Families everywhere are planning for the holidays. If you own a East Tennessee lake home, it can be a beautiful Christmas getaway for you, family and friends.

Whether your family celebrates Christmas, Hanukkah, or any other holiday, here are some tips to help you get ready for a fun, relaxing holiday at Norris Lake.

Getting started

Invite guests well in advance. A group email or online invitation can help with this. Keep track of who will be spending the night, and when they will arrive.

For overnight guests, plan sleeping arrangements ahead of time. For example, older family members might not appreciate climbing the stairs to an upstairs bedroom, while children can often share rooms. 

A warm, inviting fireplace can get anyone in the holiday spirit. Clean out any wood-burning fireplaces, and remember to open the damper before lighting.

Be sure to send directions ahead of time to any first-time guests. Many lake properties are situated in secluded, rural areas with limited cell phone or GPS service.

It’s cold outside! People often underestimate the chill of a lake in the fall. Packing a few extra blankets, jackets and sweatshirts can help everyone stay cozy.

Planning the menu

This is one of the biggest expenses of a family gathering. Whether you “go potluck” or bring everything yourself, be sure to plan ahead! Coordinating with your family members can save you hours of work.

If you don’t live at your lake home, make sure you can either transport the food safely, or have a reliable grocery store nearby. Remember that many stores close (or close early) on Christmas Eve, and don’t open again until the 26th! Raw meat (such as a Christmas turkey) should always be kept in a cooler if it’s being transported more than thirty minutes.

The big dinner is important, but remember to plan for all the other meals, too! Breakfast foods, coffee, snacks, and other essentials are also necessary. Tupperware or other storage containers are a great idea, too, especially if you have a large family.

If you don’t thought the idea of cooking a huge meal, consider ordering a turkey or ham from a nearby market or grocery store. Ordered in advance, these can usually be picked up on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day.

You Shouldn’t Have!

If you plan to exchange Christmas gifts, be sure to let everyone know ahead of time! Remember, many younger families (especially those with children) cannot afford to buy gifts for everyone at a large gathering. Today, many families choose not to exchange gifts, or limit their gift-giving to the children or grandchildren. Others minimize things with the time-honored “Secret Santa” method. That way, everyone can concentrate on what’s important – spending time with those they care about.

If you do exchange gifts, make sure there is a place to store all the presents! Even if you don’t have a Christmas tree, a spot near the fireplace (well away from the flames) can work just as well. Or you can make a mountain of gifts on the dining room table!

Having some wrapping paper (and tape) on hand can be a real life saver. After the kids have gone to bed, wrapping gifts over a bottle of wine is a great way to close out Christmas Eve.

What to do, what to do…

So the big day has come, dinner is finished, and all the gifts are unwrapped. What comes next (other than digesting)?

If you’re looking for things to do, chances are there are plenty of activities near your lake home! Even though it’s too cold to go swimming, you can still enjoy the local community attractions. Check the community calendar in the weeks beforehand for Christmas parades, plays and other family-friendly events.

If it’s not too cold, there are amazing thing to see when taking a hike on one of the east Tennessee lakes that you don't get a chance to see in the summer. We have found water falls hidden in the foliage in the summer months.  

Board games, looking through family albums, and watching “It’s A Wonderful Life” are time-honored traditions, too. And there’s nothing quite like watching a winter sunset over the lake from behind a steaming cup of coffee or hot chocolate.

Whether you’re planning a huge family gathering or a romantic getaway for two, we wish you a happy holiday season, and a happy new year.