Christmas makes me tired, y’all. Am I the only one? Somehow, in this season when we are supposed to be celebrating Christ’s birth, there’s barely any time at all to consider Him.
The pressure of being a Mom and trying to orchestrate the “perfect” family holiday weighs me down. The expectations of my kids and extended family are many and varied, and I don’t want to disappoint anyone. Never mind that perfection is not attainable. I know that, but it doesn’t seem to stop this perfectionist from trying. Every year I say I’m going to scale back and every year I find myself mired in the muck of “shoulds”.
I will admit that much of that pressure is self-imposed. I want my kids to look back at their childhood Christmases and remember them as magical. I want to make lifelong memories. I want them to carry traditions into their own homes one day. And yet when I look back at my childhood Christmases, there was nothing particularly magical about them. The best part was being with my family. Okay, and getting presents. I was a kid – of course it was about the presents. But it was also singing Christmas carols at church, and watching Peanuts and The Grinch on TV, my Grandma’s homemade candy, and the anticipation – oh, the anticipation!
(I might also mention here that I have one child for whom the anticipation of Christmas is more than she can handle, and we do some things differently around here because of that. It also gives me more incentive to keep Christmas simple and low-key, two things that I would struggle with anyway. Because I want to do it BIG and SPECIAL and FUN, yet sacred and sweet. More pressure.)
In addition to the pressure I put on myself, there is pressure from the outside world. Advertisers want me to believe that their product is the only gift that will make my family happy. (Side note: car companies need to stop advertising their vehicles as Christmas gifts. Who buys someone a car for Christmas? Seriously. Stop it.) Furthermore, if I don’t supervise my children’s TV habits, they might become convinced that their eternal happiness depends on the next hot toy to come along. (Hatchimals, anyone?) It’s a lot of work.
Charities all want me to donate to their worthy cause, and I really want to help. There are so many needs this time of year, but also just as many, if not more, needs the rest of the year. Donating at Christmas is wonderful, but I should think about those organizations the rest of the year too. People are not only in need at Christmas. And I shouldn’t make myself feel guilty when I walk past the bell ringer with the red kettle without putting money in it, especially when I have donated the other 42 times I passed one on my way into a store this season. (That’s on me, not them.)
And the activities! Besides all the optional ones (Santa! Christmas lights! Parades! Parties!) there are some you really can’t avoid without ramifications (school Christmas concerts, for example, or gift shopping). So. Much. To. Do. And yet we can’t do it all, even though we might feel we have to try. Baking cookies, watching Christmas movies, decorating the tree – even the fun stuff can feel like pressure when it’s added to the other demands on our time.
(Have you ever listened to the words of the song, “Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow”? Who are these people who have no place to go? Are they even real?)
I hear people saying, “Have a Merry Christmas!” and I wonder, How? How do you have a Merry Christmas? What makes a Christmas “merry”? What is considered merry enough? And that feels like additional pressure. If I don’t feel merry and help my loved ones feel merry, have I failed at Christmas? Is that possible? Because I don’t think God’s intention in sending us a Messiah was to cause us shame. He came to save us from our sins and show us how to love each other, and it wasn’t necessarily by putting on a Pinterest-perfect Christmas dinner. (But if that’s your love language, by all means, go for it!)
What if instead of looking internally for my Christmas I looked up? What if instead of all the voices telling me what I “should” do/buy/give/be, I listened to His voice? That sounds simple but we don’t live in a vacuum and the world continues moving whether we keep up or not. What if we stepped off the merry-go-round and sat still for a few minutes a day?
More practically, what if we stopped to think about what makes Christmas special for our family? Not the ones on TV commercials or in Hallmark movies, but our own special, unique family. Is it baking cookies? Then do that. Does watching The Polar Express make your Christmas merrier? Watch it, complete with hot chocolate and pajamas, or without. Do the Christmas lights make your head hurt? Then skip it. Don’t feel like you have to live up to someone else’s idea of Christmas. Give yourself permission to do YOUR Christmas.
I long for the day when I can look at holiday photos on social media and don’t feel even a hint of envy. I’m not there yet, by any means, but I’m getting there. There is no “perfect” Christmas. There is only the one that is right for your family.
Wishing you the merriest Christmas ever! But no pressure.