(This is a post I wrote in 2011.)
I’ve been thinking about expectations of a different nature this week – the expectations we have of the holidays. We all have our own ideas of how the Christmas season should play out, and I believe most of us try to duplicate that scenario as closely as possible.
I fondly remember spending Thanksgiving with my mother’s family, Christmas Eve with my father’s, and on Christmas Day, we would stay home, and my grandparents would visit us. Often, we would also have Christmas parties with my mother’s family. New Year’s Eve involved a huge party with my dad’s family and friends where children were included – always the highlight of my year.
After my parents divorced when I was sixteen, it all ended. I’ve finally realized, in the past few years, that I spent most of my adult years trying to recapture those memories of my childhood.
I loved Christmas when my children lived at home but still struggled, as an Air Force family, with living away from the rest of our family. It was difficult making our own traditions when we moved around so often and Christmas, to me, should be shared with lots of friend and family, (as I did growing up) which rarely happened in our military years.
I also spent many years over-preparing, over-shopping, and over-indulging in everything to create a perfect Christmas day (to make up for what I didn’t know I was missing). I faced lots of stress and struggled with depression in the process and always seemed to walk away from Christmas feeling very sad and disappointed.
I’ve discovered that many people feel the same way when planning for this festive occasion. The depression rate is very high during the Christmas season, especially with the popularity of divorce causing many to spend it alone.
Society has only aggravated the issue with the schmaltzy commercials and high demands to buy the perfect gifts and prepare the most exceptional foods. I still imagine those movies where the cameras peer in a window as the snow gently falls, to see a crowded room of people gathered around the Christmas tree singing Christmas carols and loving one another. That’s how I wanted Christmas to play out.
I’ve decided to let go of the commercial side of Christmas and focus on the true spirit of it. Okay, so Jesus wasn’t really born around December the 25,th and the whole thing started as a pagan celebration to entice them into Christianity. It is still a season that has been chosen to celebrate the birth of our savior, and for at least a small part of the year, to be kind to one another and spend time with our families.
I’ve been toning down Christmas for numerous years now, but this year, I choose to focus completely on Jesus. I haven’t turned on Christmas music, I haven’t watched a Christmas movie, and I haven’t put up my tree – yet. Maybe I will, or maybe I won’t. Whatever I decide, I don’t want to get caught in the expectations of this season that have gotten way out of hand in our society and in my own life. I’m also choosing to heal a few wounds (with the help of God) that have hindered the true joy for this season that I desire. (Maybe my empty nest and crazy hormones add to my melancholy.) I do have an amazing peace about my choice to focus on the birth of our Savior though, the way I want, with simplicity and sincerity.
I don’t mean to make anyone feel bad about what they do or don’t do for this holiday, or have you think that I’ve become a Scrooge declaring “Bah humbug!” I just encourage you to step back and look at how you deal with this time of the year and discover what your motivations are. Don’t wear yourself out that you can hardly wait for it to be over (as I’ve often done in the past).
Focus on baby Jesus and how He was sent to save us from our sins and to heal us from the pains of our past. The decorating, and food, and family, and friends will then be an added blessing to this important celebration.