Christmas is crazy. There is no getting around it. Recitals and school programs dominate our calendars. Cookie swaps and get-togethers fill our evenings. Then there’s shopping and wrapping and trying to squeeze every last sugar-coated ounce of fun out of the Christmas season, because if we don’t, then our children won’t have blissful memories of mischievous elves on shelves or the warm glow of Christmas in their hearts to get them through the cold winter ahead.
It is our duty as moms to make Christmas count, right?
But, often what we end up with are memories of an exhausted mom snapping at her child because the kids are making a mess rather than a gingerbread house, or a frustrated dad who doesn’t understand why he had to trek out to the middle of a snowy field to saw down the perfect Christmas tree while his kids complain about frostbite.
So, I love my sister’s mantra for her holiday to-do list: “If I can't do it cheerfully and with loving kindness, then I don't do it.”
So simple, but so dead on. If I am not enjoying the trappings of the holiday season, then why do them at all? If I am begrudging the people I am serving or dreading one more Christmas activity, then what’s the point?
It’s only one month, and I get to choose how to fill those 25 days. Do I cram them full of so much hoopla that I am almost happy to stuff everything back into storage bins come Jan. 1? Or do I fill the moments with smiling memories of a few, select activities and then spend the rest of the time being with my loved ones or serving someone simply by sitting down with a cup of hot chocolate and listening?
This year, I trimmed my holiday to-do list substantially, and with my sister’s motto in mind, I took another whack at it. Here are a few things I cut this year because the joy to obligation ratio was skewed:
My annual Christmas card. Gasp! I know, I know. Blasphemy, right? It was a tough one for me, too, because I love sending out adorable pictures of my family to everyone I know. But for me, posting our adoption link on Facebook was much more valuable this year. So, in lieu of cards, I posted a cute photo of my family with a request to share our adoption story and link. This year, that brought me way more joy (and hope!) than a traditional card.
The shock-and-awe factor of Christmas morning. Every kid loves going into the family room on Christmas morning and being blown away by what Santa left. But this year, we scaled back our Christmas shopping and decided to give our kids an experience instead by taking them on a family trip. This not only saved us hours of shopping time, but will help us create memories instead of more piles of toys.
By cutting a few things this year, I have been able to focus more on our other holiday traditions. We have been baking together, playing games and rocking out to Mannheim Steamroller every night in the kitchen. We will do our annual girls trip to see "The Nutcracker," and we have spent a lot of evenings snuggled on the couch reading Christmas classics. My kids excitedly pull the next ornament from our advent calendar and my youngest daughter carries the baby Jesus in her backpack every day.
Our tree may be from Home Depot rather than a picturesque tree farm and there may be fewer presents under its branches this year, but I’m OK with that. I’ll take my hand-picked moments over a massive jumble of must-do memories any day.
How do you prioritize all the fun activities and obligations at Christmas?
Erin Stewart is a regular blogger. From stretch marks to the latest news for moms, she discusses it all while her 7-year-old and 4-year-old daughters dive-bomb off the couch behind her.