Early on, when I hadn’t been a parent for very long, it was such work to “do” all the things that we are all “supposed” to do over the holiday season—especially now that there are children in the family. (And, certainly, the work felt so weighty because of all the other work that is required to be a good parent. The holidays just means more work on top of all the work we’re already doing!) Pull out the tree and decorate it. Make the fudge and the peanut brittle. Put together the gingerbread house and do the marshmallow-cereal train. Make the sugar cookies and decorate them, too. (Not to mention all of the gift buying and wrapping, all the coordinating of Christmas pajamas and outfits for vising Santa, and all of the cards to send out.) All of these can be hassles, or we can turn them around and allow them to be opportunities to do something different and meaningful. The laundry and the dishes and the meal prep and the cleaning will always be there for us to do. The holidays are about injecting something fun and glittery into the daily mix.
Whether it’s a Christmas Eve service or driving around to see the Christmas lights or watching certain Christmas movies or making cards for each other or simply opening presents and enjoying a special meal on the big day of Christmas, we all have something that we can do to make the holidays extra special—and something that we will look forward to doing again next year. Yes—there will always be things that will frustrate us (tangled lights and tinsel come to mind), but let us learn to view these sorts of things as the blips that they are instead of making mountains out of them. And yes—of course there will be reasons we can cite for feeling under-appreciated and over-used and taken-for-granted (e.g., being responsible for the big meal can start off being great until it becomes un-fun very fast), but it’s up to us to keep everything in balance. If we are doing too much, then we are the only ones who can really do anything about it. (Put those assertiveness skills to use!) And if we really can’t do anything about it, then we can always pray about it and do some perspective adjustment to better endure the present trial. Nothing lasts forever, and if we really can’t get out of the I-hate-the-holidays hole, then take heart because it will be over before we know it. (But—wouldn’t it be great if we could learn to truly love the holidays? I mean, deep-down love them with giddy excitement?)
So whatever it is—putting cookies and milk out for Santa (which is a wonderfully child-friendly portrayal of God, don’t you think?), reading Christmas stories, singing Christmas carols, dancing around ‘cause you just can’t help it—we can embrace our own family traditions (which is all the more important if we, unfortunately, have broken away from our family of origin for good reason as we work towards greater health and happiness for our self and our own family). We don’t have to despair just because we don’t have another patriarch or matriarch’s home and traditions to latch on to anymore. We are now free to become the type of patriarch or matriarch that we want to be. And if we’re still tied to our family of origin (hopefully for good reasons), then we can still (and should) create and continue our own traditions that we do with our own family. Traditions don’t have to be big and grand; they can be small and simple. The point is that we make the effort to do something special together as a family—something that enhances the season and that can be enjoyed by all.