We all know how it goes. Shopping, cooking, family, wrapping, travel…it all quickly adds up and can make for one freaking stressful time of year. However, it’s also one of my absolute favorites and I’m not just saying that. I love Christmas more than any other holiday by far. My Dad also loves Christmas and some of my most wonderful memories are of all of us decorating the tree, or going to the candlelight midnight mass. When we were little, we would lay in front of the huge speakers in the living room and read the jacket of the Sesame Street Christmas record (yes kids, I mean vinyl here). He still has it by the way, and puts it on for us every Christmas…and we know every word.
There’s just something about Christmas that touches my heart. We are Christian, so church and the message that holds is a large part of the season for us, as it is for many people. However I don’t feel you have to be religious to appreciate the magic of the season. Seeing the children get so excited about Santa, driving around looking at all the beautiful lights, and teaching them to help others, that is magical too. The warmth of the house, the lights from the tree, the beautiful music, the family time, it all adds up to a feeling of fullness and wonder. It also reminds me of how blessed we are in this life and makes me try a little harder to do a little something extra for those who aren’t as fortunate.
No matter what your feelings are about the holidays, here’s a few things to remember if you are trying to keep some of that wonder in your home and your heart this year.
- Decorate – You don’t have to go crazy here. Although if you love it, go for it. My brother in law is a decorating fool when it comes to Christmas. He has lights outside and puts up the tree right after Thanksgiving. Every surface is covered in holiday something and I’m surprised the dog doesn’t walk around with a wreath around her neck and a piece of mistletoe hanging off her tail. We aren’t quite that enthusiastic about decor in our house, but I absolutely need to have a tree. Sitting in the living room and looking at the lights and ornaments that are from when I was little or were made by the kids just makes me happy. Whatever it is for you, make the house a little more festive. A tabletop tree, a little candle in the window, or a lighted snowman in front of your door. It all makes the season feel special.
- Watch those cheesy movies – Yes, I’m serious. All those cheesy, ridiculous specials and holiday themed movies that play on a constant circuit. Watch them. Some of them suck, but some of them are just too damn fabulous and will make your eyes well up and feel like an idiot, Christmas gold there people. You also have to watch the classics like National Lampoons Christmas Vacation (which is playing right now actually as I write this ) and Elf and The Polar Express. They are awesome. They just are. Do it.
- Listen to Christmas music – There is nothing quite as beautiful and emotional as listening to the floating pure voice of Andrea Bocelli singing effortlessly the melody of “O Holy Night” along with a beautiful orchestra. I think that this might be what you hear in heaven. Music has a way of getting into those parts of our heart that we don’t allow ourselves to often feel. For me, it makes the holiday real. When I walk into my parents house and my Dad has on the Christmas music (which he is often singing along with). I know the holiday is here.
- Talk to a child – If you ever want to really know what the season is about, talk to a kid. The amazingly pure answers you get will remind you of what’s important. They talk about baby Jesus like he is their friend, they get so excited about the possibility of seeing Santa, and they remember those crazy traditions like putting up a certain ornament or leaving carrots for the reindeer. Kids make the holiday better, just to have that infectious excitement and magical outlook on the day makes everything just more. They also distract you from the fact that you want to beat your husband for forgetting the one present you asked him to grab off the counter.
- Eat – Yeah I know, most of you are sitting there and thinking “hello, I know this one”, but at Christmas you need to really commit. Drink the 500 calorie thimble full of egg nog, eat those candy cane truffles, gorge yourself on the prime rib and eat two helpings of Mom’s mashed potatoes. I may think it at other times of the year, but I never EVER have thought, “wow I wish I hadn’t eaten that” at Christmas. Food, and decadent, rich, fat filled food at that is part of what makes the holiday special. Take a break from the restraint, eat what you want, and enjoy it. Don’t think about what it means tomorrow, and just have a good time, eat the food you love and save room for dessert!
- Give – There are so many people for which Christmas is hard. Really hard. At our church we participate in a program with the Covenant to Care for Children organization where our church has “adopted” a DCF social worker. Throughout the year we try and provide her and her case families with things that they may need and may have a hard time getting otherwise. At Christmas, we ask what the children might want, and then create a giving tree that church members can choose from and buy gifts for. Everyone loves it, and often we have to go back and get additional names to care for all the people who want to contribute. Knowing that these gifts are going directly to these local kids and will be responsible for giving them a gift of light and hope at Christmas just makes me feel good. The past couple years I have chosen a child who has been close in age to AC to remind me that much more of the need that is out there. Something about relating it to our own kids brings it closer to home. If you have the opportunity, and you are able to, try and give something during this time, or at any time during the year. The need isn’t only now, but the opportunity is never easier to find than at the holidays.
- Take a moment – Through all the insanity, take a moment. Give yourself a brief reprieve from wrapping presents and checking off lists to just be. Sit there, listen to the music, appreciate your tree, or drive through a festival of lights. Look at your family and friends, and appreciate all you have. There are times that I just sit in the kitchen at my parents house, when we are in the throws of full blown holiday chaos, with about 10 conversations going at once, a ridiculous amount of food on the counter, and the cocktails flowing freely and feel a rush of pure emotion at being so incredibly blessed to call this group of crazy, loud, messy, loving, and truly wonderful people my family. As I look around at what we have, I take the time to pause, say a small word of personal thanks, and show them all that I love them very much. I look at those little faces lighting up with joy and breathe in the smells that make the house a home. In those moments, that is when I feel the wonder, that is when I feel the magic. I wish all of you glimpses of those moments with those you love this year.
Merry Christmas to you all!