Deck the Halls with dysfunction, stress, and unrealistic expectations, Fa-la-la-la-la, la-la-la-la.
Tis the season to smile and fake it, Fa-la-la-la-la, la-la-la-la
Do you ever feel trapped by the Christmas holiday and all the things that go with it? Me neither, or at least I don’t admit it in public for fear of being labeled as the Grinch or Scrooge. Perhaps the lengthening of the holiday season is partially to blame for the feelings of woe. The Christmas season now starts at midnight on Halloween. I’m surprised that we don’t see jack-o-lanterns wearing Santa hats. I recently took an informal poll during the Sunday morning service at Journey Church. I first asked how many loved the Christmas season? Hands shot up with smiling faces around the room. Then I asked another question. I asked how many loathe Christmas and dread its coming? After some encouragement a few brave souls raised their hands and admitted how they truly feel this time of year. A lot of people don’t want to accept the fact that some folks don’t enjoy Christmas. For some reason, once a year, we throw all logic and reason out the window for the sake of a holiday that Christians claim celebrates the birth of Jesus. If this is supposed to be a season so filled with joy why do so many of us dread its arrival?
Christian families experience tremendous pressure during the Christmas season. We have not only the pressures of gift giving, holiday parties, and family get togethers but we are also expected to be “more religious” than any other time of the year by serving meals to the needy, caring for the homeless, visiting the elderly, and attending a multitude of church oriented Christmas activities all while remembering “Jesus is the Reason for the Season”. We are expected to simply ignore all of the dysfunction in our families, after all it’s Christmas! If you just don’t “get” the whole Christmas thing you are made to feel like a second class Christian.
I was reading an article recently that said we shouldn’t expect Christmas to be like it was when we were 6 years old and I’ve been thinking; why not? A 6 year old’s Christmas is simple and straightforward. It is filled with fun, imagination and the spirit of giving. Who says we have to grow up at Christmas? Maybe the key to Christmas is keeping it simple and getting back to the basics. Here are a few practical tips to help you simplify Christmas and cope with holiday stress:
Just say No. Overcommitment is a big holiday stress inducer. Cut back on your activities. Don’t try to make it to every school, work, church, and family Christmas activity while trying to fit in pictures with Santa, parades, tree lightings, caroling, and the Nutcracker ballet.
Guard your time. School, work and life don’t stop just because it is Christmas time. Make sure you allow enough time for your routine activities.
Stick to a budget. Making a budget will keep you from overspending on those great Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals. If you have credit card debt don’t add to it by charging your Christmas gifts. Start now putting money into a Christmas fund for next year and spend only what is in the fund.
Plan ahead. Madly running from house to house exchanging gift cards with no time to spare is a recipe for holiday disaster. Allow enough time for unexpected events like your kids throwing up on their new Santa sweater just before time to take the big holiday photo.
Be realistic. Life isn’t like a Hallmark movie where by the end of the movie everyone has reconciled and found true love and happiness. Engage difficult people only on neutral topics. Don’t give them reasons to argue.
Acknowledge your feelings. Don’t try and force yourself to feel happy when you aren’t. It will backfire and cause even more stress. It’s OK to dislike aspects of the holiday. Set limits on participating in things you don’t enjoy.
Watch your Alcohol intake. It is easy to rationalize the amount you drink during the holidays. It can be anything from taking that drink to calm your nerves to deal with the stress or the free flowing alcohol at Christmas parties.
This Christmas take a step back from all the crazy Christmas activities and the expectations that come along with them. Don’t worry about having the beautifully decorated holiday home with fresh baked goodies, perfectly hung stockings, and the flawless smiling family. Sit back, relax, and enjoy the season like a 6 year old.