I LOVE Christmas, so we start early in our house. The tree goes up in late November. The kids get to help decorate the tree but I am THAT person that rearranges it when they have gone to bed. One day they will have their own tree, but for now this one is mine.
We spend the week watching Christmas movies and eating festive treats. When they were younger we had a ‘treat tree’ which was a ‘special’ tree for all their christmas activities and gaudy & broken baubles. (Thanks to Pinterest for fresh ideas – we endured repeated cotton-wool snowmen with glitter for years.)
I haven’t always loved it though. My dad passed away when I was 11 yrs old & the pain of not being able to have one thing I wanted (my dad) never matched any gift I ever receieved at Christmas. Even with various financial challenges, my mum and stepdad filled the house with presents and love for us 4 children. (They are so generous.) They worked long hours to provide. Deep down I felt I was a burden asking for christmas gifts. I would even try to hide my needs and hopes for fear it might put pressure on them to get it for me. Christmas was complicated.
Around this time I learned to value my church family as they gave me so much love and acceptance. I think it was in my teens I fully understood what it meant in Psalm 68 ‘God sets the lonely in families’. My loneliness was not about not having people around, it was feeling like there was something or someone missing. My church family supported my natural family & the Advent services, especially the morning of Christmas Day, were a huge comfort.
It would take only couple of years to see what impact those early childhood experiences had on my new family. I found I would either want to go crazy overboard & spend more than we had OR I would find myself fearful and not buying enough, forgetting to buy for people & having to rewrap gifts bought for me. Neither approach was healthy. Inside me it felt like a washing machine was tumbling & my feelings were jumbled.
In truth, the christmas story was written in history so that peace would come to all men and so why was my experience different? We all know that Christmas is not just a time where we obsess about gifts and table decorations – in those weeks before, the world feels like it’s spinning faster, people seem more distracted, there’s more cars on the road, more people in the shops and an absence of peace.
I don’t know if you can relate to this but there is a stillness I long for a peace – I read about it in the christmas story, but was not able to grasp it, and I really wanted to find peace, experience peace, know peace.
Looking at the christmas story there’s a sense of adventure, where I felt like I had to rush around, the wise men took years to get to Jesus, no peer-pressure, no marketing of the latest gadget in sight, just a bunch of shepherds going to see the baby; a story full of tenderness & magic.
I knew I had to change – the nativity would always be a story unless I chose for it to be a lifestyle.
Along the way I had adopted this lie – “I have get it ALL, do it ALL and be it ALL”. I don’t think I could have articulated this, but looking back it was a foundational belief.
So each year as I read the story to my children, every school nativity attended, every christmas service and every carol I would sing, I started to hear it as though it were the first time I had heard it, and that way each year for me new and true belief foundations were built.
Where I had allowed my childhood experiences to make me feel like a burden to God, the christmas story reminded me He would always be prepared to give up His most precious Son so that peace could come.
I changed internally over time but practically we also changed 3 things that we felt hindered knowing peace at Christmas.
1) We don’t spend money we don’t have
Set yourselves free of the the pressure to get everything on the wish-list. Instead we creatively add traditions, purposefully made memories and stopped worrying about the show-stopping gift
We follow these 4 points:
- Set a budget
- Write a list
- Stick to the budget
- Stick to the list
On occasion we have been able to get a ‘knock it out of the park’ present and if I am honest it feels pretty great, but mostly, looking back at lots of gifts the ‘must haves’ are the ones that gathered dust a month later.
We have grown & fostered in our family a LOVE for making memories; they outlast ‘bland plastic battery operated, must have thingy’s, out this year’.
Spend what we don’t have and pay for it the following year –To this- Save up all year and only spend what we do have.
TIP: Here’s a go-to guide on present buying for kids:
- Some things you want
- Some things you need
- Some things to read
2) We demoted Santa
Traditions are super important. I ponder, is it time to stop with some of the traditions we have? But my kids love the family traditions more than gifts. We choose to keep this season magical and special.
Wouldn’t you agree, there’s so much enchantment in the Nativity, ‘Jesus birth – Noel – The FIRST Christmas’. The whole sky filling with Angels & a huge star that magi followed with uh-mazing gifts, a narrativeof hope and peace to all mankind. Imagine being there!
It’s got everything a story needs to be magical.
I risk offending you now by saying this; but it’s why we demoted Santa. I don’t think we need to dress up an old man with a big white beard and cushion up his jumper; the First Noel is stand alone perfect.
Instead, Father Christmas to our family is the wonderful story book character, St Nicholas.
(On a side note, when we work hard to provide, we are not so eager to give him the recognition for the gifts we paid for, picked and wrapped.)
I believe Magical Moments are not made with the ‘WHAT’ but the ‘HOW’! (How you tell a story, how you make someone feel, how you set the scene.)
We never avoided Santa, elves, reindeer – we just told it as a story not as fact.
APOLOGY: ‘I AM SO SORRY!!’ for being the parent of ‘that’ child that may have told your child the truth; what a relief now my kids are older and wiser.
3) We don’t use Christmas as the ONLY time to see special people
Admittedly, as family and friends grow in age and size it’s increasingly difficult to regularly see them, so don’t rely on Christmas as the only time to gather, it limits the kind of relationships we can build.
All relationships, family and friends need time spent & there’s noshort cut to this.
It’s our busiest season (we work for a church) & we never want our family to feel forgotten about in the tumult. December can be a whirlwind & now we choose to press pause at home. The principle of rest and recreation is God-given & good for the soul.
I recall times we stopped working only to have a full diary again, no rest, no time off.
Questions I have to ask myself:
- Do I need this this now?
- Must I do that & go there now?
- How will this benefit us and others
It may be you are part of a family where it’s relationally tough at these holidays times. You may feel apprehensive about the time together. Could you be a peacemaker, joy bringer and plan ahead to create some family traditions that change the atmosphere?
TIP: plan and schedule time with others, but just check that you leave space for quality time, rest & recuperation.
One final thought:
Make this a holiday to remember by the way you act and love on the special people in your life & GO AHEAD, set yourself FREE from spending money you don’t have, using your time to do things you don’t want to do, becoming a person you don’t want to be and spending months catching up on the bills from ONE day of the year.
It’s good to live a generous life but it’s not just about buying gifts; the way you give, the way you spend time, the way you speak ALL model generosity.
It’s never too late to reflect on what your Christmas will be.
quoting a cliche ‘Jesus is the reason for the season’
peace to you all & don’t forget to sign up here to join ‘The Mum Journey’