and embrace the reality of what Christmas actually is,
not what it used to be when I was a child.
My idea of what Christmas should be never seems to line up with how the holiday unfolds in my own life. I've recently decided my expectations might be too high. Have I been searching for the perfect Christmas? Is there such a thing? I happened upon a website called, "Flirting With Faith", and the first statement there grabbed my attention:
"...what would happen if we decided to have a Merry Christmas whether or not our expectations were met?..." - Joan Ball, from Flirting With Faith
My expectations often revolved around getting things accomplished that I'd always thought were necessary for a good holiday - lots of decorations, many varieties of cookies and baked goods, gifts to fulfill everyone's wish lists, cards and greetings sent to everyone I know, and on the list went. Trying to accomplish all of those things in a short span of time made me tired, frustrated, and irritable. What is it I really wanted or expected? How could I have experienced merrier Christmases? Shouldn't time spent with family and friends have been more important than pre-holiday preparations?
What I truly desired was a return to simplicity and joy. I wanted to turn back the clock and be a kid again - with no worries or cares and very few responsibilites. There, I've finally identified and admitted it. Of course I know that's not possible. As an adult, the closest thing to having a carefree holiday is when my daughter invites her dad and me to her home for Christmas Day. She insists we bring nothing (except our gifts to the family) and she and her hubby do all the work that day. I hope I've expressed how much that means to me. Thank you sweet daughter and son-in-law for your generous gift of love.
When the holidays approach, my heart revisits a simpler time when my mother would bake a few cookies and make a Hungarian coffee cake for Christmas Day. Sometimes she'd stir up a white coconut cake in memory of her own childhood. She usually cooked a turkey or ham dinner to share with family members who often spent Christmas afternoon with us. She'd put on her Christmas apron and we'd use the "good" dishes - the blue and white Currier and Ives stoneware that now resides in my home.
Mom shopped when she had time and purchased a few gifts for each of us. She couldn't afford expensive things, but we didn't feel deprived. She made sure we each received one or two things from our wish lists, but we didn't have high expectations back then. Our family was always on a tight budget so we also received useful items like socks, mittens, shoes, or underwear. Dad loved to hand out the gifts on Christmas morning, but other than shopping for our tree, he didn't help with other holiday preparations and Mom never seemed to mind. Maybe that's because she knew the value of a simple celebration.
The days leading up to Christmas were filled with excited anticipation and if our mom felt overburdened or frustrated, she never let on to us. She did the decorating and Christmas planning and all of us helped trim the tree. Plastic candles were placed in the windows and Mom set the Santa candle (never lit, just for show) on the top of the TV. She added colorful candies to her plastic gumdrop tree and hung a wreath on the front door. She sent Christmas cards to far away friends and relatives, but I don't think she felt obliged to send cards to everyone she knew. I have fond memories of those days, though by today's standards, our celebrations were simple and uncomplicated. Christmas was never "perfect", but it was not as hectic back then as it seems to be these days.
Maybe all I've actually longed for was a simple and uncomplicated Christmas. All the things I listed in previous posts seemed to be leading to a simpler way to celebrate the holidays. This may actually be easier than I thought, since I've identified the things I need take off my to-do lists.
I will still be responsible for much of the holiday planning, but I now realize I'm the one who has the power to celebrate Christmas however I choose. It can be frustrating and hectic - or simple and uncomplicated. It's up to me.