I remember the first year that Christmas stopped being magical and became more about the overwhelming amount of tasks at hand. The last nail in the coffin of childhood had been securely hammered and now I was the grown up, the one in charge of making it all happen. In my mind there was a list of things that needed to happen, in order for it to be Christmas. You know the kinds of things I’m talking about. All the traditional stuff: tree trimming, decorating, baking, shopping, wrapping, mailing packages, sending out Christmas cards to dear ones. I didn’t even have kids yet. But, I was married. I was a responsible person. I was a part of a separate household now and I felt that I “should” make all of these things happen. I was overwhelmed.
Looking back, what I really needed was a Chill Pill. Kevin certainly didn’t care. All of those Christmas expectations were self-imposed.
Traditional Christmas observations are good things. They can even be super fun. I love sending and receiving cards! Once the tree is lit, I love seeing it grace our living room. But the point is to do things because they are meaningful and important, not simply to check off tasks on a to-do list.
The point is not to simply go through the motions. The point is Joy.
Several years ago a veil fell off my eyes. Our kids were still young but growing quickly. I realized that there were a lot of things I was doing that didn’t really matter to them, or to me. So, we stopped doing them. I stopped caring if there was homemade popcorn and cranberry garland on the tree. This year, the kids decorated the tree all by themselves and I still haven’t taken time to rearrange the ornaments. The tree is heavily lopsided but the kids think it’s magnificent. That’s enough for me.
Here are the things my kids care about at Christmas: listening to Christmas music, visiting the Children’s museum as much as possible to play and ride the Yule Slide, making and decorating cookies, and exchanging gifts. I always take them to the dollar store so they can pick out gifts to give, just from them. They wrap their own gifts, even the four-year-old. They get a big kick out of that. We also do some simple advent stuff that I think they enjoy. They also enjoy a car ride in their PJs to look at lights. It’s so simple, but it’s magical to them.
Here is what I care about: listening to lots of sacred Christmas music, attending one or two festive events, sending Christmas cards, having time to enjoy my family and not be totally stressed out.
So, after prioritizing things, and focusing on what we really care about, all of us are a lot happier.
Another thing that has helped me tremendously … starting early! As soon as the weather turns cold, I start brainstorming gift ideas and use an app on my phone to stay organized. I mark my calendar in mid-November to start thinking about Christmas cards. (That way they might actually get sent by mid-December!) If I do those two things, there’s a whole lot more peace and joy at Christmastime.
This year I am really looking forward to Christmas with my family. There is anticipation. There is Joy.