A calm settles over me as Christmas draws near. My heart is at rest. I love this time of year and all that it encapsulates however in years past I have become overwhelmed with all the busyness I allowed to creep into our holiday season. I would try to do all the things and that ended with me worn out with not much to give. I really just wanted to slow it all down and soak it in this year. So, I cut back on activities, and just enjoyed the wonder of the season which has made all the difference. I wanted to "be" and not "do". Someone told me, "we are human BEings not human DOings." I love the truth of that message.
As we expectantly await Christmas morning I look back at the traditions I hold dear that help me "be" vs. "do".
I am like a child at Christmas time. The excitement is palpable and I become giddy. I enjoy all of the planning that goes into such a special day. The children help me during the weeks and days before Christmas as we plan the menu, grocery shop, bake cookies, and wrap gifts. I make sure I do a little each day leading up to Christmas morning so I don't have to stay up super late Christmas Eve getting everything ready. I put my Christmas station on Pandora and I involve my children as much as possible. My rule of thumb is if we get tired or stressed then we stop for the day. I want us to be able to enjoy these planning moments because they are just as much a part of our traditions as Christmas day itself.
Christmas Eve we spend making gingerbread houses and talking about the big day. We bless our house with a cleaning so Christmas morning everything is tidy and in order. As evening draws near we dress up and go out to sing carols and hear the Christmas message at church. Afterwards we pick up take out (Thai or Chinese food) and head home to set the table and have everything ready for Daddy's arrival from work. We eat our fun meal together and enjoy the Christmas tree. Depending on the time we may even watch A Charlie Brown Christmas if we haven't yet done so... it is the movie we end our Christmas movie extravaganza with.
We tuck squirmy, excited children into bed and then my husband and I bring the gifts downstairs and place them under the tree before we head off to bed, although I won't sleep much.
I am the first one up Christmas morning and, still donning my pajamas and slippers, I will sneak down the stairs and place a piece of candy in each stocking. I plug in the Christmas lights, light the candles, turn on the Christmas music, and set the coffee to brewing. I breathe deeply... it is Christmas morning.
I pray and ponder what this day means and thank God for His precious gift to me, His gift of grace and salvation, and the sweet souls He has blessed my life with who still lay slumbering in their beds. I sing along with Away in a Manger as I preheat the oven and pull out the breakfast I prepped the day before. Everything is ready to go.
I wander back up the stairs and kiss my husband good morning. We giggle as we gather six stockings and wake the children. "It is Christmas morning my darlings, everyone gather in Mom and Dad's room and we will begin our special day". My husband opens with a prayer and then we hand out the stockings, each holding a single piece of candy to be enjoyed. As they find their sugary treasure I read them a poem that thanks God for the gift of them, tells of why we celebrate today, and then reveals a riddle that they must solve. The morning scavenger hunt has begun. A tradition that began over a decade ago and that is one of the most looked forward to moments of our Christmas day.
The children wander all about the house gathering clues until, at the end, they each receive a gift, rather than a stocking filled with small items. It helps simplify things and keeps overwhelm at bay.
After our scavenger hunt is over we assemble at the table for breakfast. I keep food on Christmas day very simple (click here for this year's menu). Most of which I prep ahead of time because I do not want to cook on Christmas, that's my gift to myself. I also do not wash dishes. So rather than eating off of china, I find the cutest themed disposable dinnerware and set a festive table with table cloth, centerpiece, and plates. At the end of the day it all gets rolled up and thrown in the trash... no dishes, no hassle.
After we are finished enjoying our meal, we gather around the tree and pass out gifts. Each person waits and watches as the gifts are handed out. We pass one gift at a time and watch that person open and enjoy their item before moving on to the next. It is very unrushed and leisurely. It teaches patience and the receiver of the gift is able to express their thanks to the giver. We keep gift giving simple, as I mentioned above. We find it works well for our family not just financially but also just the mind set of having a few nice things rather than being inundated with a bunch of items.
After the gifts have been opened, we work together to tidy up and then we go about enjoying one another. We often receive a game for Christmas so we will set up and play the game together. My parents stop by to visit and enjoy food and laughter. It is a very relaxed and enjoyable day that ends with smiles and thankfulness all around.
Don't be afraid, dear ones, to keep it simple on yourselves. No one expects you to be Wonder Woman, so you shouldn't expect it of yourself. If you notice yourself getting stressed, just stop. Take a deep breath and remember why you are doing what you are doing. Ask yourself if it is essential or if it can slide. Allow yourself to take shortcuts and keep things easy so you can enjoy what matters most this holiday season.
May your days be Merry and Bright,