Growing up, I had the most beautiful Christmas experiences. I would spend Christmas Eve getting dressed up, curling my hair, and then my family would attend a candlelit church service together. We would come home to one of mom’s delicious meals and then gather around together to open gifts and play games. We would laugh, cry, and just be. I wanted all Christmases to be this way.
Once I became a mom, Christmas became very different. It became something I could no longer recognize as beautiful. I have, and will always, love Christmas but I would say these past few years looked somewhat like a meme: a stressed-out mom who does it all to ensure her children get the ‘Christmas experience’. I was trying to hold our Christmas to a societal standard. I had not meant for it to be this way but here I was: doing lots of stuff.
I ran around buying gifts and then went again to get more gifts for people whom I had forgotten. I scurried to put together a great Christmas card before the Thanksgiving weekend ended so it would arrive in time for me to send them to friends and family. I also had the dilemma of ensuring I purchased enough because I would forget someone, more people gave me cards than I anticipated and I hadn’t been thoughtful enough to give one to them. I coordinated schedules to ensure all the grandparents got Christmas with my children. I hosted an annual party for friends and family. We drove to look at Christmas lights around town. I attended my kids' holiday program. I decorated the house like a winter wonderland. All these things on top of my full-time job, my husband coaching basketball, regular mom duties, and house chores.
No one asked me to do these things but somehow I was doing it anyway. I felt exhausted, tired, and drained. I had lost my child-like excitement that I started each season with through all the tasks I had manifested.
As this Christmas season came around, I knew it had to be different. I had to be different.
I intentionally chose a new path. I decided I would not live like I had before. These decisions are becoming more natural as it is something I have been doing for the past year; intentionally choosing an unknown, unfamiliar path to me.
So what has been different this year? As I reflect on it, here are the things that have changed.
I have not bought any gifts or spent time shopping at stores. We went to a crafting store and bought a few items to create our own gifts for our families. The kids each made one item that reminded them of their grandparents. I was not really sure how this would go, but with my new attitude, I just allowed them to be creative and make. Each one turned out super cute. It feels more heart-filled and special. It was fun for us to do this together. This is a tradition we will plan to keep.
I have taken two days off: one to set up my Christmas trees and the other to just stay home and read books by the fireplace. I started taking days just for me a couple years ago. I have increased their frequency this year (I try for one a month.)
I set up my trees on November 1. I have had two months to enjoy the beauty of them. I used to want the boys to help me. I wanted this beautiful picture of talking about all the memories the ornaments remind us of. In reality, I was trying to corral them and convince them not to throw the ornaments to each other or to stop hitting one another while we worked. It was stressful. I think I can make this a possible goal for the future but right now, they are not interested and I am okay with this. I would rather enjoy decorating my tree by myself than attempting to create an unattainable picture right now.
I have sat in reflection of my choices and felt the joy of being home, being present, being mindful. I get up early each morning to take a bath, read, or write. Occasionally I will even do a light workout. This time has increased my peaceful state.
I did not throw my usual Ugly Sweater Christmas party. I planned to and then it just wasn’t going to work so we unplanned it. I usually spend an entire day cleaning and preparing for this. Now I have this whole day back.
I hosted a school art show and made my own piece to display. My painting showed my true feelings this Christmas season. I was able to be creative and help others to do this too. Watching the families see what their children created made my heart happy. Each reflected on their own traditions through art.
Finally, the biggest difference is me.
I am peaceful, flexible, cheerful. I find myself smiling as I watch the snow, lazily napping as I read books, and snuggling with my boys while we watch as many Christmas movies as they will tolerate.
I have retreated into my own world. I sit by my tree each night and look at the lights, the ornaments of memories. I reflect on all my blessings. I pray for health, happiness, and guidance. I wake up and have coffee by my tree. I have just slowed down my life to find it again. I am able to not rush through this season of my life. I can sit in the imperfect times and still delight in these small moments that make the difference.
The key to my happiness this season has been to allow. I have allowed myself to not fill our schedule, not be busy, not be buying our happiness. Instead we are finding our happiness. Finding it in our home and in each other. I will keep on the path of removing the chaos, the stuff, the busyness. I am working to slow it down instead of speed it up. It’s like coffee and tea; I am choosing more tea these days - literally and metaphorically. May you choose some tea and reflect on your own holiday season. Allow the peace and calm to find you as well. It is in you; you just have to decide to see it again.