When I was young, of course I loved Christmas. I would dance and sing to Christmas albums by the sparkle of our overly tinseled tree. I loved baking all the cookies with my mom. Never did I get enough baking. I loved the parties with friends where we exchanged gifts early, and ate treats that only came once a year like popcorn balls and ambrosia salad. Like Bing Crosby ordered, Christmas was the happiest time of the year.
However, the childhood joy of the season changed slowly as I had my own kids. Life was so busy on its own that the Christmas season started to become a season of dread. As a young mom, (I incorrectly believed) Christmas fell squarely on my shoulders. If I didn’t “take care of the Christmas duties”, Christmas wouldn’t happen. I did it all- the wrapping, the decorating, the baking, the shopping, the cards, and the list goes on. It was a mad rush from Thanksgiving until I finally could relax on December 26. I became resentful and unhappy and knew something had to change.
The main thing I changed in order to allow the joy of the season back into my life was learning to say, "No" to all the things that I didn’t enjoy doing during the season. That’s the first not so secretive secret. The other thing I did was start asking for help. I’m still the primary coordinator, but I’m much better at asking others in my family to pick up the slack.
I’m not pretending either of these things were easy. There are a lot of expectations around the holidays, and not everyone openly enjoyed my slow shift to an easier-for-me season. But when I let my heart guide me, the outside pressure seemed much less important.
Luckily, I love shopping, so presents stayed. Whew! And, of course, there’s still lots of baking and special meals. But I let go of cards, and most parties (I find them stressful.) I don’t micromanage decorations, and I plan downtime for holiday movies.
If you’re feeling less than joyous around the holidays, I hope you will try the power of no and asking for help. Both allow more time and space for things you want during the season. Choose to do the things that bring you joy or at least peace. Give yourself permission to trim the “to do” list along with the tree, and see if you can find the hap, happiest season of all!
p.s. It seems appropriate to send my favorite cookie recipe should you be one who bakes for joy!