Every year after Christmas I sit down and think about the holidays next year; what I need to pay attention to and change, and also what worked really well that we might want to do again. This season those thoughts have been colored by a phrase that jumped out at me–after decades of hearing it–from “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas:”
Let your heart be light.
My heart was not light this holiday. Even after years of trying to simplify our family’s life, if I had to put a label on my heart this past Christmas season, it would be “overwhelmed.” I’ve really been wrestling with what to change in our Christmas to “let my heart be light.” It finally occurred to me that the answer is in the title of the song.
Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas. Not a Big Christmas Blowout, or a Huge Christmas Extravaganza, or a Christmas Spectacular.
What does a “little” Christmas look like, in practice?
In theory, this year sounded good: we only had five Christmas events to attend the entire month. Unfortunately, four of those five all fell on the same weekend. As a family, we really needed to pay attention to keeping all the other space in that weekend as quiet and peaceful as possible; to keep some sort of balance to the chaos. Some days we succeeded; other days, the five-year-old was vomiting in the driveway from so much exhaustion and overwhelm. While I’m thankful for getting everything out of the way at once, next year we will definitely be shifting gears here.
This sounds like the same thing, but it’s very different. At the end of November I realized I had three doctor’s appointments for three family members three days in a row, all in the week before Christmas. The minute I discovered it I called to change one appointment, and while I tried to make the other two work I found myself calling the day before another to change that one, too. Last-minute-Christmas is not a time to find yourself whiling away your hours in a doctor’s office. Yes, make that appointment you’ve been putting off–just make it for January.
“Obligations” also includes those things you’re only doing out of a deep sense of “should.” I saw a friend post recently that she was “too lazy” to send Christmas cards. No, you’re not lazy. You’ve decided there are more important things to do with your time. My husband and I didn’t attend a Christmas party our church held to honor its volunteers. Maybe we “should” have been there, but these two introverts preferred simply driving our family to a local light display instead of spending our evening in a church packed full of Christmas party people.
This is one area where I feel like we were at least a little successful this year. We’ve been using “something you want, something you need, something to wear, something to read” as a guide for our gift-giving to our children for years now. With three kids, though, “stuff” still adds up quickly. This year I gave myself permission to not fill in all those blanks. There was no book my teen daughter was dying to have, no book series that needed finishing off….so I apologized and told her in advance I didn’t plan on getting her a book. My oldest had such a large gift from Santa that I felt no need to additionally get him “something you want.”
Also, many of the gifts for our youngest were replacements: fresh markers since most of hers were dried up; a new set of (so-soft, bright pink) towels since she’s long outgrown the toddler-sized hooded ones she’s using. That makes following a “one in, one out” rule easy.
This covers a lot of areas. From heavy things like lack of communication and assumptions during family
This is so hard, people. When you think that the only way things will be “done right” is to do it yourself, your holiday season is immediately more stressful. (Ask me how I know.) Which is why, by Christmas day, I was happy to let my oldest kids take over setting the table up for Christmas dinner while I wrestled with an uncooperative turkey. If I’d learned this lesson earlier, I would have handed my thirteen-year-old the gift she was giving her dad and said, “Here’s your present–you can go ahead and wrap it,” instead of adding it to my pile of things to do and forgetting about it completely. Even my five-year-old could easily “wrap” her gifts in a gift bag. (Actually, as much as she loves tape, I could probably just turn her loose with wrapping paper.)
I did get glimpses of this over the season. I remember standing back and just taking pictures as my oldest two put together our Christmas tree; the old-school kind, where each individual branch gets set in the trunk. I happily jumped into the fun part, with lights and ornaments, but the “construction” was one task I cheerfully passed on. My husband, as always, stepped up in so many ways over these past few weeks; he has a sixth sense about when I’ve reached the end of my rope. This is a time of year where we need to be willing to ask for help; we need to be ready to admit we can’t do this all by ourselves.
What does all this “less” get you? More space. More peace. More room to breathe during all the holiday chaos. I’m paying attention and taking notes. Next year I intend to be ready for a “little” Christmas.