Taking Time to Slow Down and Light a Candle
Each year there are a lot of tell tale signs the holiday season is approaching. Here in Munich they start as early as the beginning of October, when the Oktoberfest is over and gingerbread is popping up all over the super markets. Nevertheless sometimes it feels like Christmas appears so suddenly. I think it might have to do with the month literally being 6 days “shorter” then all the others as everything and even more than usual needs to get done by Christmas. I mean who plans on getting anything done between Christmas and New Year’s unless one really has to, right?
So here are a few things I have found helpful to feel balanced these days:
Reconnecting with my childhood:
Having grown up with a chocolate Advent calendar each year I just cannot stop this tradition. It reminds me of the joys of Christmas that lit up my heart when I was young and when the Christmas season was all about enjoying the moment. Only thing that changed is that it is not one with chocolates but with an array of teas, which even makes it be a surprise each day which kind I am getting.
Getting the presents and wrapping them:
Surprising people with a thoughtful gift is something I enjoy. It’s the joy and pleasant surprise in their eyes that I am looking forward to. What I have become quite good at in recent years is doing my shopping early. I think that’s key to keeping your sanity. Online shopping helps with that also, especially as being among a bunch of hectic people is plain stressful for me.
I also love gift-wrapping. For me it’s more than just putting a sheet of paper around a gift. It is a creative process that I highly enjoy. Since others don’t appreciate this task as much as I do there have been a number of occasions where I wrapped not only my own Christmas presents. In the last few years I’ve made a tradition of wrapping them all at once, while watching a Christmas movie and sipping on a tasty tea or hot chocolate. It is a pleasant activity, which makes me look forward to the unwrapping of it all.
Remembering what Christmas is about:
Christmas is not just about the presents or the foods or the traditions. It’s about a baby coming into the world who later showed His love for all mankind in a very unique way. You may or may not believe in Christ; notwithstanding the story shows what love is capable of and how important it is to be in service to others. I try to remember that by being extra focussed on how I can help the people around me during this time of the year.
Taking time to slow down and light a candle:
In winter I often miss the sunlight, so lighting candles is a bit of a substitute, plus candlelight has such a soothing effect on me.
In Germany we mostly put our Christmas trees up right before or on Christmas Eve. What we have in the meantime is an Advent wreath with four candles, one of which will be lit for the first time on each consecutive Advent Sunday. I made my very first one this year and with it I am creating the new habit of sitting on my couch, lighting up the candles and reading from a book filled with stories and poems about Christmas. It might be only ten to fifteen minutes, but it is enough for me to slow down and savour the moment.
Being okay with imperfections:
I think that the stress we feel at Christmas time has a lot to do with our expectations and how perfect we think everything has to be in order to have magical festivities. Cutting down on what we think we need to do and be at this season is key for more wellbeing.
One of the ways I’m doing less is by cutting down on the presents. I used to give presents to a lot of people, always anxious to not forget anyone. Heaven forbid somebody gave me a present for whom I did not have one. I felt bad wondering why I had not prepared a gift for him or her. I have changed my attitude since then. Now when someone unexpectedly gives me a Christmas present I am thrilled and grateful and I show it. Also I assume I must have done something good during the last year they valued so much they felt the need to give me something in return. Thinking this way only adds to my happiness.
It is being connected to our intentions and wishes for this season that guides us through the stressful moments that often come with it. There is so much going on on the outside, staying grounded on the inside is the key to keeping our sanity and enjoying this season for what it was meant to be.