I See Joy
As the old song goes, “It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas, everywhere I go. .. .” I see the decorations and hear the music of the season. The ads on TV and in the flyers promise I can find the perfect gift for everyone on my list. There are Christmas craft fairs, special events and suppers to look forward to and fit into the calendar.
I love Christmas and wait with eager anticipation of a child for the arrival of Christmas morning. Watching my children and now grandchildren dive into their stockings to see what gifts might have been stashed inside brings a smile to my face. As my grandchildren reached their teens, I remember one Christmas Eve when some of them were spending the night and putting out their stockings. One granddaughter told me that I might as well just give them their presents that night since she knew it would be me to fill her stocking. I joked with her about trying to be too grown up. The next morning she was one of the first ones up to check for the surprise waiting for her.
My youngest daughter is an adult who has some special needs and still lives at home. She also loves Christmas. For her the countdown to Christmas begins on Boxing Day. She has a plaque her sister made her last year that stays up all year long. As December comes closer, she often reminds me of how many days until Christmas Eve will arrive. She would play Christmas carols all year long and watch the movies of the season too but I have convinced her she needs to keep them special by waiting from one year to the next. Her enjoyment of Christmas morning is still almost as much as when she was young and that allows me to have the simple pleasure of unpacking the stockings in eager anticipation right along with her.
But sometimes this countdown and reminders of how close Christmas Day is and how long my to-do list might still be, can be one of the things that makes me cringe. What takes some of the joy of the season away for me?
1- Commercialization. I do not like the crowded malls, the hustle and bustle of shopping or the many flyers and ads telling me what the perfect gift might be. Spend . . . spend . . . spend and show your love by the amount of dollars you have left at the stores.
2- High expectations I place on myself to achieve the perfect Christmas. What should it look like? How can I do all the fancy decorating, prepare the best treats and play the part of a perfect hostess according to all the information floating around on the internet, in magazines and TV shows?
3- Political correctness to the point of not feeling like you can wish someone a Merry Christmas instead of saying Happy Holidays. I realize that in our multicultural society today there are many different types of celebrations. I actually like to learn about how different cultures celebrate their special days. But I want the freedom to celebrate Christmas by believing the Bible story of baby Jesus in the manger and to wish you not just a happy holiday season but Merry Christmas, not to offend but to be who I am.
To overcome the stress I focus on what I enjoy about the season.
1. Being creative with the gift giving. I do not like last minute shopping for Christmas gifts. Matching the gift to its recipient means taking time to know them. As the grandchildren are growing up I love connecting with them, listening to what they are involved in and finding out their interests. This keeps a strong connection and makes finding the perfect gift something that might not be the latest trend for the year. Avoiding the commercialization and keeping to a very small budget means watching for sales, making something, writing something or giving a gift of an outing with them. I picture a time together, their hugs or smiles, and destress about commercialization
2. I know I can put a lot of stress on myself as I aim for perfection in having a picture perfect Christmas season. To combat this I need to take time to enjoy nature’s beauty with the hoarfrost coating the trees and bushes or listening to the carols of Christmas. I tell myself that Christmas day will come whether I think I am ready or not and I need to spend the time focusing on my family and making memories. When I reminisce about my Christmas’ past, I do not think about whether the table had the latest decorations or what colour the tree décor happened to be. I remember the love of family, the pain of those who were missing some seasons and the memories of laughter and togetherness. The gifts I remember are the simple ones like the afghan my mother made me or a miniature stocking decoration my Grannie put on the gift one year, or the hand- made aprons my other grandmother made each year – gifts of love and time.
3. The most important thing for me is to focus on the reason for the season when baby Jesus was born and laid in a manger. He had a choir of angels announce his birth to lowly shepherds that most people of the time wanted nothing to do with. There was no fancy cradle or special food – just love.
It’s almost Christmas. The seasonal events have begun. Decorations are up. Gifts are planned or bought and wrapping will happen soon. I do love Christmas and I want to focus on family, friends and the Babe in the manger, rather than a to-do list that’s longer than Santa’s list of naughty and nice. I love Christmas and plan to enjoy the simple pleasures of the season. I think it’s time to listen to some Christmas carols, sip a cup of hot chocolate and reminisce.