How Changing the Way We Celebrate Christmas Increased Our Christmas Joy.
*Loudly Exhales… Ahhhhhhhh*
The Smell of peppermint and overused credit cards fills the air…. It can only mean one thing…. Christmas is upon us.
It is next week to be exact. By now, I would imagine many of you have found the perfect right gifts, lovingly wrapped them all in matching paper & bags, and have arranged them in an Insta worthy pile under the tree… if this sounds like you… I am super jealous…. *Do you teach a class or something? Because I need a class on this.*
Realistically, if you are like me, you have probably purchased most of the gifts and after some unnecessary anxiety you got everything decently-ish wrapped in holiday sloth wrapping paper from Target. The kids keep moving the presents around trying to guess what each one could be and the tree has fallen over at least once…oh, and one snowman fell off the fireplace mantle and now he has to be placed a certain way to hide the fact that his booty has broken off….. Sound like your house? If so….. Welcome my people!
Regardless of how totally ludicrous this season can get, I have always loved Christmas time. Not the gifts, or dinners, not the decorations, or even the parties…. No, I have always loved the joy that fills the hearts of people during this time of year. The goodness that comes from strangers in the street. The caroling that stills goes on in some neighborhoods. The happiness that spreads across my children’s faces when they see a light display. Those are the things that I most look forward to this time of year.
There is just one little tiny thing that I do not love…. The rushing and lack of joy that seems to take place on Christmas Day.
You know what I mean… The early morning wake up followed by the speedy opening of gifts at home. Then everyone makes a mad dash to get dressed in their best Christmas outfits. The family sprints to the car with more gifts and potluck dishes in tow. Off to a family members house to open gifts, grab a bite to eat, and visit for a bit… then much of the same follows. At the end of the day you arrive back to your own home with cranky kids, a car load of gifts, a migraine, and gift wrap still littering your floors from the morning. Sure, you enjoyed seeing family and friends…. But do you feel the Christmas Spirit … Probably not.
This is what our Christmas was like for a few years. It even involved my husband & I having to separate for much of the day as our families live in separate cities/states and it would be impossible for us to see both in one day. Neither family was willing to change their “traditions” by changing the times or days and I was getting to the point that I would dread this time of year. Until one day, while trying to calm the impending doom I was feeling a couple weeks before the big day, I realized something. I didn’t really have any memories of opening gifts in my own home as a child. Most of my memories were from different houses and a huge family reunion style dinner that was held each year. I remember putting up a tree at home and I remembered being excited as I went to sleep…. But other than a few random things… that’s all I remembered.
That realization hurt my soul. I did not want that for me kids. I wanted them to remember laughing by the fireplace, opening gifts over hot cocoa, and feeling loved. Not rushing from place to place.
So, my husband and I decided to change things. We decided that our own home and family was coming first at Christmas from now on. We would still see others and we were more than happy to make arrangements for other days, even Christmas Eve was up for grabs … but Christmas Day was ours.
The first Christmas done totally at home was exactly what I always wanted but never knew I needed. We woke the kids up to cheery holiday music playing from the family room. (yes, we always have woken up before them on Christmas) We spent time opening and truly enjoying our gifts. We had breakfast and cocoa. We watched movies and relaxed. No expectations. No stress. No whiny kids. Just enjoying our home and the family we built together.
It goes without saying that our families were super upset. They were all welcome to come over on Christmas to join us if they wished to, but none of them did. And, even though it has been several years now, we still have a few family members that try to make us feel bad each year, but it doesn’t work. After we realized that it was important to build our own traditions, nothing anyone said to us made us what to change back to the “old way”. It just wasn’t worth it.
This year, since we have now moved closer to family again, we expect it to be a little bit different. Some family will be coming over and I am excited to be able to host them. I’m even more excited that they don’t care that we will all be wearing our Christmas pajamas all day…. Because luckily my parents know how I roll….
We know that our way isn’t for everyone. I fully believe that each family should do whatever brings them joy during this and all seasons. Just know that it is OK to not follow family tradition if it isn’t making you happy. It is OK to make changes, even if some people don’t like it. Never feel afraid to say “No” to an invitation, even if you have never said “no” before. After all, the reason for the season has nothing to do with traveling around to house after house… He is the reason. Do whatever you feel is glorifying to Him and joyous to your family.