Right up until about a week ago, I was much more Grinch than Cindy Lou Who about the holidays.
The whole Santa thing brings me far more stress than good cheer. I like Christmas, all right, but I’ve never really loved Christmas. I do, however love Thanksgiving, and have complained mightily about the differences between the two, but basically it boils down to this:
Thanksgiving is about food and friends and family, and the only thing you need to wrap up are leftovers, if you’re lucky.
Christmas is about presents and obligations and rushing around and wrapping up reams of stuff that no one really needs in yards and yards of pretty and sometimes expensive paper that you buy intending to throw away almost immediately.
I try to stay within my budget by squirreling away gifts as I find them on sale throughout the year. I make jams and cookies and other treats for my family, and the homemade gift-basket production line starts cranking up during the late summer, when my blackberry canes go crazy and the garden explodes with fresh tomatoes. I sift through photos for Christmas cards, make lists, donate to charity, and promise myself that I’ll clean one room each day throughout December, which means that the house will be spotless by the time my stepkids arrive. I think about how nice it would be to have a holiday party this year.
But, invariably, I don’t get it all done. The one-room-a-day cleaning schedule? It laughs at me from under the detritus on my dining room table. The hidden presents? Are never enough. And all of those homemade jams and pickles need to be packaged into baskets, and the last-minute postage kills me every time.
Christmas. When did it become so much work?
And then, about a week ago, I was picking my little kids up from school when my 6-year-old daughter asked if we could “go on a little bit of an adventure.” So we drove through the dark streets, looking at Christmas lights.
She and my 4-year-old son gasped and shouted at each other to “Look! Over there! More lights! AND A WREATH!” The displays weren’t intricate or overwhelming — a few strings of lights on a tree here, a glowing reindeer or two there — but the kids were in awe. And, by the time we got home a few minutes later, I was excited about the holidays, instead of overwhelmed.
My kids totally saved Christmas for me. They helped me remember the gifts I already have, and reminded me that all the rest — the hussle and planning and fussing and stressing — doesn’t matter as much as the little things. That’s where you find the joy.
Wishing you and yours joy and peace this season.