School parties, church concerts, four family get-togethers, Christmas lights, a coat drive, Operation Christmas Child, Angel Tree, cookie exchanges, a white elephant party, and so on, and on, and on and on and on! Let’s just put our (Christmas) cards on the table- this season is EXHAUSTING. It shouldn’t be, and it we had the energy to feel guilty about it, we probably would.
Here’s a truth that will set you free:
Christmas trappings are not the boss of you. Fold your arms, stomp your foot, and make it so!
I see three things going on that make us stamp our tickets to Crazyland:
First, there’s just so much really cool, really fun, really worthwhile stuff going at Christmas. There’s no getting around it- Christmas is a special time of year, complete with its own lights, smells, tastes, excitement, and human goodness. Of course, we want to drink deeply, and filling our calendar with so many once-a-year events feels right. And it is exciting (at first).
Second, we don’t want to deprive our kids of the best possible Christmas experience we can give them every year. In our minds, their childhood Christmas memories should be of seeing the “Nutcracker”, watching classic movies together, cupping mugs of hot cocoa as we sit by the fire and stare at our twinkly trees, driving through spectacular light displays, giving back to the needy in personal ways, and bonding with as much family as possible.
To crank up the pressure, we tend to feel like all of those things should be standing traditions. And we tell ourselves, “But it’s for the children!”
Third, I’m just going to say it. It’s the end of the year, and we feel like we have a lot of making up to do to “save” the year. Hurry, hurry, there are charitable gestures to make! Hurry, hurry, there’s family to see that we haven’t seen all year! Hurry, hurry, we only have one month to make the kids feel like they had a great year!
So, here’s where you tag out and don’t look back. Yes, there are TONS of cool Christmas-y things to do, but they don’t feel cool or special if they are piled on top of each other. And yes, we want to give our kids a great Christmas experience, but let’s take fifteen minutes to reflect on what that would actually be. Christmas isn’t a theme park, people. And as far as playing a frantic game of “catch up” in December, just shrug and blow it off. There’s nothing truly worthwhile you do in December that you can’t do in January…or May.
Instead, I propose this: Plan a simple Christmas kick-off of some kind, such as setting up the tree or making a fire, and then ask everyone what the few things they most want to do this Christmas are. You are all going to pick and choose the best of the very best for your family this year. You may be surprised. Your kids may want to do stuff you’ve done before, or they may want to try something new. What will knock your toe socks off will be when you don’t hear them rattle off a list of fifteen things they absolutely have to do this Christmas. Believe me, they feel frazzled, too, and they are looking for a leader to get them out of it.
Take back Christmas with one word: simplify.
Every good idea isn’t a great idea for your family. It’s okay not to make a new wreath by hand every year or do Elf on a Shelf. The kids will be fine, and they won’t even feel deprived. I swear. By simplifying the season way, way down, you will enjoy it more, remember more, and find that you have the peace and connection to focus on what really matters.
If Jesus’ birth becomes a blur in the pace of December, you’re doing it wrong. That’s not to make you feel bad, but to reinforce that you have permission to say “no” to a whole lot of things. If you haven’t done that before, you are about to give yourself the Christmas gift of a lifetime!
My own family did this very thing last year. I told my husband, “Enough is enough. Let’s purposefully decide as a family what we care about, and enjoy the power of ‘no’ to everything else.” It was a great Christmas. And even though I can’t remember the short list of things we chose, what I do remember is time with the kids, talking to them, seeing their faces, and enjoying the time off together. We actually remember whose turn it is to set up the nativity because (pause) we remember it being set up last year! We remember new Christmas songs we loved last year because they weren’t just background noise.
December is right around the corner, so this is the perfect time. I recently did this with my family around our first outdoor fire of the season. I’m telling you, this is a strategy that promises joy and freedom. Be counter-cultural, and enjoy the Christmas season. Go even crazier when you find that you have time and energy to make it meaningful and spiritual!
I’m sure there are other strategies that are simple, but game-changers. Since we’re on the subject, what have you done that has redeemed Christmas? How are you making it less hectic and draining? What are the things your family would choose to do if they could only choose a few things? I can’t wait to hear from you!