Does anyone keep Christmas in the traditional spirit anymore? You know … with kid-cut snowflakes in the windows; cookies put aside for family visits; craft projects and hours spent making gifts; real trees, decorated with holiday music in the background and a spirited eggnog by one’s side?
I thought not.
We all do our best this time of year, but we’ve become sad marionettes of Dickens’ Scrooge, sour-faced and annoyed, without meaning to be at all. Work, stress, lack of money, depression. They are the real elves of Christmas, lurking in every corner of our lives, just watching for the opportune moment to strike. We’re all wearing “Bah Humbug” T-shirts beneath our red-striped scarves and holiday sweaters.
Turn off that music; we don’t want to hear it. There’s too much to do, and nothing around us is going to step aside while we pursue Christmas cheer.
Don’t you envy those coworkers who save a week or two of vacation for the holidays each year, and then spend it on a trip to the Caribbean or an old-fashioned, everyone’s coming holiday celebration? I do. Truth is, I have the time because I work from home these days. But other conflicts interfere with the holiday joy only children and well-organized adults are left to feel.
Some folks are ill, and can’t participate in this end-of-the-year festiveness. Some have family members who are incarcerated, or loved ones serving in dangerous parts of the globe. Others are painfully aware that one crisis or another awaits them directly after the end of the year. Whatever the reason, Christmas is an overbearing ideal that most of us have no way of achieving.
So let’s do something different.
Take a look at the calendar; on Thursday, it’s Dec. 1. Black Friday is behind us (and if you’re like me, you didn’t go there). There’s not much time to think of a gift, much less mail it, on time for distant gift-giving.
Decide what really matters to you, and try to prioritize among cookie making, card giving, sewing or crafting, shopping, decorating, entertaining, making a huge meal. Be honest: some of that stuff is just a royal pain when you compare the time spent preparing against how much enjoyment you get out of it. What do you really love? Think about that carefully. You … really … love … what?
Now, make the harsh cuts. Chop the least important thing right off your list. Whack it. Now, the second least favorite or beneficial activity of the season. Take a deep breath. Go on, dump it.
Are you feeling any lighter? You will be, if you really meant what you just did. Keep chopping until you do, making sure not to cut anything that really matters to you.
Look at what’s left. In my case, it’s sending gifts to close friends and family, having a family Christmas Eve at church and in our homes the next day, putting up a fresh tree, and spending quiet time in a chair beside it, reading. That means I’ll do some shopping but I won’t be crafting anything, and I won’t be baking cookies unless I truly find a spare evening. The holiday cards may, or may not happen–but I’m not going to freak out if I don’t get to them, and this year it’s likely there will be fewer. I’ll prioritize those who seem to most enjoy receiving them.
I’ll make time to read from “A Christmas Carol,” and watch at least one version of the movie, because it’s a long-time favorite, as well as an excellent reminder of what matters most about Christmas. I’ll find perfect gifts for two little girls who call me Grandma, and enjoy dinner at their house on Christmas Day. I’ll make it to the midnight service, conscious that there is still much to love and comfort us in this life, despite the difficulties that lie ahead. And I’ll welcome friends who happen to stop in, although I’m not planning a party this year.
What I really want, and need, this Christmas is sanity, downtime and my family around me. That’s all. A good glass of eggnog might be welcome, and some orchestral hymns of the holiday. Even a viewing of “The Grinch Who Stole Christmas” would add to my holiday.
And what I’ll forgo is equally simple: hours of wrapping, baking, cleaning; foot-weary slogs through the local malls; that pervading sense of being short on time and out of energy.
Do it. Don’t be a slave to the demands of Christmas. Pick your own holiday and go for it. You’ll be happier — and that’s a key part of what the holiday should mean.