Thanksgiving used to be a “purer” holiday. No Black Friday. No Cyber Monday. Just family, friends, food, and football—along with being thankful for our many blessings. Commercialism hadn’t dug its talons into Thanksgiving yet—not like it had done to Christmas years ago.
Christmas has so much hoopla and hubbub surrounding it that it is easy to lose sight of why it came to be a holiday in the first place. It seems each year the pressure to have the “best” Christmas pushes earlier and harder.
It’s so easy to get caught up in the swirl of it all.
Over the last few years, though, I have made a conscious effort to push back. While some of the choices are a result of tighter finances, some are from my desire to simplify and stop the madness. I am fighting the vortex that wants to pull me in and cloud my vision with the “stuff” of the season—rather than the Reason for the season.
A few Decembers ago, the month was jammed—I was either scrambling to get things ready or scrambling to be at whatever it was that I was scrambling to get ready for. I could have easily won the “dog chasing her own tail” contest.
And then a little question popped into my head: why?
Yes, there were the things I was committed to doing—like getting the house decorated and ready to entertain—but what else was I taking on? And why?
Asking why made me opt out of a thing or two. Though the yearly cookie exchange was a tradition, I stepped back and asked myself why was I adding on the additional tasks of choosing the right recipe, shopping, and baking dozens of cookies when time was already so precious. It wasn’t because I love to bake—because I don’t. And while the cookies I came home with were (mostly) delicious and the couple of hours with friends was nice, I realized that it wasn’t worth the additional stress in a month already crammed with stress. (Though February would be a great month for such a thing!)
I realized it was time to say “no thank you” to the cookie exchange. Exhale.
And then there was our Christmas letter. For years I had crafted the Roach Report, which was a whimsical little newsletter of updates and photos. People always said they loved receiving it because it was fun to read, but it also took time to put together. And, quite frankly, our life events of late were getting a little harder to share in an amusing way: “Another job loss!” or “My mom nearly died!” are not exactly smile-inducing headlines. In my heart, I realized that—at least for now—the Roach Report was on hiatus. No writing, designing, printing, stuffing, stamping, or mailing. Exhale.
Some simplifiers come from necessary belt tightening due to job loss(es. Yes, plural. I told you the Christmas letter would be a downer!) Less money means fewer gifts, and fewer gifts means less to shop for and wrap! Staff parties are no longer on the calendar when you no longer belong to a staff, either! Simplify, simplify! Exhale.
For years, family and friends have come to our house to celebrate on Christmas Day. It’s “my” family holiday. Except for last year. As my sister’s kids get older and have significant others to plan around, coming down to our house on Christmas Day has become difficult. So last year, for the first time…my sister had Christmas at her house. At first, it was hard for me to acquiesce to losing “my” holiday, but…you know what? I realized how nice it was just to BE for Christmas. With the absence of the planning/cooking/doing, there was a whole different perspective to the day. It was so relaxing! Exhale.
Now, mind you—I will be, at least in part, hosting again this year—but I don’t want to forget the lesson of what the reduced stress felt like. There is middle ground to be had—and I’m going to find it if it kills me! (Which would be kind of ironic, given what I’m striving for…)
I’ve come to truly understand over these last few years how paring down does not mean losing the spirit of Christmas at all. In fact, it actually increases the true spirit behind the holiday. As a Christian, for me Christmas is the celebration of the coming of Christ (or, as Ricky Bobby would say, “dear 8 pound, 6 ounce newborn infant Jesus”)—that is THE reason for the season. Not Santa or decorated trees or ugly sweaters—not even family. Calming some of the chaos of the season only helps me to feel that more deeply. My heart draws closer to the Love that came for me. And you.
I’m not here to preach to you how you should handle your holidays. Nope. But I am here to say that losing some of the insanity of the season works for me and maybe it will work for you, too. I am encouraging you to fight the vortex—don’t let the holiday “spirit” deplete your Spirit.
Maybe you are already feeling the tug and stress of all of the HaveTos facing you and thinking there is no way that you can realistically stop the madness. If that is where you find yourself, I hope that you are at least able to carve out moments to exhale and feel the Spirit. While stopping may be impossible, let’s at least make it a point to hit a few rest stops along the way!