Lets think about it: Christmas is an annual event, how we celebrate, what we need to do to get ready, our little rituals and traditions, we replay them once every year, they ought to be rehearsed down to a T.
Yet, for most of us, this time of year inevitably ends up being highly stressful. We do not seem to have enough hours in the day, lines everywhere, late nights are spent on “getting ready” as the list of things to do seems to grow with each passing December day.
Why do we do this to ourselves? Because it’s the way it has always been done? Because we do not want to disappoint our families, or maybe ourselves?
I fall prey to this too. I am driven by a need to create cozy rituals in order to “get into the mood” as well as being influenced by the festive environment around pushing me to follow these same rituals. Although having grown up in South Africa under a hot summer Christmas season, baking a variety of German Christmas cookies was such a ritual. Those enticing spicy smells wafting through the house are an integral part of “getting me in the mood”.
This year I made a conscious decision to accept a simpler approach. And be totally OK with it. Because I acknowledged that it was my own expectations that drove a lot of the stress I used to create for myself in the past.
Amazing, this power of self-realization! Simple and effective.
Each time I felt swamped during the last 4 weeks I took a moment and simply focused on what really mattered right there and then. Did it really matter that we did not manage to bake all the usual varieties of cookies this year? Did it really matter that the house wasn’t as fully decorated as usual? What we had accomplished was actually, quite frankly, enough.
We were on our way to Toronto this year to celebrate the festive season with family when we got word that the ice storm overnight had caused the entire city to experience a massive power outage (familiar to us New Jersians…). We stopped ¾ of the way, waited a night, and turned back home after it became clear that this was a lengthy issue. Our family ended up driving down to stay with us again. They left behind a perfectly prepared home complete with filled-up fridge and a booked ski resort for all of us. We arrived back to a rather disheveled home with an empty fridge, with guests (even though it was family) only hours away. Stress-perfect formula, if you chose to see it this way…
We chose differently. “It just is what it is” was our motto. Of course we had to submerge ourselves into an overcrowded supermarket with lost of empty shelves, delegated chores to every family member and spent a day buzzing with activity. Even so, we weren’t as prepared as we usually were, but it was sufficient, and I chose to be OK with that.
What mattered was that we actually could spend Christmas together again, that we each arrived safely after travelling on wintery roads, and that we could lounge around on the couch, put our feet up, chill, watch movies together or just chat, enjoy simple meals, and nosh on a few home-baked cookies. Time spent together is what really matters after all.