At this time of year, there are two types of people: Those who are giddy about the holidays and the rest of us. I fall into the second group.
In my house, December is a time of Christmas preparation. In principle, I like this iconic holiday and the spiritual significance it has for my family. But every year the hype leading up to Christmas seems to start earlier and earlier. Stores set up their Christmas displays in August, toy catalogs arrive in September and retailers play holiday music in October. The obsession with Christmas is too much, too soon. By the time December arrives, part of me just wants the holiday season to be over.
Despite my exasperation with the Christmas hype, I don’t want to be a Grinch. I envy the Christmas enthusiasts who buy matching holiday pajamas for their family and put up 14-foot Christmas trees. Believe me, I’ve tried to replicate this Yuletide passion. I work hard to create Christmas memories and traditions, arranging Santa visits, baking cookies and decorating the house. But in reality, these orchestrated moments often feel forced and are far from perfect. My son refuses to sit on Santa’s lap, short attention spans lead to half finished cookies and tensions rise when the Christmas lights inevitably don’t work.
The quest for the perfect Christmas
As a parent, I long to replicate the treasured Christmas memories from my childhood. I remember loving Christmas and all the family traditions it encompassed – Christmas Eve church services, neighborhood light tours, amazing holiday treats. Christmas felt so magical when I was a kid, and I want my kids to feel that magic too. But as an adult, creating a memorable Christmas creates a lot of pressure. Pressure to keep everyone happy. Pressure to have heartwarming family moments. Pressure to create the perfect memories.
I’ve realized that my desire for perfection may be ruining Christmas for me. I can’t control the outside expectations of what my family’s Christmas celebration should look like, but I can control my response. This year I want to let go of the perfect Christmas and instead focus on a genuine Christmas.
So this Christmas:
I choose calm instead of chaos. I will make space for quiet moments with my family and skip traditions that don’t bring us joy.
I choose relaxation instead of exhaustion. I will let go of the desire to do every holiday activity and be at every festival.
I choose peace instead of discontent. I will focus on enjoying real moments with my family, not creating Kodak moments.
I choose joy instead of stress. I will focus on the joy of gift giving and let go of the quest for the perfect gift.
I choose the sacred instead of the temporary. I will center myself on the deeper meaning of Christmas and the spiritual significance it has for my family.
This year my family’s Christmas will be far from perfect. It will be filled with tantrums, burnt cookies and flawed photos. But it will be OUR Christmas. And I have a feeling that these genuine moments will create the Christmas magic I’m longing for.