If you are an observant person, you might notice that just about everyone around you is miserable right about now. Scowls on faces. Pissed off drivers, customers yelling at salespeople. Parents yelling at kids. Kids crying. Couples fighting. People hopped up on adrenaline and caffeine with very little sleep. Whoever said this is the most joyous time of year is full of crap.
Is it just me or does time seem to speed up around December each year? Be here. Do this. Buy this. Wrap this. Send this. Cook this. Donate this. Decorate this. And the people. Do we multiply around the holidays or something? It’s like some of you are little ants that come out of your holes as soon as the shopping malls bring out their first Christmas decorations to hypnotize us to spend! spend! spend! Hordes of people. Everywhere. There is no escape. And the extra help they hire for the holidays? The ones that just got trained and take forever to find the right buttons on their keyboards, creating a line a mile long winding behind them? Why do they always seem to be on duty at the same time? It takes FOREVER to check out of ANYWHERE. A fast line does not exist during December. It’s feels like time is literally pressing down on us, like we’re having to rush to the store to buy supplies before the big storm hits.
Having a 4 year old is bringing back lots of Christmas childhood memories for me. As a kid, Christmas was awesome. Days off from school, dad home from work, PRESENTS! I loved the Christmas lights on houses. Driving around at night became such an adventure and I would BEG my dad each year to put lights outside. The best we got was a string of colored lights around the front door, but man I thought that was pretty awesome. I remember driving to my grandparents’ house, listening to Christmas music on my dad’s country and western station and hearing my mom harmonize to every song that came on the radio. Christmas really was a magical time as a kid.
So what happened? What ruined Christmas for me? Did I ruin it for myself when I asked my mom about Santa Claus when I was in kindergarten? Pretty sure that wasn’t it. I still loved Christmas many years after that. I still loved Christmas in college. It meant coming home. It meant a few weeks without classes. It meant catching up with old high school friends. It was still pretty magical.
No. I’m convinced that Christmas stopped being a joyous time when I became an adult and felt like I had to “do” Christmas. Christmas became just one more thing that I felt society expected of me.
Have you seen the Christmas cards over the past few years? The professional looking ones showcasing a perfect family photo with color coded outfits in front of a beautiful setting? We did these for a few years and holy crap! Getting good family Christmas shots is no easy feat. It is a small Christmas miracle if you are all looking at the camera with your eyes opened and smiling. And the Christmas trees? Have you seen the pictures on Facebook of the beautiful trees with the actual ribbon and bows, with hundreds of matching glass balls? My tree looks nothing like that. We have a cheap Christmas angel that my daughter picked out at Garden Ridge Pottery proudly resting on top of our artificial (go ahead and judge) pre-lit Christmas tree. Nothing on my tree matches. There are no ribbons- just some cheap gold beads that I thought were pretty about 15 years ago and all of Kirby’s and my childhood ornaments. However, I love my tree and all of its tacky ornaments and all of the memories that come along with them and really don’t want to make it all professional looking. To me, it’s the most beautiful tree in the world because it represents my entire life. But man, some of your trees are gorgeous. I have to fight the urge to let my Christmas tree and my Christmas cards (not doing one this year and it feels pretty amazing!) become one more thing for me to “do.” Cards and trees should be happy memories, not stressful times like they sometimes seem to be.
Being an adult means that I’m also now in charge of buying presents for everyone on my “gift buying” list. If your family’s like mine, that’s a lot of names. It’s a lot of buying. It’s a lot of spending. It’s a lot of agonizing and worrying to think of a gift for someone. It’s a lot of driving and crowd fighting. I usually love buying presents for those that I love. Why then, does it feel like such a chore this time of year?
I want to take Christmas back. For my family. For myself. I think that most people, regardless of religious preference, can agree that Christmas should be a time of love and peace. Yet, it appears to be one of the most unloving times of the year. Feelings of impatience, anger, jealousy (hello Christmas cards!) and worry are not characteristics of love. When I find myself getting mad at strangers in a line because they are slowing me down and yelling at cars in traffic, I am learning to take a step back and breathe instead of letting the agitation grow. I am learning to slow down Christmas. I am striving to ignore the consumerism that is thrown in my face. Instead, I’m taking a moment to go for drives at night just to look at the lights. I’m slowing down long enough to appreciate all of those magical moments that come with this season. The magic of Christmas never stopped. I just got too busy and stopped looking for it. I no longer want to “do” Christmas. I want to live it.