I started in 1990 the week after Thanksgiving! This was not a good time, but we were desperate. [To see why, go here]. At any rate Christmas and all its activities was looming.
I was so stressed out--I mean really! Ugh! School, decorating, shopping, cards, school, shipping presents--oh, my--I mean I was totally stressed out.
So, the next year I got smart. I planned for Christmas. We did no formal school for the two weeks before our Christmas break [for late middle/high school kids I did have them keep up with their math]. I had the kids help with cleaning, baking and addressing the Christmas cards. I had them help with wrapping presents, deliver goodies to neighbors and everything else there was to do. It was part of the school day.
In addition, I read great Christmas Classics--I read the Best Christmas Pageant Ever annually for 20 straight years. Several years I read the original Christmas Carol by Dickens aloud and then we watched the Mickey's Christmas Carol Cartoon. Christmas was fun and not stressful. The difference--I planned for Christmas, made it part of school and included the children as much as possible. The work got done and we were not stressed out at all.
So, my advice: Plan for the times you will be stressed and incorporate your children as much as possible.f