Close your eyes. Come on play along here. I want you to think back to Christmases past. Find in your memory the things that really transport you to feeling in the holiday spirit. What did you come up with? Is it family or friends? The sight of Christmas lights? Caroling? Food smells? Tinsel in your hair? Santa accidentally punching his fist through your living room window? Ok, that one needs a little back story. I was probably six and that means my sister was two. Our parents and grandparents had made arrangements for a local man to dress up as Santa and deliver our gifts to us on Christmas Eve. Santa decided to knock on the window of our house and wave. Well, there was ice beneath the window and this plan went sour. Santa slipped and instead of knocking his fist came crashing through the window. Scared us all, but most especially my sister. Poor thing. She hasn't been the same around Santa since. In fact she still takes my daughter to see Santa every year and has been know to break out in a sweat at the sight of the man in red.
Whatever your holiday memory is, I would bet that it doesn't have to do with an actual gift that you received. If it did, it's ok. I'm not judging. But most of us think of the sights, the sounds and the people that we love. So why is there so much effort given to the other stuff? I heard a story once that made a huge impact in my life. A lady who was a perfectionist wanted to get the Christmas lights up on her house. It was a beautiful day and her husband and son didn't want to help, they wanted to play a game of football at the neighborhood park. She was determined and got the ladder out herself. Things were going well until she ran out of ladder. She thought I can do this and reached a little too far. She fell and ended up breaking both arms. She was recovering well, but still was a taskmaster. She wanted things done the way they always had been. But the husband and son refused. There were cards to write and decorations to put up and food to prepare. She kindly reminded the men that at this time of year she averaged only five to six hours of sleep a night because of all of the things that she had to check off of her list. Her husband sat her down one evening and said that her job was to heal and he would take care of the rest---but on his terms.
The woman bit her lip and tried. When December 22nd rolled around she couldn't stand it anymore. Please get the tree she pleaded! Please pick up the turkey and the ham! Please go to the mall! There are so many things to do. Be patient the husband said. It was now December 24th. The family woke up and the son made a great breakfast. Off to do errands the men went. They came home an hour before the rest of the family was to arrive. In they brought the tree. It was free the husband said. There was actually a sign at the tree lot that read "Free and Merry Christmas." The woman said the ornaments and lights are in the attic. The son said, we've got that covered. Out of his coat pocket he pulled two boxes of pink lights. They were the only color left at the local drug store. Up went the tree with pink lights. What about gifts? Oh, we have that covered, too. The husband pulled out a dozen gift cards for the gas station up the road. He placed them all on the branches of the tree. The doorbell rang and the company arrived. A few minutes later the doorbell rang again. Takeout Chinese food had been delivered.
The woman later said that this was the best Christmas she ever had and they now repeat this last minute Christmas every year.
I still believe in gift giving. And Christmas lights and tree decorating. I still enjoy the foods that are prepared at holiday time. But I really think we all need to take a little time out to remember that we can't do it all. Most of us don't want to do it all. We get caught up in the stress of buying too many gifts. Even extra gifts just in case! I know someone who buys multiples of a generic gift every year. This person wraps the gift and keeps several in a closet in her house and a few in her trunk. She's always ready just in case someone gives her a gift and she hasn't gotten them one. It's ok that I tell you this, I checked with her! I dislike the Christmas card writing. I have a rule set only for myself. I only send to out of town friends and family that I don't see often. And I'm done with sending a card to someone just because they sent me one. I try to give gifts of meaning and try to make most of them consumable.
It is a season to relax and not to stress. It is the season to make memories. The season to laugh and spend time with those we love. And yes it's the season for my sister to fear seeing the big guy in red!
©2010 Ann M. De Broux