying one at the store. But at least I'll be prepared.

6. Start (or finish) your shopping.

Forget the stress of last-minute shopping; hit the stores now. Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Small Business Saturday — and now even Thanksgiving Day — all yield excellent deals for shoppers. Even if you can't find all the perfect gifts yet, you can brainstorm and window shop and be that much closer to a pile of presents, wrapped beneath the tree.

7. Prioritize.

Don't get caught up in the frenzy of the holidays; sit down with your family during November and decide which traditions you can't live without and which ones create too much stress for everyone involved. Start the month of December feeling calm and prepared, and you and your family might just enjoy the magic of the holiday season like never before.

Do you prepare for Christmas ahead of time? Or do you wait and do everything during the month of December?