Christmas is 45 days away. Does that news give you an anxiety attack, or fill you with peace and goodwill toward men?
I doubt this is the first time Christmas has crossed your radar this year. Decorations have been in grocery stores since October (right next to the pumpkins), catalogues are arriving by the dozen in the mail, and the entire internet is an in uproar over Starbuck’s offensive red cup. There are presents to buy and parties to plan, decorations to hang and treats to bake. It can all be a little bit overwhelming. And it’s still 45 days away.
I’ve always felt an enormous amount of pressure to have an amazing, one-of-a-kind, truly special, blessed and joyful Christmas season. Since I’ve been old enough to buy people presents, I’ve agonized over getting the “perfect thing” for everyone on my list. I’ve spent many years trying to make adorable Pinterest-y Christmas cookies that end up looking worse than my 4-year-old’s, because if I’m honest, I can make a mean Thanksgiving stuffing but baking is not my forte. (Besides, I have lovely friends that make truly spectacular cookies that are a joy to receive!) In short, I’ve always tried to make Christmas perfect, and the harder I’ve tried, the more it’s come up short. This year, I’m aiming for a “good enough” Christmas, and I know it will be the best one yet.
So, what am I doing to give myself and my family the perfectly imperfect Good Enough Christmas?
- Doing all my shopping in November. I am going to get my shopping and shipping done this month so I have the entire month of December to devote to everything else. I’m not worried about getting ripped off. There are already great sales going on. Can anyone name a retailer in America that doesn’t have discounts on items from now through Christmas? Perhaps there are more killer deals coming up, but my sanity is worth the extra 10% of the items I’m selecting.
- Purposefully selecting gifts for my loved ones. My mom does not need a new toaster, even if it’s 80% off the regular price. I am NOT scouring through the sales catalogues, and I refuse to be a puppet that retailers can lure in and manipulate. I’m one of almost a million people so far that is choosing to #OptOutside this year, taking the lead from REI, a company that I infinitely respect for remaining closed on Black Friday. I’m carefully considering what I want to get everyone on my list, and I’m going to go to the store or make online purchases at my own convenience without the distractions of impulse buys and 75% off stickers leading me astray. (Sidenote: As a former advertising professional, I truly understand the “loss leader” concept. That 75% off product is luring you in to buy more products that mean big profits for the retailers. Psychologically, you think you’re getting a great deal, but it’s actually not good for your pocket book).
- Saying “yes!” to the invitations that give me joy. I wouldn’t miss the Polar Express train ride with my little train lovers. My neighborhood’s Sleigh Ride is a must-do. Huckleberry Finn has his first Christmas program this year. Santa is coming to the library and we will be there to watch him recite the 12 Days of Christmas. Just thinking about these events makes me smile. Yes! I will be there! I may, in fact, have bells on! And that brings me to #4…
- Being present. This may be a tough one, but if I can remember that my shopping is done, our plans have been made, and there is nowhere else in the world for me to be at that particular moment, I will put my entire spirit into the Christmas events I’ve chosen to do. I will not check my iPhone during Huck’s pageant. I will watch. I will listen. I will be there.
- Giving myself permission to say no, guilt-free. We can do anything, but we can’t do everything. I’m not going to run myself ragged doing things that don’t fill my household with love, peace, kindness, compassion or anything else that the Christmas season is truly about. I don’t know what I’m going to say “no” to yet, but it’s enough for now to give myself permission to do so.
- Decorating our house with simplicity and love. We have a lot of ugly homemade ornaments to adorn our tree with this year. We have literal handprints to put on the walls, so it seems kind of senseless to worry whether they are smudged or hung slightly askew. My neighborhood is having a light-decorating contest this year, and I am excited about the enthusiasm it will bring to the neighborhood, but I have a feeling the most “perfect” house won’t be my favorite one.
- Saying “Merry Christmas” to those that I know celebrate Christmas, and being kind and compassionate to those that may not. I can’t control people’s reactions, but I can control my words and my behavior. Christmas is not the season to convert non-believers. It’s also not the season to rub my happiness into the noses of those that are experiencing grief, sorrow, despair or longing. It’s about respect. I want people to respect my celebration of the season, so the only fair thing is to give those that don’t celebrate some respect in return.
And what am I NOT doing?
- Elf on the Shelf. Before I had kids, I thought this was the Best. Idea. Ever. Now, I think it’s creepy and stressful. I don’t like to manipulate or threaten my children into behaving well, and let’s be frank – no parent has ever threatened to take away every single Christmas present and then actually done it. (Have they? If so, I don’t want to meet that person). I have so many better ways to spend my time. Do I really need to sneak around every evening making a stuffed elf create additional messes for me to clean up, and deplete my already tapped resources? I would rather play a Christmas carol on the piano, build a snowman with my sons, go snowshoeing, watch “Christmas Vacation” with my husband on the couch, enjoy some tea and cuddle with my children in their adorable red pajamas. And hey, if the Elf gives you and your family joy, all the power to you. We can each make Christmas exactly what we want it to be for us. Send me pictures of the mischievous little fellow. I’ll genuinely enjoy them. I’m just not doing it.
Christmas is magical. At least, it has the potential to be so. It is only superficial and materialistic if we make it that way. We are not at the whim of the retailers. We are not victims of our obligations. We can say no. We can say yes. We can slow things down.
We can make a Good Enough Christmas the best Christmas ever.