Do you need to free yourself from all the Christmas expectations this year? Are you starting to feel like December slides into January in a miserable haze of rushing around and the “not enough” voices echoing in your head?
Where does all this pressure come from?
I know the media does its fair share of applying the pressure to create a magical holiday for our families.
The problem is that even those perfect holiday movies aren’t perfect. Just watch one of the military themed ones with my husband, he’ll tell you all about it!
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After the media, the commercialism of the holidays is a major factor.
America starts celebrating Christmas earlier and earlier each fall. At this rate, I’m pretty sure the decorations will hit the shelves the weekend after Labor Day next year. Santa Claus was sitting next to Jack o’Lanterns as it was!
Then, we see the decorations and subconsciously begin to craft the perfect holiday in our hearts and heads. Our imaginations conjure a Christmas that would put June Cleaver to shame.
And we set ourselves up for failure, robbing our family and selves of so much joy.
Too many of my friends and family are feeling the weight of Christmas expectations already. We’re only five days into December, but the pressure is so high to make the entire month spectacular, to fill each day with magic and meaningful moments.
Even amongst Christians, we succumb the idea that we’re supposed to be celebrating advent, volunteering, giving, learning more about Jesus in some super serious, dedicated manner. And we’re heaping tasks on ourselves that Jesus never meant us to have.
Set yourself FREE of those Christmas Expectations right now!
One, manage your own expectations. Be realistic with what you can do while having peace and joy.
I guarantee you that your family will enjoy your peaceful, joyous heart more than a million seasonal activities.
Have a kid fighting cancer? Christmas magic isn’t the priority this year. Give yourself a break.
Even if you are just having a normal year, in 24 hours, you sleep 8 (I’m being optimistic – go with it), meals take about 4-5 hours a day between prep, eating, and clean-up (longer with toddlers or nursing), subtract at least 3 more for hygiene and parenting (double that for each kid under five), which leaves 8 hours or less for work, housework, grocery shopping, bill paying, etc.
That doesn’t leave you much time to make Christmas magic.
Choose your battles!
You can’t do everything. What are the most important parts of the holidays for you that are manageable? Hot chocolate, candy canes, and Christmas movies are pretty magical with very little effort. Add some whipped cream to that cocoa and you are super mom, I promise.
Decorations don’t have to be HGTV worthy the day after Thanksgiving (or ever). We’ve tackled one task a day for the last week. My tree was half-lit for 24 hours. I had a sinus infection and thought I was dying. Trying to stand long enough to decorate the tree wasn’t going well. We finally finished today. And it’s not perfect, but I have my twinkle lights and candles which are my two favorites.
The year my husband was deployed, I was on my own with a colicky infant and working full-time. I put up a two foot high, slightly tacky Walgreen’s tree from a box. And it was enough. My daughter’s first Christmas was magical because of family, not because my house looked like Martha Stewart was my decorator.
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That pesky elf might be really important to your child, but everyday doesn’t have to be a huge deal. Make it harder to find instead of an elaborate production each day. My daughter has the most fun when she can’t find hers and has to really search.
Play your favorite Christmas music as often as possible. Everything is more magical to an amazing sound track. Even if life is hard, Josh Groban singing Ave Maria takes my breath away and reminds me why we celebrate at all.
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Manage your expectations for your children.
When you do summon energy to plan and organize something special, the kids will often not cooperate. They’ll be too young for your favorite holiday movie or hate the music you cherish.
They will miss naps and have too much sugar. Company throws everything out the window.
Expect your kids to be the tiny maladjusted tyrants they are when their schedules get disrupted.
Take time to recognize the magical moments that happen naturally, like laying on the floor coloring our advent color calendar together listening to Christmas music.
Your children didn’t get the memo this is supposed to be fun/amazing/magical.
Consider their attention span, energy level, and interests in your planning. My daughter REALLY wants to see the Nutcracker but the production at our local theater is three hours plus an intermission. There is no way I’m spending $100 to take her to that for her to spend three hours fidgeting in her best dress and trying to jump out of her seat. But her friend is in a shorter dance company version, and we can still enjoy the holiday classic and support her sweet friend.
Celebrating this season means recognizing the grace that heaven sent to walk among us. Grace that we lose touch with when we heap faulty and impractical expectations on ourselves, our family, and on the holiday.
At the end of the day, Christmas wasn’t the day Jesus was born, not really, and the hype is over in less than an hour of torn paper, gleeful screeches, and disappointed “socks” groans.
Having joy in Christ should last all year long. Do the things this Christmas that leads your heart closer to His.
You don’t have to spend an hour a day journaling or mapping each verse to have quiet time that counts. Even if your Bible time is listening to the audio version on your phone, having the right heart is all that matters.
We are reading a Character-Filled Christmas by Megan Ann Scheibner together, learning about having a heart for giving, service. We’re learning that giving matters most when it costs us a little something. (Check back later this week for our next post!) We add to our list of Christlike character each day after reading a Christmas themed book and opening the door on our advent calendar.
Release yourself from the trap of Christmas expectations this year. Let yourself embrace the joy in this messy, beautiful life without worrying about the perfect tree, daily magical excursions, or any of the craziness we are led to believe everyone else is doing.
The only expectation that really matters is the expectation of Christ’s coming and just resting in His love is always exactly enough.