No one size fits all approach to Christmas

What do you do to make your holiday experience a positive moment for your family?

We just wrapped up Thanksgiving, and it's time to start thinking about Christmas. Family gatherings, presents, social events, and more. We also just survived Black Friday and Cyber Monday. It's a great time to get your Christmas shopping done and hopefully save a few pennies. It's also a time for craziness and stress. Shopping, deadlines, events to prepare for. The list is daunting.

This week, we've been decorating my home for Christmas. Pulling out the boxes and putting up our decorations and beginning to celebrate our traditions. I pulled all the boxes out. There are quite a few. I found myself looking through them and not using many of the items I have used in the past. It's incredibly freeing to know that you won't have to put all of that stuff away later. That said, it will still take us the better part of the week to swap out our regular decorations, pillows, and more. We will have to box up those items until the holidays are done so that the house won't be a cluttered mess.

Our elf arrived on the first of December. She brought Advent calendars for the family and notes encouraging the girls to do their best. She moves each night and so we have to prepare for her. Otherwise, there's lots of scrambling in the morning. They have asked to make specific holiday desserts and we were struggling to find one of the ingredients. Today our elf delivered the missing item. The girls were thrilled that she had heard them.

Tonight we started setting up our Christmas lights in the yard. We spent hours setting them up. They look great but again, they are different than what we have done in the past. We kept it simple this year and didn't try to attach the lights to the stone/brick facade of our home. It's not super fancy, but we're happy with the end result.

As I was thinking on this topic, I was remembering how differently the people in my life approach the holidays. Here are some different groups:

  • On Christmas day, they go and feed the homeless in the inner city

  • They limit their children to one gift from each family group (mom & dad, grandma & grandpa, etc.). This limits their children’s expectation that Christmas is about commercialism, and instead focuses it on the experience of being with family.

  • On Christmas day, they drive to Grandma’s and everyone does Christmas as a group together

  • They spend six hours on Christmas morning opening gifts

  • They get up on Christmas morning and head straight to church and spend the morning there. Once they have celebrated the birth of Jesus and focused on their faith, then they go home and open gifts.

  • They invite neighbors over to celebrate because they have no local family to celebrate with. They’ve created their own family in their community.

  • They don’t do anything because they don’t celebrate Christmas or Hanukkah, but they watch the Macy’s day parade and look at Christmas lights

Every family is different, and each group has its own traditions, values, and ways of approaching the season. The goal of most people seems to be to enjoy the holidays, celebrate, and be happy. There is no “right” way to do the holiday season.

When you start to feel stressed or pressured to create a Hallmark or Pinterest style Christmas, stop and take a deep breath. Perfection isn't important. The people around us are and the memories of the time spent together. I can't tell you how excited I am to be able to spend this season with the people I love.

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Christy Zuehl

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