Are you already being smothered by the stress of Christmas? Is your schedule strapped, pressured and out of control? If you feel like your life is tied up in tangled Christmas lights, read on for six hacks to help you start enjoying Christmas again.
Appreciate traditions but don’t become a slave to them.
By definition, a tradition is a customary pattern of action. Each family has traditions that they follow during the Christmas season. Some are funny, some are serious, some are intentional and some just happen and we don’t even remember how they started. These traditions can bring a sense of unity, purpose and fun to a family. Sometimes, though, we become bound by our traditions. If this happens, there is a danger of enforcing traditions just for the sake of it even when no one is enjoying them anymore. Have you ever heard yourself saying something like, “We’re going to do this whether you want to or not. And you better smile!” I think that, during the years of our kids growing up, we amass lots of traditions. A conflict can come during our kids’ teenage years because some of the magic of the season is replaced by reality in their eyes. They don’t need the silly traditions anymore. As parents, though, we know that our years with our kids are limited and we tend to hold on to these traditions tightly in a pitiful effort to keep things “normal.” As the years go by, we need to be willing to let go of some of the traditions that we used to have with our children. Yes, Christmas may look and feel different but I am learning that is part of the process of letting go of our children also. If we let go of the old traditions we will start to experience the joy of creating new ones.
Follow the advice of the angels: hark!
The old Christmas carol “Hark the Harold Angels Sing” uses a word that isn’t very common in our language today – hark. The word means stop, listen, pay attention to. When the angels appeared to the shepherds, they wanted them to pay attention to what they were saying. To be honest, if angels appeared in the sky to me, there would be no need for them to tell me to pay attention; their mere presence would definitely get my attention. In the normal hustle and bustle of the current holiday, though, I think that we all need to be told to hark. We need to take some time to stop, listen and enjoy the season. It is easy to get so busy doing that we neglect enjoying the reason why we do any of it in the first place. Let me encourage you to take some time to truly experience Christmas this year!
Give gifts out of love, not out of obligation
Do you have a Christmas gift list? Most people do – they need to make sure that they get gifts for the right people and spend the right amount of money on each (or, better yet, find stuff on great sales so you don’t have to spend much money but it still looks like you did.) For most of us, giving gifts has become an obligation, not a joy. So, that makes me ask: why even give gifts at all if we really don’t want to? The problem, though, is that our society has created an expectation around receiving gifts at Christmas and there is a real danger of hurting people’s feelings if we don’t give them gifts. If we truly care about these people, we don’t want to hurt them. So, what if we change our perspective and focused on the quality of the gift rather than the quantity or price of the gift. If we spend the time to really get to know what would make that person happy, then we can provide that for them out of love even if it is inexpensive or small. In the long run, isn’t that what giving gifts should be about – making them feel good not making ourselves look good?
Do only what is important to your family; don’t over-schedule
Busy, busy, busy – that describes most families in December. Christmas programs at school, pageants at church, work parties, and all the other social obligations can pull at a family until they don’t have an evening, and definitely no weekends, to themselves for the entire month. Let me share a secret with you – it’s fine to say “no.” I would suggest that you attend your children’s Christmas program at school, that is non-negotiable; but, other things should be up to your discretion. We can feel obligated to attend every event to which we receive an invitation, but that is really not the case. If you choose what you attend, you will probably find that you can enjoy it more because you have had time to rest in between. Be intentional so that you can enjoy the season.
Focus on the experience; memories last but presents don’t
When my children were young, someone told me to enjoy the chaos because one day my house would be quiet and I would miss it. The same applies to Christmas. There is a definite break of routine during the Christmas season and we can get tired and frustrated by it; but, on the other hand, isn’t that part of the magic of it all? There are lots of things that are special to the Christmas season – decorations, music, food, smells, and many other things that we don’t experience any other time of the year. The memories of these things are what we will take with us from year to year. Truthfully, can you tell me what presents you opened on Christmas five years ago? I am guessing that you probably would have to really think about it unless there was something out of the ordinary that happened that year. But, you could probably tell me whose house you were at and describe the smells and the atmosphere of the day with specific details. That’s what you should focus on this Christmas – create the experience for your family and make sure that you enjoy it also. You only get one chance at Christmas 2016 so make the most of it and remember it for years to come!
Keep Jesus the center of Christmas
My favorite Christmas cartoon is “A Charlie Brown Christmas.” In the story, Charlie Brown is chosen to direct the Christmas play but can’t seem to get control of the actors. He is criticized and told that he doesn’t understand what Christmas should look like. In desperation, he asks if anyone knows what Christmas is all about. Linus, with blanket in hand, beautifully recites the Christmas story from the gospel of Luke. Christmas is a celebration of the birth of Christ – the Son of God who came to earth to be our savior. All the other fun of Christmas – decorations, lights, presents, candy, music or traditions pale in comparison to this. But it is easy to get distracted by these other things. Let me encourage you to intentionally make Jesus the center of your Christmas this year.
Do you have other hacks to help us enjoy Christmas? If so, please share them below.