Every year I try so hard to get in the Christmas spirit and I seem to come up short. I feel like I’m fighting the raging and completely commercialized Christmas machine, just like in the aptly named book Unplug The Christmas Machine by Jo Robinson & Jean Coppock Staeheli. When I was young, Christmas was this magical time, full of joy, celebration, and peace. Things were much simpler back then. These days it’s hard to find any peace in all the chaos. I was chatting with some friends about this yesterday and I realized it something many of us moms struggle with. I know I’m not the only mom that is just sitting here, waiting for her Christmas peace to arrive.
Year after year, I’ve tried to make my life easier during the holiday season. I’ve cut back on the Christmas cards. All the shopping is mostly done online. I even let go of many of our decorations so that I wasn’t spending hours placing them ever so perfectly around our home. We’ve majorly minimized our cookie baking to one or two of our favorite kinds. Our Elf does not stack marshmallows for our hot cocoa or hide candy canes around our house. The extent of my crafting this year was wrapping some twine around a few mini bottle brush trees and calling it garland. We’ve scaled back a lot, in my opinion, as far as all the extra unnecessary things go.
And yet, I still feel like it’s all whizzing by. It’s still not peaceful. My head is still reeling with all the things I still have to do. What are those things anyway? I have no clue! I’m counting the days I have left to get the things we need for people, instead of the experiences we had hoped to gift. The tree has been up since the day after Thanksgiving and it seems like we rarely get to sit in front of it and enjoy it. It all seems like such a hassle instead of a joy. When does that peace arrive?
If I thought we were focused on just the commercial holiday of Christmas, maybe I would understand the way I’ve been feeling. But this is the Advent season and it’s the most important part of this time of year in our family. We celebrate the birth and then the coming of Christ. Our traditions all start and end with the reason for the season. All the other stuff is extra and while it can be wonderful, it’s just a lot of noise sometimes. Noise is not peaceful.
I don’t have the answers except to continue to focus on what is really important and keep teaching our kids the true meaning of Christmas. That noise of the holidays can be so loud at times, that it drowns out the real magic. We’re struggling so much trying to be the creators of the magic, that we miss it happening before our eyes. And it’s not always big and showy. It’s in the little things that we fail to see right away. It’s in the things that are getting us closer to that peaceful place and we don’t even realize it’s happening.
As I look back on the last few weeks, I can now understand what magical things have been happening. I struggled to get my kids to write letters to Santa. When they finally sat down to do it the first time, they couldn’t think of one thing they wanted. When I asked my youngest what he wanted, no lie, he said he wanted love and to be with his family. Trust me, we have our moments as a family, so I kid you not. I cannot make this stuff up. They are less centered on the gifts and that brings me joy.
Another magical moment, my kids have been saying advent prayers every night and reading their action bibles. They fight over who will add the next symbol to our Jesse tree and who will light the pink candle for the third week of Advent. Now these fights, I can deal with. The kids want to sing songs about the season. They’re asking questions about their faith and this time of year. Now that’s something worth celebrating.
I’ve also noticed that even as much as I try to be in the moment, especially this time of year, they have learned to be more present than me. They’ll ask me to read a book with them, play a board game, or watch a Christmas movie. After we’ve done some things, they will give me some time to myself, even if it’s just a few minutes. They will go off and play together, quietly and peacefully, and for a minute I’ll forget that they seriously annoy each other and myself at times. I’ve had requests to bake with them. But probably the most special moments are the ones when they have asked me to talk to them about something important to them, whether it’s something they’re excited about or something that’s weighing on their hearts. It brings me peace to know they can talk to me about anything.
It’s not going to be a perfectly peaceful Christmas. Not the kind when there’s not a care in the world and zero stress. Does that even exist? And there will be gifts, because let’s face it, everyone enjoys opening at least one. It’s become part of the cherished holiday traditions we have maintained over the years.
But it’s the advent of my Christmas peace. The Christmas I remember having as a child. There were decorations, and gifts, and a lot of those bonus blessings, but there was also a slower pace, where we were mindful of the season and kept it front and center. A time where we focused more on spending time and less on spending money. I think this crazy Christmas machine will have to die down eventually. If we work hard on raising our kids to become people who see past all the unnecessary parts of the season and more on the true spirit of the season, they will bring Christmas back to what it once was. A magical time full of joy, celebration, and peace.
It’s coming. I look forward to it.
Joyous Advent to you all and may you find the peace that the true meaning of this season brings.