The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

I wasn’t always a Scrooge.

In fact, I have fond memories of Christmas as a young girl. Trekking out to find the perfect tree and decorating it while Christmas albums played in the background. Baking cookies. Poring through the Sears and JC Penney catalogs to compile a list of the toys I wanted. Opening a new window on the Advent calendar each day. Visiting the mannequin displays in the department stores downtown. Christmas Eve service and the thrill of hearing the congregation reverently sing “Silent Night” by candlelight. Playing “Guess the Ornament” with my sister.

When I had children of my own, I continued some of those traditions. I decorated the house, baked the cookies and bought and wrapped the presents. Watching two little girls on Christmas morning as they discovered their goodies? There really is nothing better.

But the joy I had as a youngster has faded a bit and I have come to regard this as the opposite of  “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year.” In addition to regular day-to-day obligations, the season also piles on more: social gatherings, screwy schedules, shopping, spending. It can feel overwhelming. I’m offended by the holiday displays that appear before Halloween. I’m dismayed by Black Friday and the greedy behavior of some people who mere hours earlier focused on being grateful. I’m stressed about the never-ending to-do list. I feel tremendous guilt around the redefined version of our family and how it affects the girls during the season.

So I have to force myself to be conscious to look at the holidays through their eyes. Typically I don’t like to put up a Christmas tree until December. This year my youngest lobbied to get festive a week before Thanksgiving and I went with it. Intrigued by the concept of Black Friday, I knowingly took them to the mall on the most chaotic day of the year. In the coming days we’ll make cutout cookies and other treats, shop for Toys for Tots, drive around and look at holiday lights and hopefully do a whole bunch of sledding and ice skating over their winter break.

I will try my hardest to not get stressed out by it all, taking a cue from this, which lists a lot of good ways to do that. I don’t have a wish list per se, but if I did I’d want these things:

1)      An appreciation of time spent with family and friends.

2)      The ability to not demand perfection from myself or others.

3)      To forget the bad parts of the past and start new traditions on my terms.

4)      To enjoy each moment as it comes.

Have any tips on how to survive the most wonderful time of the year? Let me know in the comments!

 

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