I’m not saying “Bah, Humbug!” I’m saying choose what reflects your values, not what someone else has laid out as the perfect Christmas.
Do your friends talk about how much they enjoy their holiday traditions? How many times have you heard someone say, “We always drive to Aunt Susie’s for Christmas. She lives two states away, but I’m really looking forward to driving there with the kids.” Or, “I’m so excited to go see “The Nutcracker” and Handel’s “Messiah” like we do every year.” Or, “We have this terrific gift exchange at work every year and it’s really fun!”
I say it’s time to take stock of all those traditions and kick some out of the schedule. There’s that word–schedule. I mean, who wants to have everything scheduled! How many places have you seen with tips to get everything done in time for the holidays? You can even print out multi-paged planners to help you prepare all year long!
There’s the managing of the gift list. It might be tradition to give gifts to your huge extended family, but is it fun doing all that shopping? Traditions can be changed. I’m going to repeat that.
Traditions Can Be Changed
You can’t spring complete changes on extended family right before Christmas, but you can start thinking about which traditions mean the most to you. Some ideas for editing those traditions:
1. You can tell Aunt Susie that you’re starting a new tradition of having your own Christmas at home. You will see her next summer instead. Or for her birthday. Or for Fourth of July. If it’s the only time each year to see the entire extended family, it could still be worth going.
2. You can pick which holiday musical experiences you really want to go to. Maybe limit it to one a year or alternate? Or decide the kids’ musical program at the school and/or church is just fine.
3. Talk to your co-workers about changing the gift exchange to a group charity gift. Set up a container to collect the money for the local food bank? If they insist it’s a fun part of the office Christmas party, how about suggesting a White Elephant Gift Exchange where you play “Dirty Santa” with the wrapped gifts? Now that’s fun! And everyone gets to recycle some
hideous hilarious stuff! Read more about this here!
4. For a large extended family that still want to exchange gifts, draw names so that each person only has to shop for one gift.
6. Limit your kids’ gifts to three per child. After all, the wise men brought three gifts. Practice saying, “If it was good enough for Jesus, it’s good enough for you.” (Thank you to Hank Coleman’s wife for that idea!)
7. Don’t plan every minute of December. Allow some flexibility for just enjoying some time with the family. If you want to read a Christmas book together or watch a holiday movie, great. Just allow it to happen. Don’t make it a “must do” for every year on a certain day.
8. You know how the kids love decorating homemade cookies? It’s your special activity you do every year? You can used packaged dough if you are pressed for time. Or you can even make brownies (much easier) to decorate! Or just make a cake. I realize some people make a gingerbread house every year. I don’t know those people.
9. You can change when you have your big holiday meal. If it helps someone else’s schedule, why not? Don’t make it a power struggle with someone’s in-laws just so your meal is at the same time it’s always been. Peace on earth, goodwill to men and all that.
10. Take a break from all the fuss. Take a walk by yourself or with loved ones. Just enjoy some fresh air and exercise. Wait. What? It’s not the same as going for a drive to see all the colored lights? That’s ok.
A big argument for having traditions is that it makes memories for your kids. I’m all for making memories, but choose activities that reflect your family values. Bring cookies to an elderly neighbor, find ways to share with others who are less fortunate, and include your children in the process. Watching the Christmas tree lit up at night can be a great time to just hang out. It’s also a great time to talk about what Christmas means to each member of the family. Maybe share some of your favorite Christmas memories.
One of my favorite Christmas memories growing up happened unexpectedly. We’d had all the usual Christmas fun and were settling into a nice glow on Christmas night when a big snowstorm hit. After an hour or so the streets were covered in about six inches. It was way past our bedtime, but our parents had us suit up to go outside. With our boots, warm coats, and knit hats, we went out for a family tromp in the snow.
Our small town was so quiet with not a single car driving on the streets. Big flakes kept falling–the kind that are fun to catch on your tongue. Our voices were muffled and our breath rose in the air. It’s one of the best memories I have of Christmas time. Not planned of course, but it was a magical time that was and will never be again. Special. That’s the way I like Christmas.
We had traditions of course, but none of them matter to me as much as that time when our parents were spontaneous and just shared their joy with us.
If you love your traditions, by all means, keep them!
But as you go through the holidays, keep some time open to be spontaneous and just enjoy the moment!
Wishing you and yours a very special holiday season filled with wonder and delight!