I am a confessed Christmas addict. Last year on the day before Halloween, I noticed the maintenance crew hired by our Homeowner’s Association putting up Christmas lights on the trees at the entrance to our subdivision. I’m sure they do it so early because the weather is still good, but yes, the day before Halloween. I drove by, saw what they were doing, and I squealed. I actually squealed. And then I realized, “Oh my gosh. I’m THAT person.”
While Christmas is a beloved holiday and tradition for many, with lots of warm and fuzzy memories, Christmas wasn’t always what it is today. Christmas has gone through a lot of changes over the years. In fact, history.com calls Christmas “both a sacred religious holiday and a worldwide cultural and commercial phenomenon.”
Really? How did the birth of Jesus Christ turn into a cultural and commercial phenomenon? If you find yourself wondering the same thing, and wondering how to bring Christ back into Christmas, you’ve come to the right place.
Before I share ideas with you on making Christmas a Christ-centered celebration, though, I want to mention something very important: I’m not talking about adding anything to what you’re already doing. Chances are, you’re already crazy busy during December. The ideas I will share can change what you already do. They can simplify or replace what you already do. They aren’t meant to add more for you to do.
Don’t get stressed out.
Being the Christmas addict I am, I went to a Christmas class several years ago given by my church women’s group. Because: Christmas. *squeal* The first activity was about time.
The speaker gave us worksheets and asked us to write down everything we do on a daily basis. (You might actually want to do this right now if you are overwhelmed, busy, or stressed at Christmastime.) She asked us to write down our regular routines–grocery shopping, laundry, taking care of kids, paying bills. Then she asked us to write down the other things that come up periodically that we have to squeeze into our regular routines–sick kids, a friend needing help, dishwasher breaking.
Then she dropped the bomb. She asked us how much free time we had left. (“None,” of course!) Then she asked what we’d like to do for ourselves, our families, and neighbors/community for Christmas– bake cookies for the school choir performance, make gifts for neighbors, go Christmas shopping, make gingerbread houses, decorate the house, decorate the tree, etc. She asked where and how we were going to squeeze those things into our already-tight schedules.
It was then that I decided what I would keep in my Christmas routine and what I would get rid of. Christmas is supposed to be joyful.
Here’s My Trick
After this class, I actually created a 2-month plan so that I could do as much as possible in October and November. What is worth keeping, what can be substituted or simplified, and what can I do without? I started making gingerbread houses in October and putting them (disassembled) in the freezer. I found neighbor gifts that I could make ahead of time like soups in a jar or non-food gifts I could buy months ahead of time. I wrote Christmas cards here and there over the course of several weeks in November. I substituted things that required a lot of work on my part for simpler things. (Refrigerated cinnamon rolls are still cinnamon rolls.) Our advent calendar went from activity-based (“make and decorate cookies today”) to a simple scripture to read each night as a family.
Consider your must-haves for Christmas, and then re-evaluate the rest. Make an actual plan –set aside time on your calendar– to do what is most important to you at Christmastime so you don’t get overloaded. Do as much as you can early.
Then, to bring Christ into your Christmas, ask yourself two questions:
#1 What’s Our Environment?
What’s around you? What kind of Christmas decor does your family see around the house every day that helps them know Christmas is a Christ-centered celebration? What may be distracting them? Or you?
#2 What’s My Focus?
What’s YOUR focus at Christmastime? Not your kids’ focus– yours. Your focus rubs off on them. They see and do whatever you are focused on. If Elf on the Shelf (more commonly called “The Damn Elf on the Shelf”, near as I can tell) is your primary focus, it will be theirs. If being good so Santa brings them presents they’ve earned through their behavior is your focus, it will be theirs. There are a million fun, adorable, blog-post-worthy things you can do with or for your family. Not all of it is worth your time, and not all of it is worth your focus. Choose what is most important to you, what will bring Christ into Christmas, and don’t worry about the rest.