We all want to create magical memories, but magical memories are often elusive. We start out the month with the best of intentions, determined that this will be the year we bake, craft, and work some Christmas magic into our lives. Then real life happens and before we know it, Christmas is over and our best laid plans never got off the ground. I’ve found three simple rules keep me on track: Let go, Get Intentional , and Lead with Love.
Let go of the financial expectations! Studies show that kids who receive fewer Christmas presents are happier…really, I read that somewhere. But honestly, haven’t we all gone overboard and under all the Christmas celebrating also felt a bit of dread over the cost of it all? It’s not worth it. Spending money is NOT the key to a good holiday, nor does spending money convey the true meaning of Christmas.
Be honest with friends and family about whether you want to exchange gifts this year, set parameters. Feel empowered to set healthy limits and stick to them. Overextending will steal the peace that is supposed to mark the season.
If you don’t you’ll likely end up with a bunch of junk (sorry, but it’s true) that will be cluttering up your house come July. I see silly plastic reindeer that poop, cheap toys from the dollar store that went in a stocking and were forgotten 5 minutes after being opened. Forget about the plastic gag gifts that will be sitting in a landfill for the next few centuries.
Let go of the FOMO, the fear of missing out, (or fear that your children will miss out). FOMO can be the death of a meaningful Christmas season because we over-commit to activities and expenses that actually keep us from enjoying the holiday.
Paradoxically, the fear of missing out CAUSES us to miss out. We miss out on the magic that comes from sitting quietly enjoying the beauty of a lit Christmas tree. We miss out on the joy of quiet time with family curled up with a favorite Christmas story. We miss out on the silliness of badly decorated Christmas cookies baked by kids.
Let go of the social gatherings that are a burden. You don’t have to attend every community event, every work party, or every friend’s gathering! You can say no. Let go of the guilt, people are actually aware that the season is busy and that you can’t be at everything. No one will hate you if you can’t attend. Community and connection with loved ones is central to adding meaning to your holiday season. However, many social gatherings are a burden, keeping us from spending time with those most important to us.
And if you are a home educator, let go of the usual school schedule. Your child’s education will not be ruined if you allow yourself to slack off a bit this month. My basic rule of thumb was we did math, reading and writing no matter what. And, as much as possible, for December, I tried to incorporate schoolwork into our Christmas preparations.
Realistically, there are only a few short weeks during the Christmas season, you can’t do everything. We all know that we need to prioritize, but are often unsuccessful.
I’m sure you’ve heard the saying that “everything you say yes to means saying no to something else”.
Often what you are saying no to are the quiet, relaxed moments that allow contemplation or connection with loved ones. Because we don’t schedule time for those special moments we allow our calendars to fill without thought and soon there is no space for the unplanned evening of reading Christmas stories to a child, or sitting in front of the tree with a cup of hot chocolate.
Prioritizing is Key! The real danger is that the truly important elements that imbue Christmas with meaning are the ones we fail to put on our calendars. We say that having extended, relaxed family together time is the goal of the season, and then because there is nothing on our calendar on Tuesday and Thursday night we say yes to events on those days, and before we know it we’ve eliminated all of the quiet, relaxed family time from our schedule. Ugh!
Be intentional about carving out the time to contemplate and enjoy this special time of the year. Be fully present with loved ones, in worship, or in solitude. Create enough space for your children to be caught up in the joy, peace, and hope of Christmas. This meaningful engagement can’t happen in rushed moments.
Moms and Dads, you have a choice! There is so much that needs to get done, or so it feels. We rush, shop, bake, wrap, until our heads spin, and often, we feel we don’t have a choice. However, we CAN choose to slow down the madness. Often the stress, rush, and insanity we bring on ourselves.
Don’t give away the power of no. Decide what’s important for you personally and for your family. Have a family conference and discover what traditions and activities are most important to your loved ones.
Armed with that knowledge make choices, be intentional, and say yes only when you mean it. Every time we say yes to an activity we say no to something else. Consider carefully.
I love decking my house out for the holidays. I’m certainly no Scrooge.
However, If your house is spotless, every decoration perfectly placed, and every cookie looks like Martha Stewart iced it, but your guests don’t feel loved, welcomed, and valued (or like a dropped crumb or spilled drink will be the end of the world as we know it)…then it was all for nothing.
If your Christmas card shows a picture perfect family, every gift is expertly wrapped, the appetizers are Pinterest worthy, but your children have spent weeks being yelled at, pushed to the side so that you can ‘get everything done’ and been rushed from one hectic errand to the next…it was all for nothing.
Love, love is why Christ came. Love is the reason we celebrate. Love is what we want to be known by. When you find yourself questioning whether Christmas is worth all of the trouble, or wondering where to invest the energy and money you have, let love be your guide.
Love God, love your family, show love to the world during this holy season. Everything else is secondary.
Adding in some Art. Teaching art is the theme around here, so it’s probably no surprise that I’d encourage you to include in your December plans an exploration of religious art focused on the Christmas story. Art can be an innovative and enriching tradition to consider including. I’ve posted plenty of essays about Christmas art, you can begin exploring here.
I’ve written a Christmas Art History Lesson that requires no preparation, but provides a wonderful introduction to the Northern Renaissance. Check it out here.