Aaah, Christmas. Where expectations and pressure to keep up with everyone else having the perfect holiday is sure to bring someone to tears. After all, it's not a holiday until somebody cries. (We've had three years in a row where one of the girls has cried over the Christmas tree. And not because it was so beautiful.)
I love Christmas. I love the magic, the beautiful decorations, the excitement, the fun secrets and planning of surprises. I love the songs that bring me back to my childhood and adore hearing the songs in the girls' little voices as they sing along while playing with their Nativity sets.
I love that there are so many opportunities to talk about Jesus, love, giving, thankfulness, and generosity.
And then, on the other side, is the relentless pressure to buy, buy, buy. To show your love through stuff. And, of course, it's not a real Christmas unless you've made 12 dozen different types of cookies, thrown a themed party with vegetables displayed in the shape of a Christmas tree and personalized gift bags for all of your guests, shimmied on the perfect Christmas outfit - sparkly and slimming, and hand-crafted meaningful gifts for each person on your list. Naturally, you've already mailed the 100 handmade Christmas cards with a thoughtful, personal message written to each recipient inside. Those went out December 1st, right?
I'm trying to resist because it's really tempting to compare my efforts to those I see around me and find myself coming up short. But, the reality is that I can't do everything. We all make choices about what is important during the season and that's what we focus on. I'm better off defining my priorities than comparing my efforts to others'.
We don't do the Elf on a Shelf thing. I think it's cute and fun and can imagine how exciting it would be each morning for the Princess and Sweetpea, but I just don't want to add another expectation to the list.
I do the Advent Calendar because I want Christmas to be full of memories of doing things together. The calendar is my way of forcing myself to stop and do something with the girls each day (activity, read a book, a craft) when I can easily put it off because I have things I need to accomplish during the day or I don't have any ideas (or the supplies we need even if I do have an idea.) And, when we're doing something together I've also almost guaranteed that we'll have some type of interesting, perhaps even meaningful, conversation.
We don't get yearly pictures with Santa and we don't push the belief that Santa comes and leaves gifts under the tree. (Fewer gifts under the tree since we don't have to supply Santa ones too. Also a bonus!) We do however, talk about the fun magical story of Santa a lot. We read books and see movies about Santa and imagine how fun it would be if it were all true.
We (I!) do send out Christmas cards each year because I love to have that connection with friends. Sometimes I manage a letter, some years I don't. I used to make all the cards, now it's the standard pre-made photo card. I've managed to get them sent before Christmas each year (so far, they're not in the mail yet this year!). I don't want to portray perfection in the cards, I just want people to know that we're thinking about them and appreciate the connection we have with them.
I keep trying to focus in on the relationship opportunities of this holiday. That's the gift that will last forever.