A Lot Less Commercialism… and a Little More Christmas, Please!

Christmas seems to have snuck up on me–again.

texas christmasI don’t know if this is a result of living in Texas where December is more in line with the fall of my childhood, or perhaps it’s from the general chaotic pace my life has taken on, or maybe it’s some other factor that I have yet to identify. Whatever the reason, I’m staring Christmas in the face, and I feel totally unprepared.

ChristmasTooEarlyI used to put my tree up on November 1. I figured that, so long as we had passed Halloween, it was fair game. It wasn’t a matter of finding the time, but more a waiting a respectable amount of time before putting up that first sign of Christmas. I was ready and waiting, a runner poised for the blast that singled “Let the games begin!”

My Christmas shopping used to be done by December 1, and the only thing I needed to scramble for were a few extra stocking stuffers. I leisurely wrapped the gifts while listening to Bing croon about the white Christmas I could already see outside my window. I savored the season: enjoying the moments, admiring them, fingering them one by one.

christmas_stress_shoppingNow it’s more of a mad scramble, a dash from one event to the next–a chaotic sprinting, not a leisurely stroll.

The tree is put up in stages. First there is the bare tree, then days later it acquires some lights and maybe a ribbon or two. Finally, when we can all fit in a spare couple of hours together, we add the ornaments. And then at last the tree bedecked in all its glory to remind us that, yes, Christmas is coming (like a freight train), despite the blue skies and sunshine outside my window!

mom paperGifts are bought in a helter-skelter, often last minute fashion these days. Presents are wrapped only to be opened moments later–literally moments later. No enjoying that pretty wrapping paper peaking from beneath the tree branches. No children having days to wonder about the mysteries wrapped and waiting beneath the tree. There’s no shaking of the boxes, wild guesses, and the peeled back corners of gifts that sit under the tree to tantalize the little people in my life. Nope, there is a still puffing Mama who did a wrapping marathon only to thrust the presents into the eagerly waiting hands. I barely wipe the sweat from my fevered brow before the little people are tearing that pretty paper off and all my efforts are now crumpled in a heap on the floor…

And then there is the Christmas baking…don’t let me get started on the Christmas baking!

I used to love the smells wafting through my kitchen, the strains of the Trans Siberian Orchestra in the background, and the cup of Joe or the glass of red in my hand (depending on what strikes my fancy at the moment). I relished my role in my husband’s family as the maker of delectable desserts (it probably helps that their idea of a Christmas spread is cookies and pie bought at the local supermarket, but never mind that, I relished my role as the Martha Stewart of Christmas yumminess). They waited with anticipation for me to walk in with my homemade oreo cookies, my peanut butter bonbons, and what ever else I decided to throw into the mix that year.

They start anticipating early, at Easter, throughout the summer (never mind that I have spring and summer versions of dessert decadence), already anticipating the Christmas treats that are to come.

Oh, the pressure! I created this beast and now I have to feed it!

cooking messAnd the baking, no longer the savored Christmas experience, is something that I smoosh into my hectic Christmas Eve morning somewhere between the candlelight service (which they now have early in the afternoon which allows us to maintain our scavenger hunt tradition in the evening) and the scant few hours of sleep I’ve managed to cram in with all those last minute Christmas errands the day before the stores begin to close up shop and tell us procrastinators to “go the hell home! We have families too!”

Ah, Christmas. Still my favorite time of year, despite how quickly it comes and how quickly it’s over! How I miss the time to savor you as you so deserve!

My house may not be decorated to perfection, my array of treats might be appallingly scant, and the gifts might yet be crammed in shopping bags in the corners of my closet, but somehow, I don’t think that is what my children are going to remember (I know that’s not what I remember, though I’m pretty sure my mom was probably the chaotic, sweating, marathon running mess that I am today!).

Family-exchanging-presents-at-ChristmasMy children will remember, not the presents or decorations, but the time spent together. They will remember the traditions, the games, and the warm fuzzy feelings that Christmas will bring their way for years to come (until they have kids of their own and the chaotic insanity becomes their very own!).

I find myself reminding myself that it’s not about perfection. It’s not about a beautifully set array of cookies and perfectly wrapped presents. It’s not about the perfect kids’ craft that results in perfect little treasures for grandmas and grandpas, aunts and uncles.

The kids won’t notice the clutter around the house. They won’t notice that there are only two kinds of cookies this year. They won’t notice that the handmade presents are a bit less spectacular this year.

And I shouldn’t either.

Christmas CardIt’s time to stop running around like a crazy person and settle in and just enjoy being with my family.

And it’s time to remember what this season is really all about. Not the great commercial rush it has become, but something so much more–infinitely more.

Sometimes I need to remember that.

You can only do what you can do, and really that’s not the point of it all anyway.

Merry Christmas from my chaotic family to your own! May it be perfect in its imperfection!

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“Happy Halloween! Err . . . ah . . . I mean Christmas!”

            As every parent typically does, my husband and I have thought a lot about how to communicate with our kids the real meaning of Christmas. It’s hard for little people to see much beyond Santa and the presents these days.

           Last year when we asked Arabelle what the meaning of Christmas was she responded with one word, “Presents!” Aaron and I were horrified and decided that we needed to come up with a better way to get the real meaning across other than our typical method of reading the kids the Christmas story and talking to them about it. Obviously that wasn’t doing the trick!

           The only problem was that we just weren’t sure how to go about it.

            Yesterday morning as we were sitting in church listening to the announcements (or at least Aaron was. . . I think I was a million miles away going over my to-do list one more time), Aaron leaned over to me and whispered, “That’s it! That’s what we need to do!” I looked at him blankly (like I said though physically present the mind was far, far away!). “We’ll help deliver the stockings to the needy families!”

            I immediately saw where he was going and though I hate knocking on strange peoples doors, I thought I could make an exception this time. After all, it is Christmastime and the reason for the season and all that. We decided it was the perfect way to talk about the real point of Christmas being about giving, like God gave to us. It would be perfect!

            The kids were actually pretty excited. Gavin and Belle kept announcing, “It’s just like Halloween except we’re giving instead of getting!” For some reason they really liked the sound of that.

            I think that is where some of the confusion started. The kids had said Halloween one too many times and it stuck in little Lily’s mind. To her it must be Halloween come again. She kept asking me why people had Christmas decorations up and she wanted to know where the skeletons were. When we knocked on doors and no one answered, she became quite concerned that the Halloween ghosts had eaten them. None of it was making sense to her at all!

             Meanwhile, Gavin, all excited to hand out his stack of stockings started getting a little perturbed that no one was coming to the door and so he began announcing at every door, “Don’t worry! We come in peace!” like we were making first contact in an alien movie or something. I cringed every time he said it, though I couldn’t help but laugh too!

             Add to all of this the fact that every single house that answered spoke Spanish and none of us do . . . well, let’s just say that our big lesson in giving didn’t go over quite as well as we had hoped!

             So, I guess we will have to find another way to get across the fact that Christmas is not about the lights or the presents or the big fat guy in a red suit.  Our perfect idea was a perfect flop. But as the saying goes, “if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again!” 🙂

             Until then have a Happy Halloween! Oops! I mean Christmas! 😉