We’re in the middle of it now. Right in the middle of all the Christmas activities.
Take some time to breathe.
I’m going to put some suggestions up on this blog that you may not be able to implement until next year, but I thought I’d put them up anyway. Next year’s Christmas will come around soon enough, and some things you might be able to do this year.
But before I get started on the dos and don’ts of Christmas celebration, I want you to stop and think. Stop and breathe, stop and ponder on what it is that is important to you about Christmas.
Now, I know that if you are a Christian, you’re going to say that the most important thing is that we’re celebrating the birth of Jesus. That’s obviously true. But think about how you spend your Christmas. If someone looked at you from the outside, would they say that this is the most important thing to you?
No judgement here at all. I think that for me, I love to celebrate the birth of Jesus by heading in to church for the Christmas Eve midnight service, but celebration of family comes very high up on my list of priorities for Christmas. And you can tell that by the fact that I have a Christmas Eve celebration with my children, a Christmas Day celebration with my parents and a Boxing Day celebration with my in-laws, my children and my parents and anyone else who wants to come along (it’s HUGE). It’s obvious, from the outside, what my priorities are.
Whatever is your priority, how are you making time to focus on that thing? Are there activities that you do that are spending time on things you really don’t prioritise? How could you lower the amount of time spent on those things, and increase the amount of time spent on your priorities?
I think that one of the stressful things about Christmas is the fact that we are all running around trying to meet the priorities of other people and do things that we don’t value. I’m not saying this is the time of year to massively annoy your close family and friends, but with communication, compromise, and a few well-placed boundaries, we could all have a quieter and more enjoyable Christmas.
When I was a young child, Christmas in our family was a huge burden. We had a Christmas Eve church service, a Christmas Day church service, and then lunch with my mother’s side of the family and the evening meal with my father’s side of the family. By the time we rolled ourselves from one huge meal to the next, us kids were ratty and looking for presents (more presents, and yet more presents), and the adults were exhausted.
So we changed things. One family spent Christmas together and the other side met on Boxing Day (the day after Christmas, if you’re not British or Australian).
As life went on, things changed more as things do. Us children grew up, got married and had children of our own. Now there were even more in-laws to keep in touch with. So now, as I said, we do our small family Christmas dinner on Christmas Eve followed by the midnight service, then lunch with my parents on Christmas Day. Then on Boxing Day we go to Moz’s family for the whole day. And as for my wider family? We do Christmas in late January or early February. The weather is better, there is more chance of having a swim, and everyone is less stressed and more able to relax.
There are other options, of course. Scottie’s family (the morning host at Ultra106.5 FM) does the big Christmas with all the family every second year. One year Christmas is small, one year it’s huge and lasts for a week or so. I think that’s a really good idea.
Tsh Oxenreider suggests that if you celebrate the whole of Advent it takes the pressure off getting Christmas just right. She has written a book called Shadow and Light that you can find at https://www.tshoxenreider.com/advent along with an Advent playlist, a whole lot of art work, and some other tools to help you make the whole season beautiful.
Are there traditions you are doing that don’t suit you? Are there traditions you would like to try? One year I made my own advent wreath and lit the candles each week. I enjoyed it immensely but I haven’t brought that particular tradition into the following years.
A new tradition we have started in our family is the Secret Santa tradition. This makes gift giving so much easier, especially now we are adults and are so more difficult to buy for! We use the website drawnames.com.au, which even has a gift giving guide if your particular person has been difficult and not filled out a wish list.
If you’re feeling stuck with all the cooking, perhaps it’s time to let others have a go. What’s the worst that could happen? You can stock some packets of chips in the freezer so that no one will starve. Or everyone can eat pretzels to their heart’s content. One year we had a charcuterie board competition, where each family brought their own imaginative cheese platter to the big family celebration, another year, a dessert competition was the go. Getting others to bring a plate like this spreads the work around and makes it fun at the same time.
The main thing is to figure out your priorities and boundaries, and then to communicate clearly. And I have found that if you hold everything loosely (like telling your adult children that they can choose when to come and see you), you end up getting a lovely surprise when you see people making your company a priority in this busy season.
And finally, remember that some people don’t have a busy Christmas. For some, this is the most boring and the saddest time of the year. Your best Christmas present may be just to notice and to give your company and time to someone who is alone. Jesus sacrificed his home in glory to come to us as a tiny baby. His throne became a manger. His throne room a stable. Is it too much to ask that in response we give up some of our precious family time to the lonely ones around us?
May your Christmas be blessed whatever you do this year. And may you remember the reason for the season and rejoice in the coming of our Saviour.