I have to admit, I’ve been let down by Christmas many times in my life. Not by gifts I didn’t get or anything like that—more so by my expectations for the season as a whole not being met. I’ve come to the end of the season, when it’s time to take down the ornaments and start the new year, and felt deflated. Underwhelmed. Disenchanted. I can remember thinking, Well, Christmas just didn’t live up to the hype for me. Maybe it’ll perform better next year.
That sounds really bratty when I say it like that. Let me elaborate and try to redeem myself a bit here. I’m in love with this season because of the deep, life-changing story at the root of Christmas. Every year around this time, I am just floored by the notion that we’re celebrating the birth of the savior of the world. And I love that this time of year, people’s hearts seem to be so much more in tune with the needs of the world and a desire to make things better. I love everything about the spirit of the season. So I want to just soak it all up in as many possible ways as I can. I want to go to all the concerts and watch all the plays. I want to walk through all the churches’ live nativities and drive around to see all the Christmas lights. I want to do all of the volunteering and giving. And I want my kids to experience it all, too. I want them to love the story as much as I do, and I want to let them participate in every magical Christmas event there is.
Here’s the problem with that: I am a real person with a real life. There is just no possible way to cram in every magical festival/event/fundraiser/experience out there. And I will run myself absolutely ragged trying to chase them all down and pin them to my calendar.
What I’m learning, the more Christmas seasons that come my way, is that this spirit of Christmas that I so crave isn’t found at the next big Christmas event. Going big at every turn during the month of December isn’t going to lead to the fulfillment I’m seeking. Trying to cram in every tradition, every experience—no matter how wonderful the activity might be—will only leave me exhausted and spiritually dry.
Simplifying Schedules, Prioritizing Experiences
How, then, do we joyfully celebrate the season and ditch the burnout? That’s something I’m still learning. But, as I’m finding with most things in my life, simplifying is a good place to start. It is all too easy during Christmastime to get caught up in chaos and busyness. So I’m starting with simplifying and decluttering in all the areas this year, including:
- Physical decluttering. Every year, I get so overwhelmed with all the new stuff that enters the house during this time of year that it takes a toll on my spirit. I’m getting ahead of that this year by clearing out the stuff we don’t need, and striving to be intentional by giving it away thoughtfully. By Christmas Day, I’ll have cleared enough out that the influx of new toys won’t have me panicked.
- Schedule decluttering. As I said, I want to do all the Christmas things. However, I know that ultimately, that won’t bring me joy and it won’t fulfill my soul’s craving to savor the season. Instead, I’m going to be selective about the things we decide to do this season, focusing on experiences that bring us together as a family and that make meaningful contributions to the community.
- Mental decluttering. I am the queen of over-scheduling, overdoing, over-reading, over-committing. I don’t like to say no. I used to just think that was because I just love being super helpful, but I’m beginning to realize a lot of the time that comes from a place of pridefulness—of thinking I’m the only one who can do a task. I’m rejecting that this year. I’m not the only one who can do things, and saying “no” to things that don’t align with my priorities or fit into my timeline is going to save my mental health in the long-run.
When it’s all said and done, what I’m striving for this Christmas is to pare it all down to what matters most—and leave out the rest. In her book Loving My Actual Christmas, Alexandra Kuykendall says, “When we peel back the layers of those desires of the season, or purpose and meaning, deep down I believe our longing lies in love. We have been created to be loved and that is why this story resonates with our spirits.” What matters most this season—and every day of every season—is love. Love arrived in a stable that first Christmas night, and love is what I will fight for in my home and community this season.