I know it's February, but I'm going to talk a little about Christmas...mostly about the emotional aspect of it.
As a child I had great Christmases. I was the only child and the only grandchild so needless to say I was spoiled. But my love for Christmas had nothing to do with gifts and everything to do with the coziness of the holiday. The lights, the smells, the shows, the music...everything.
The past couple years I finally realized it was all from my mom. It was me and my mom watching these Christmas shows every year, drinking hot cocoa, listening to music and so on (my dad could careless, although I remember hearing him whistle Christmas carols every now and then lol). My mom worked full time since she was 18 years old and still does. By the time she got home she was really exhausted from work like most people are. But something was different at Christmas time. There was excitement in the air when we knew Charlie Brown was coming on that night or Frosty or Rudolph or, our favorite "Twas the Night Before Christmas," you know the one with the mice? I also loved Mickey's Christmas Carol...that was my favorite as a kid.
My mom MADE Christmas for me.
As I've grown into an adult I have battled with Christmas. I loved the atmosphere my mom made when I was a kid (note - she wasn't even trying to do so, she just did it) and I have been trying to duplicate it ever since.
I also had a small family and we did the same thing every year. My grandparents and aunt came for Thanksgiving, on Christmas Eve we spent the late morning into early evening at one grandparents' house and then walked over (lived on the same street) to the other grandparents' house for Christmas Eve dinner. Then on Christmas day they all came over to our house. It was the same way every year since I can remember. It wasn't done on purpose, it's just the way we did things. In fact I don't think that we really did anything traditional each year on purpose. But to me, these "traditions" were engraved into me. (I also lived in the same house my entire childhood - I never moved as a child and neither did any of my family, so it was ALWAYS the same)
So here I am, almost 30. I've been married for almost 9 years with 2 boys ages 7 (almost 8) and a 3 year old. I only have one living grandparent left and we moved out of state (from CT to OH). I don't even see any of my family at Thanksgiving or Christmas.
A part of me longs for that coziness that I had as a child, but each year I fail to get it.
Growing up we had an artificial Christmas tree and every year we put it up the day after Thanksgiving, along with all our Christmas decorations.
Well hubby grew up with no traditions and a real Christmas tree. My husband doesn't find the need for traditions like I do so they aren't that important to him. So when I try to push the issue, sometimes it turns into an irritated situation. He also didn't really like Christmas when I met him so I decided to give in to his need for a real tree since that really was the only thing he cared about. (he enjoys Christmas now - guess that happens when you marry a Christmas freak! lol)
By doing that, I lost my day after Thanksgiving tradition. That was my most favorite day of the year. I actually looked forward to it as much as I looked forward to Christmas day itself. He also works in the retail business so he HAS TO work the day after Thanksgiving so even if we used an artificial tree, I couldn't put it up that day. Getting the real tree is supposed to be a warm, exciting tradition. We go to one of those farms where you cut it down yourself, then drive home, decorate it while listening to Christmas music and drinking hot chocolate. But this is how it really goes:
After getting home, hubby drills holes into the bottom of the tree trunk (helps get more water and makes the tree last a LOT longer), then gets it in the stand and finally we have to wait. If you use an artificial tree every year, you may not know about this. But the trees close up when it's cold outside, soooo when you bring it in the house you have to wait for it to get warm so it will "drop" it's branches. Well kids aren't that patient so let the whining begin. And then when it's FINALLY time to start decorating the tree, they still have to wait for mommy and daddy to put the lights on and then the garland and THEN they can put the ornaments on. This past year was the first year my youngest was able to help decorate the tree. Only problem was he didn't understand how to put them on the tree...so they kept falling. And no matter how we showed him he just wasn't getting it. So decorating the tree this year was chaotic. Instead of the warm, cozy, atmosphere with the hot cocoa, cookies and Christmas music, I instead got a whining 7 year old, a screaming 3 year old, a puppy whimpering, Christmas music that just become a lot of noise, no hot cocoa, I put the butter back in the fridge because at this point I had no desire to bake, and a whole lot of stress.
Christmas was never stressful for me until I had kids. I couldn't wait to have kids so I can pass down what my mom has done for me. But it's soooo different with boys. And it doesn't help when hubby just doesn't get my need for traditions.
My life as a mom is completely different than my mom's. She worked full time, I'm a stay at home mom. She only had one kid, I have 2. She had a girl, I have boys. She lived in CT with all her family, I now live in OH with none of my family. She had a fake tree, I have a real tree. Down to every little detail we are different, except for our personalities (as each day goes by I realize I am just like my mother! And that is not a bad thing!).
There is no way I can duplicate my child hood...NONE of it.
Even when it comes to watching the Christmas shows. Maybe some of you battle with this. I record the shows on my DVR "just in case" I miss them. Only thing is,I don't remember they are on, or we go out, or for whatever reason we just don't watch them. Am I the only one that finds watching a Christmas show "live" to be totally different than watching it recorded or on a DVD?
I have learned a lot the past few months about traditions. The biggest thing that I learned is....
IT'S OKAY TO BREAK THEM!...EVEN ALL OF THEM!
Any time I try to do anything that resembles my Christmas from when I was a child, it comes with a painful feeling inside, almost of mourning. A big part of me wishes I can go back in time, to when I was a kid and relive all my Christmases. Back when not only did I have my family with me, but my family that has passed away over the years.
Sometimes Christmas music is unpredictable to me. I can put on the same music all the time (which by the way, I listen to all year) and I never know how my emotions will go. Most of the time I'll enjoy it, even get the warm fuzzies from time to time. But there are times where it brings up raw emotions. I go back in my rut wanting "the good ole days." I never know when it's going to hit...I can be in a great mood and then all of a sudden BAM...I'm in the rut again.
I have prayed a lot about it and God showed me all the way from Thanksgiving into Christmas little things here and there that have helped me.
Like I said, it's okay to break all your traditions that you grew up with. For some reason I NEEDED to know that it was okay. I almost felt guilty if I didn't do it.
I now decorate for Christmas starting Nov 1st. Christmas begins then for me. We still get the main tree after Thanksgiving and I have decided that I no longer care WHEN that happens. This year I'm getting an artificial tree and putting it in the kitchen in the beginning of November. I'll be putting it up myself, by myself, with lights, garland, and just colorful ordinary ornaments.
If you struggle with anything even remotely similar to what I do, here are some suggestions that I'm learning.
Enjoy the holiday for YOURSELF. My mom absolutely loves Christmas. Because of her I am a Christmas fanatic...however she will actually wait until after Thanksgiving to decorate and celebrate like normal people. Most of the time, when she watches her Christmas shows, my dad is in another room watching something else. Do you think that stops her? Nope. If I wasn't home to watch a show or wasn't interested it didn't stop her either. Her love for Christmas and doing things that SHE liked BLESSED US for multiple reasons. One, we all know that the woman of the home sets the tone. Two, her love for Christmas becomes contagious and three, she's happy doing it which makes her enjoyable to be around. Which brings me to my next point.
Think of things that YOU like to do for Christmas and do them. It may seem selfish that I want to decorate a tree by myself and not include anyone, but really no one cares that much about Christmas like I do in my home. I get so much joy in decorating, baking, making the house smell good and all that and that joy becomes contagious. If I'm enjoying Christmas, and full of joy and all giddy, it puts the rest of my family at peace...it blesses my family. Yes you can do things that YOU enjoy and it blesses the family. Which brings me to my next point, which is really 2 points in 1.
Don't depend on someone else for your Christmas enjoyment. Just like we're not supposed to depend on someone else for our happiness (we instead go to Jesus), we shouldn't depend on someone else for our enjoyment with the Christmas season. Just like my two other points mentioned enjoying the season for yourself, there is another aspect we should be doing. That is to really bring Jesus into our season. Yes we have our nativity scenes, we read Luke 2, do the whole advent thing and what not, but we really need to get back with Jesus. During the year I spend a lot of time studying and reading about being a homemaker and things that I need improvement on (anger, prayer life, patience, etc) that sometimes I forget the whole reason WHY I need to change and sometimes I even forget that Jesus loved me so much that he died for me. I think Christmas time should be a regular renewal of our love and closeness to Jesus. This is even more true if Christmas brings you pain. If you lost a loved one and this time of the year really gets you down, you need to dig into Jesus more than you normally do. I was on a hunt recently for a 2 year Bible reading plan that is in chronological order.....while searching for that I found this AWESOME reading plan that I'm putting in my Christmas binder to do each year.
It is called "30 Days with Jesus." It's a reading plan that goes through the life of Jesus and everything He did and said.
And my last point...
Rethink ALL of your traditions or even just get rid of them. Did you know it's okay to throw out all your traditions? It really is okay. Did you know that it's even okay to not have any? For some reason we love to have traditions when it comes to the holidays. I'm not saying there is anything wrong with them. But if they are causing unnecessary stress or unwanted emotions, get rid of them. If you are like me and love traditions but have a family that either could careless about them or for some reason you just can't do them, then make up some traditions for yourself. Just like I have decided to decorate for Christmas on November 1st - BY MYSELF, you can make your own traditions just for you. Here are a few just to get your brain going
- You can make yourself a cup of hot chocolate while reading the Word during the month of December
- You can try out a new Christmas movie each year or a new book.
- Try out a recipe just for yourself for lunch or during the day
- Each Friday (or whatever day you pick) of the Christmas season, cuddle up on the couch or in bed and watch your favorite Christmas shows. If you're a scheduler, schedule it in and plan for it (clean up during the day and get stuff done so you can sit back guilt free)
- Do a craft that is just for YOUR home.
- Make the house smell nice even if you're the only one home (boil some water with some cinnamon in it along with other similar spices -nutmeg, cloves, allspice, etc) or throw it all in the crockpot
You get the idea. I can't stress enough that we set the tone in our home. And if we're upset and down during the season for whatever reason, then what kind of tone are we setting for our family during the holidays? And what kind of memories are they producing?, especially if you feel this way EVERY YEAR?
I'm personally done with MAKING traditions. Unless one of my kids or hubby has something they want to do every year, I'm not bothering. I'm giving them all up. I'm not trying to reproduce my childhood anymore. I'll watch Christmas shows on the DVR, we'll get a real tree whenever that happens, we'll have different menu plans each year, have different Christmas foods each year, different activities and so on. Only if something is requested again, will I do it. Then that becomes a "natural" tradition.
I'm also rethinking my decor. I grew up with traditional decor. In some ways "old-fashioned" decor. Who knows...maybe I'll jump on the lime green, white and turquoise bandwagon. I went to Target during the Christmas season and I really liked their Christmas decor and some of it would be definitely considered "non-traditional."
My mom never did things on purpose. It was her joy during the holidays that brought the warmth in the house and what made me love Christmas so much and THAT is what I'm hoping to pass along to my family.