It’s here! The most wonderful time of the year. Right?
As I’ve gotten older, Christmas has slowly gone from my favorite season to my least favorite season. One month to cram in a slew of responsibilities, parties to attend, projects and shows at school, and presents to buy. More and more presents to buy! And don’t get me started on the cookie exchanges! All while juggling a full-time job, a family, and the regular routines. So what has happened historically? I usually tell myself I can’t turn down any of these events for risk of being perceived as an Ebenezer Scrooge, so instead I join in the 50 different activities in a span of 25 days and stress through every minute of them all. The month of December comes and goes and never once do I get to sit down, breathe, and enjoy the season.
It sometimes seems hard to remember what made Christmas so special as a child. The good news is, my kids are finally getting old enough to love the holiday, so I’m getting a refreshing reminder. It’s the lights, the music, the hot cider, and the people! Most importantly the people. All my son talks about are seeing his cousins, his grandparents, aunts and uncles, etc. That’s really what makes him light up. But even the other things, sometimes basic things, bring him so much joy that it reminds me how many little moments joy I miss each day. The other day, while hanging the ornaments, he looked at me with such wonder in his eyes and said, “Thank you, Mommy! Thank you, for my decorations!” This thing, that was just another chore on my list for the weekend, was sheer bliss for him. How many times am I caught up in the list that I can’t see anything else? How many times do I speed through something without taking the time to really get excited about it? To really say a heartfelt, “Thank you!” for it…
This year I’m working hard to bring the magic back. It really can be a magically time, even for adults, but we must approach it with the right mindset. I’m no expert, but I am thinking a lot about intentional living. So this year, here is my plan of attack:
Establish Your Priorities at the Beginning of the Season
My husband shared this tip after reading The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey. If highly effective people make mission statements, then why can’t we promote effectiveness in our home lives by doing the same? The spin he put on it, however, was that we should be doing this with various roles/areas of our lives. This Christmas, sit down with your journal and write your mission statement, your vision for the season, and the values you want at the core of the season. If your vision is to host parties and gather people around, then tailor the rest of your activities so you can make this happen. Not going to be able to hand make your kids’ Christmas parade costume and cook for 25 people in one night? Order the costume online so you can enjoy the party. But if your vision is to sit down with the kids and make outfits by hand together, then cancel the dinner party. You can’t do everything, so set your priorities.
Streamline Gift Giving
I am a planner, so I used to start my shopping in November to get ahead. But no matter how strategic I was, I still ended up doing some last minute shopping the week of Christmas. So instead of helping myself, I just extended the consumerism part of Christmas that I hate so that it plagued me all Christmas long. This year, I started coming up with ideas in November and keeping a list on my phone, and waited until December hit to shop for it all in one big swoop. I’m still being efficient (I’m getting lots of good Cyber deals!), but I’m not dealing with for months.
I also, got an amazing idea from my friend, Natalie, this year. We both love organic lotions with essential oils, so instead of coming up with gifts for the entire extended family that they may or may not use, we are making couple gifts of body butter and shaving cream with essential oils. These will almost certainly get used, they’ll smell great, and they’ll come with love and intention behind them! I’ve ordered bulk supplies and we are going to sit down and play Christmas music, drink cider and make them together. I consider this a win win!
Less is More
The year the twins were born (and we had three kids under the age of two) we put up a Christmas tree, no more. I thought I would have missed a house full of decorations, but in reality, I didn’t notice at all because I was so busy feeding babies! Sometimes we get in a habit of doing things just because it’s what you do. I’m not saying don’t decorate your house, but be intentional about what you do. If it’s a tradition that everyone enjoys to do together, then go all out! But if it’s just one more hassle and extra chore that bogs you down, it’s okay to be the dark house on the street! Life will go on. The same goes for the activities you do, the parties you host, and the presents you buy.
Welcome Imperfection with Open Arms
I cannot stress this one enough. This has been the hardest one for me to embrace as time has gone on. I used to be a Type A Perfectionist who loved trying to make things look like the Real Simple cover. I knew I could make beautiful sugar cookies for a cookie exchange, so I told myself had to pull it off. My anxiety cared so much about how people perceived me. But when you find yourself out of time, out of ingredients, and out of energy, the answer isn’t to push yourself more to pull it off, the answer is to be totally imperfect and throw in the towel. Show up with brownies or cupcakes because that’s what box mix you had in the house (you rebel you!) or buy something on the way to work the next morning. In all reality, no one will care how perfect your cookies are or how perfect your execution is. No one will really even remember who brought what in a few days. What they will care about and will remember, is how happy or how cranky you were when you showed up for the glorious cookie exchange.
Don’t have enough time or energy to hang lights all over your house? It’s ok! Kids destroyed the gingerbread house? At least they had fun. That fancy dinner party you wanted to host? Who cares if the tablescape looks like a Pinterest post? Who cares if you accidentally burn the turkey? Whip out the chips and salsa and people will live. What they will remember is how you made them feel and the company you kept (and maybe if the cocktails were good!). Did you run out of scotch tape while wrapping all your gifts? Don’t ruin your night by running out to Target at 10pm! Stick a little duck tape or glue on there and move on. People will get a good laugh, but life will go on. Those of you reading this without anxiety may chuckle at these silly examples, but those of you with anxiety will get me. These are the little things that added up can break down the Christmas season. The magic we felt as kids was organic. So why are we forcing magic as adults?!
Breathe and Find Gratitude
Not much to say about this one. It’s basic, but many of us will forget to do it. It may look differently to you than it does to me. You do you. Pray, journal, meditate, sip cocoa in silence, sit by a fire… Inhale, exhale, and take a moment to be grateful for whatever you have in your life (I promise, everyone has something to be grateful for). “It is not joy that makes us grateful; it is gratitude that makes us joyful.” - David Steindl-Rast