Don’t look now! Christmas is only 3 months away. What have you done to prepare? Since having children, I have tried to find a balance between the “perfect” Christmas and the enjoyable Christmas. I found my holiday season becoming crazy and frustrating and the next thing I knew, it was Christmas Eve and I had not really enjoyed any of it. My husband did not grow up celebrating the usual American holidays and he had an interesting perspective on it all. He asked me what would happen if I dropped some of the things on my list.
It was an interesting question. The answer, it turns out, was “not much.” I sat down and gave it some serious thought and I discovered that for me, less is more. What I really wanted for the holidays was to enjoy the sights, sounds and smells. I wanted to enjoy good food and good company and of course, to celebrate our Savior’s birth. I think the children want the same things. So I pared everything down to the things that we would miss the most.
* Lights on the house.
* Christmas cookies.
* A tree decorated early in the season.
* Christmas music playing as often as possible.
* Christmas Eve mass.
* Tamales on Christmas Eve.
* A few gifts, not a lot, just a few.
Everything else is optional. Everything. If our family kept just to this short list, our Christmas season would be wonderful. I would certainly like to decorate my house beyond just the tree, but to be honest, sometimes that becomes stressful. So I concentrate on getting the tree up during Thanksgiving weekend. I leave the boxes of decorations out for a week. In my spare time, I go through them and put out what I can. At the end of the week, the boxes get put away. Some years we have decorated more extensively than others. And that’s ok. The most important thing for us- the tree- is done.
I had to really change my thinking for this. It was hard to just not do some things I’ve always done. At the time, Boo was our only child and was just over a year old. Philip reminded me that he didn’t really care about most of these things. I came to realize that some of our family traditions didn’t need to be given up completely. Some of them would just wait until the children were older and better able to appreciate them (and help!). And as they have gotten older, new traditions have been added. We now participate in an angel tree, trying to find children with similar ages to our children. We let them pick out the gifts for the needy children. And now that Philip is a Christian, he expressed a desire to incorporate an Advent wreath into our preparations. The children also have their favorite decorations that I make a point of putting out as soon as the tree is up.
So add Buy gifts for the Angel Tree and Advent Wreath to our list and there are only 9 must do Christmas traditions for our family. Definitely managable. Then, as time, energy and resources allow, we add other things in. Regardless, our season is peaceful and enjoyable.
If you find yourself wishing for a simpler Christmas, start by examining your “must do” list. Take the time right now, this week, while it’s still September. Ask yourself, “What will happen if we don’t do this this year?” If the answer is, “I’ll be relieved” or “No one will notice,” then that’s something that can be dropped. Maybe it’s something that could be set aside during this season of your life, to be revived at a better time. Of course, if the answer is “It wouldn’t be Christmas without it”, then by all means, make sure it happens.
Be careful of doing things that stress you out just because someone else, especially outside your family, expects you to. See what you can do to delegate some of those responsibilities or enlist as much help as possible. Not necessarily service orientated things, but stuff like hosting the family Christmas party just because you’ve done it every year. If you don’t really enjoy it, maybe it’s time your sister and brother-in-law host it.
Remember it’s not things and activities that make a good holiday. It’s family enjoying time together, doing things they care about, that matters.