Friday, December 20, 2013

"What the heck happened to my birthday!?"

... is what I think Jesus might say if he were to visit your typical American city or town right now. A town full of blazing lights, lines, exhausted-package-laden-stressed-out folks staying up way too late to hide toy elves. (Why?!)

What the heck happened to his birthday?

I think we can all admit, whether we loathe or love this season that Christmas has gotten out of control.  I've read many smart mommies blog about the exhaustion, and the disconnect, and never ending to-do list of Christmas. Good reads: here, here, and here.

Christmas has become work. Which I'm pretty sure Jesus would not have wanted.

Christmas has become expensive. Which I'm really sure Jesus would not have wanted.

Christmas has become a time of bickering, name calling, sanctimony, hatefulness, ignorance: "WAR ON CHRISTMAS!"  Not really what the Prince of Peace talked about.

What happened!? What are doing all this FOR?  I asked myself this question the other night, as I stayed up late organizing and wrapping presents, checking and doubling checking my lists.  Christmas this year has been very different than our past celebrations. Without a kitchen, I cannot bake.  I used to bake dozens of cookies and package them in beautiful boxes with little recipe cards included for my friends and co-workers. I always made these amazing chocolate gingerbread cookies.  I'd also challenge myself to try new recipes.  I'd comb Martha Stewart Living for inspiration.

This year: no baking. No packaging, no recipe cards. We don't have room in our over-stuffed living space for a tree, and most of our decorations are still in storage.  Without my usual Christmas cheery baking, Christmas became just work.  Find some decorations and struggle to keep them up amidst construction dust and chaos.  Find some corner to hide the presents I bought online, late at night. Address Christmas cards during breaks at work.  One night I realized, I'm doing all this work to make Christmas happen, and my children are not participating at all.  Christmas will happen, but instead of celebration we make together, it is becoming a show I put on for them.

And I'm not sure they bought tickets to this particular show. Because most of what they are seeing is a stressed out mom with too many to-do lists and not enough time or patience.  It's definitely not been the most wonderful time of the year.  They don't even like Christmas music! They are learning that Christmas = Work. Which is not what I want them to learn.  (Nor do I really want to be working so hard.)

What can we do? How can we create a celebration that connects us? Connects us to the story of Jesus, or to the changing of the seasons, or to our loved ones? How can we create a season of wonder and delight that brings us closer to each other, instead of driving us crazily apart? I'm not sure. I'm working on it. We already don't do Santa. (Gasp! Read about it from last year here.) So we avoid the whole Elf thing and the letters to Santa and breakfast with Santa and photo with Santa things.

One thing I hope I learned this year is to pace myself.  I'm happy I did my Christmas shopping early and mostly online, because: Malls? December? NO.  We are also lucky in that our gift list is pretty simple.  I wish I didn't feel in a rush to get decorations and a tree and make the house festive. We really don't need to celebrate Christmas all-month-long.  We could save up some decorating and merriment for the actual holiday. I think next year I may bake cookies again, because I love to bake. But I may just make a couple of special favorites, and I'll be sure to include my kids and make a gigantic mess in the kitchen with them. And I will definitely have them participating more in the gift giving and gift preparation.  And maybe we'll give the Christmas music a rest.

oh, the adorable ghosts of Christmas past...

How do you make Christmas connected instead of frenetic?

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