“Christmas,” he said, “should be like the Olympics—held every four years.”
My hair stylist pointed his scissors at me in the mirror. “I’ve got it all figured out. Change the date to February 29 and have Leap Christmases.”
I laughed when he said it. What would my year be without Christmas? But I have to admit, when I thought about a reprieve from Christmas, a tiny corner of my soul felt relieved.
Christmas, at its mystical best, enriches and inspires. Christmas, at its superficial worst, strains relationships and drains finances.
His idea made me ponder what aspects of Christmas cause stress for me, instead of joy. His idea made me consider what I really need at Christmas, and what I should discard from what I’ve been doing. I realized that all I want for Christmas is one thing: “Silent Night” sung with my family by candlelight at the Christmas Eve service.
That single moment is Christmas to me.
If that’s all I really need, what can I do to make the rest of the holiday season joyous instead of stressful? I came up with:
Six ways to return Christmas to its essence:
1. Reduce the “something/anything” gift list. We cram into shopping malls to buy “something/anything” for the obligation people on our lists. Those are the people to whom we feel we need to give something, but who already have everything anyone could ever need. So we buy things that no one needs—singing Christmas trees, snowman-shaped candles, or Santa Claus coffee mugs. And all those “little things” add up to a lot of wasted money.
I plan to ask myself if the person on my list is someone I really love, and if I want to show my love through a gift. If so, I will find something meaningful. Which brings me to . . .
2. Strive for a green Christmas. Be environmentally friendly. We bring those singing Christmas trees and Santa mugs as hostess gifts, and then they end up as part of the next tacky Christmas gift exchange or on the shelves at neighbourhood services.
I will make as many of my gifts as possible consumable or recyclable. Wine, fudge, or cheese maybe, or a donation to a charity.
3. Think of others. Focusing on ourselves, our lengthy to-do list, and the extra holiday spending just causes stress.
I will look beyond myself to help others at Christmas.
4. Create. Everyone appreciates a gift handcrafted with him/her in mind. (If they don’t, why would we be friends with them again?) Creativity is the secret to happiness.
I will use my skills to create gifts for them and happiness for me.
5. Refuse to be stressed. Christmas is a birthday party. It’s supposed to be fun, so if we feel the opposite of that, we have forgotten to live Christmas as it was intended.
I will monitor my thoughts and emotions and intentionally seek joy and avoid stress. If I find myself doing something I feel I “should” but which I resent, I’ll either stop doing it, or I’ll put on some Christmas music, pour myself a glass of wine and adjust my attitude.
6. Live Christmas mindfully. Ask yourself, “What is the one thing I really need for Christmas?” When you discover what that is, savour it, and realize that everything else is expendable.
On Christmas Eve, when they dim the lights, and we light our candles, and the first notes of “Silent Night” carry through the church, I will look around through tear-filled eyes at my family and my Christmas, and I will know that everything else is expendable.