I've made my list of gifts and I've already done most of my shopping. I kind of shop all year long, picking up good deals or special gifts I find as I go. This helps reduce the insanity and also the blow to my budget. We've discussed our outdoor Christmas display; Scott and Adam have started to put up lights. I've gathered most of the supplies I need for the gifts I'm making. So, for the most part, I'm pretty much ready for what's coming next.
Yet, I am not ready at all.
In year's past, I've exhausted myself trying to make the best, most memorable Christmas for my family. It's not just buying the gift they want, or baking the treat they so desire. I'd kind of turned it into a cram-it-all-in list of activities trying to build meaning into this my most favorite holiday of all. I've insisted, in years' past, that we commemorate each day of Advent in both a fun and a spiritual way while also celebrating Hanukkah, visiting Santa, enduring Noel our mischevious elf, and participating in any and all other Christmasy activities that might come our way like Operation Christmas Child and the church program. And, of course, it's the busiest season of all for my Avon business.We won't even talk about my penchant for Christmas decor and my need to decorate EVERY room in the house including the bathrooms.
All good things. All great things. All things that push me to the limit. Every year. I've tried cutting back in previous years, but I still end up feeling wiped out by it all and begrudging what was once the most magical time of year for me.
This year, I've decided enough is enough. I will not continue to beat the Christmas horse to death.
So, I've spent much of this fall season reflecting on what makes Christmas truly special to me, the things that I just can't give up without feeling like I'm sacrificing my own love of the season. Here's what I'm cutting out this year:
- Handmade Christmas cards. It takes me weeks to make 150 cards by hand. I don't even feel like sending them out by the time they're done. And I'm pretty sure they end up in the same circular file that non-handmade cards do.
- Wrapping paper that matches my Christmas cards. Last year the theme was silver and blue bells, the year before it was owls. Yes, I really am that OCD about my holiday wrapping and cards. Correction: I WAS that OCD.
- Decorating our "main" tree to match the family room and then spreading out all our souvenir and memory-bearing ornaments throughout the house. I buy a special ornament every year and one from every vacation; seeing those memories is more special than some glittery thing I bought just because it goes with my color scheme.
- Doing multiple daily Advent activities. Do I really need to have three or four countdown calendars going plus two or three different Advent read-alouds? No.
- Decorating every room. The kids still want me to decorate their rooms and I will still decorate the "living spaces" of the house. But, every bathroom needs not a tree. Nor does our bedroom nor the guest room which will not be used this Christmas.
- Saying yes to every Christmas activity. Or every activity period.
- Insisting I do everything myself. The kids love to bake and decorate cookies. Why do I do it all myself? Silly.
- Silly deadlines. I used to always make sure all my shopping was done by November 1, all the wrapping was done by Thanksgiving and that my cards were sent out on December 1. So stupid. I did it because I thought it would alleviate the stress of December. It actually just extended the stress into November.
I'm sure there's more I could still cut out of my "traditions." But these are the things that really don't make a huge difference. When I asked my kids and husband what things we do, make and eat every Christmas, these are the things nobody cared about.
Things they did care about? Going to look at lights with hot cocoa as we have every year since Adam was born, making gingerbread houses, making and eating aebilskivers (Norwegian pancake balls - Scott's family's tradition) for Christmas Eve breakfast, and decorating the tree. Oh and they still want to countdown throughout Advent and celebrate Hanukkah.
For the first time in years, I'm pretty excited about Christmas. It doesn't feel like a burden. And it shouldn't. It's the season of our Savior's birth. That is cause to celebrate, not a reason to stress and to fill the schedule.
What are some of your traditions? What things can you cut from your holiday in order to enjoy the season more?