Pretty much the day after Halloween ends, the Christmas season begins. Or at least in every store it does! I feel like the Christmas decor starts sneaking out earlier and earlier, and it makes me a little mad. Thanksgiving hasn’t even happened yet- can we just Ho-Ho-Hold on please?
The holidays seem to go by fast enough on their own, so why do we feel like we need to rush on to the ones that haven’t even happened yet? Slow down people! Let’s savor each holiday and actually enjoy them for once!
Buy! Buy! Buy!
I’m gonna be honest, I have found myself relating so much to Cindy Lou Who in the Jim Carrey version of ‘The Grinch’ so much in the past few years. At the beginning of the film, (which my kids have been watching on Netflix since like May), she is with her Father Christmas shopping and holding an enormous stack of presents. She is watching the chaos around them as people are hurrying to buy as much as they can in the rush before Christmas. Cindy turns to her father and says:
“Everybody seems to kerbabbled. Isn’t this just a little superfluous?“
I agree. 100%. The stuff, all the stuff really isn’t so important. It is, in fact, superfluous. What IS important is making valuable memories with your families, and remembering the real spirit of Christmas which is giving and love. I loved my presents of course as a kid, but the magic of the holidays and our family traditions were what I looked forward to and remember most fondly. Some of my most favorite memories as a kid? Going to cut down our tree, baking cookies with my mom, decorating our tree, having our holiday celebrations with our adopted family the Quinns, Mannheim Steamroller on repeat, and going to see the Wanamaker’s Christmas Light show in downtown Philly. The stuff? Although of course meaningful at the time, is all but forgotten now.
My husband and I have been trying to be more conscious of giving our children more useful gifts. We get them at least one of their “wants” from their lists, (come on we are not monsters!), but then try to give them something educational. The past two years we have gotten various Smithsonian encyclopedia books which have been a huge hit, and last year we got a huge box of geodes that they could smash open themselves. We also make it a point that Santa brings us new board games and card games we can play as a family. Game nights are big in our house, and it’s a great way for us to spend time together and connect in a fun way. He also always brings the kids each a new book- reading is big with us too!
This year, we have also been trying to do more “experience” gifts like classes or tickets to events or performances. Getting out and experiencing something to me is far more meaningful than a toy. I am in no way parent shaming anyone. We still get our kids plenty of toys, but we are really trying to focus on what would be the most beneficial for our kids too.
Unfortunately this season of joy can also trigger really strong emotions. Depression, anxiety, and any other mental illness can be exacerbated tremendously. There always seems to be more and more pressure to have the best Christmas ever. We are constantly bombarded by movies, ads, signs, and social media telling us: our holiday decor needs an upgrade, reminding you how you’re still single, that your life isn’t where you want it to be, that you need to lose weight for the new year, how much your cooking sucks, and that you have to buy presents to show everyone you love them. I mean, I could go on and on.
This evening as my husband and I were putting up our house lights outside, he asked me a question that has been floating around my mind ever since. He said:
“What’s the point of all this? Don’t you think in a way that we have all taken the holidays to this extreme and we have lost sight of what it’s really about?”
I think this is true, but that you also need a good balance. For instance, I think the decorations and lights help make this season so magical for my kids! I love pulling out my boxes every year and watching the kids eyes light up as they re-discover favorite ornaments or nativity scenes we have. The magic needs to remain, but don’t go overboard and become Clark Griswald or anything.
For the second year, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints has installed giving machines in some major cities around the US and the world. They sort of work like vending machines, but you are paying to give to people in need. It can be as small as glasses or socks, and as big as a cow! Your money will go towards buying what you choose and someone here or abroad will be given that special thing. I think this is such an amazing idea and gives people an opportunity to spread love.
Let’s just remember to be extra kind to those who need it this season too. Reach out to people who are single and maybe bring them some homemade Christmas cookies or invite them for dinner. If you have someone you know that struggles with their mental health, make sure they know they are loved this time of year too. A little love goes a long way.
Keeping the Memories Alive
For me, Christmas is especially hard without my mom. Everything reminds me of her, including most of the decorations I now have in my home that were hers. I have found myself this past week particularly missing her, and getting an ache in my chest as I wished she was still here.
The best thing we have done and will continue to do, is keep her memory alive by keeping traditions going.
Mom started these candy sleigh races when we were in high school when she was a seminary teacher. It was a fun game to keep her students motivated early in the morning, but it also became a favorite family Christmas time activity. The object is to create a sleigh out of candy- a large bar is the base and two candy canes are the runners. You can add as much or little candy as you want to try and make your sled faster. The names of the sleighs are always fun too. Then we turn a table on its side so it slopes down and we have heats and race them until there is a winner. My kids and my brothers kids look forward to it every year!
My stepmom has been really sweet and continued this tradition with our family, and has even started doing it with her own kids!
When I find my heart feeling heavy this season because I feel like I am not doing enough, or that the pain of missing my mom is too much, I will really try to spread some love instead. I have always found that helping others gives me so much joy. I want my kids too to understand how privileged they are and to remember to give back because they can. The reason for the season is not the stuff, it’s love. Christmas is about celebrating the birth of our Savior, not the presents under the tree. We need to remember to spend time and make memories with our loved ones, or give back to those who are less fortunate.
So, thanks to Cindy Lou Who and her inspiration – I won’t find myself kerbabbled this year!
The Raw Brunette