I remember coming to the end of a Christmas season many years ago and wondering at my frustration.
There were no severe money trials that season, nothing that should have kept me from enjoying Christmas but… I couldn’t put my finger on it… there was this sense of a lack of satisfaction… an unsettled feeling.
Soon after that, I was reading an article (magazine… book?) about this very thing. In it, the author said she learned to write out what it was she wanted from the Christmas season, what was most important to her. When I started doing that, I realized why the previous season had been lacking in joy.
It had been a rushed Christmas, the “doing” of many activities I felt I should do and not “being” the person I wanted to be that Season. My frustrations stemmed from a lack of getting away alone beside my Christmas tree, enjoying that quiet I must have, that which comes from prayer and study and the reading of books.
I also realized we had said yes to far too many outside activities, which ended up robbing our family’s peace and joy with too many events on the calendar. Too much of even a very good thing can be just that… too much.
Since that time, I have enjoyed making a list before each season begins, usually when the color remains on the trees outside my window. My list has changed due to health and finances but only in the “big” things. My list back then included attending a Christmas concert that I loved each year. However, it became too expensive on a tight budget. It wasn’t that much of a priority that I’d spend more for tickets to a concert then I would on a week’s worth of groceries.
Another item on my list that has gone by the wayside is hosting a big Christmas party. I loved decorating the house and having a lot of people over but that season is now behind me as a long time auto immune illness has brought about getting easily tired.
I remember one very magic (Narnia magic) party in our former house when we invited over Stephanie’s college group. There was a tree in the family room and one in the living room, a fire was burning in the fireplace, food placed in various areas, conversations were going on in many rooms of the house.
Later that night, as the young people were leaving, one student came up to tell me that night will be one of his “perfect Christmas memories” when he leaves college. It is one of my perfect memories, too.
A new tradition began last year when our daughter-in-law’s family joined us at out home for a combined Thanksgiving meal. We hope to repeat it again this year and when our son and his lovely wife move into a larger space, they plan to host the annual meal at their home. Traditions have a way of stopping and starting and changing through the years from one generation to another. But that is life and it is good.
So… how do I now plan for the Holiday season I desire? Knowing, of course, that perfection is not possible this side of Eternity.
I have found by making a list of those things I love about Christmas, I can make certain what means the most to me (and my family) becomes a priority for time and our budget. Here are a few for this year, written out on paper before transferring to my scrapbook journal. Of course, I can’t do them all but any of them on the “wish list” would make my season bright.
Filling the house with my favorite Christmas decorations
Carefully placing all of our much loved ornaments on the tree
A breakfast out at Cracker Barrel between Thanksgiving and Christmas
Candy Cane Lane tea
Listening to the music of the season
Watching much loved Christmas movies
Reading favorite Christmas books
Seeing what yummies the TV cooking shows come up with this year
One or two Pumpkin Spice Latte’s to enjoy
A morning at Panera sipping coffee and writing a real letter
Sending Christmas cards to just a few far away friends and family
Visiting my favorite “downtown” primitive country store to breath in the scents of the Season
and my very favorite tradition of the Season…
Morning quiet times in the dark, with the tree lit
Since my children have grown up and my daughter’s family are too far away to visit for Christmas (we tried it but only once!), my list in recent years are less child centered than in the past. I continue to bake but far less than when we had kids at home. Each Holiday Season will reflect where we are on life’s journey at the moment.
This annual making of a list has become a process of thinking through what brings joy… and peace… and faith… and what lifts my thoughts to the One Who Made Me. Little satisfactions can come in this, the most wondrous and magical time of the year.
I encourage you to brew a little pot of tea and fill your favorite tea cup, bring along a notebook and pen, listen to lovely Christmas music, and think about those things that bring joy to your heart at Thanksgiving and Christmas. Are you making time for them? Did you budget for them through the year? What makes your heart sing with gladness?
You don’t need to do them all, just choose a few that will cause you to look back at this Season and smile… and remember, Christmas is not about the price of gifts or how many are given, Christmas is about the Giver of all gifts.