How to (NOT) Plan a Very Merry Christmas

As we neared the holidays, I was mentally preparing a series of posts: “Preparing for the Holidays.” After all, I’ve been a wife, taking care of my home for almost nineteen years now. I know a thing or two about preparing for the holidays. But as I thought through my post and what would be the most important things I would want to say about preparing for the holidays, there was something that kept coming to mind.

You see, when I was a young wife, I had high hopes of planning the most spectacular Christmases ever. I wanted the kind of Christmas you read about in magazines. I wanted a huge tree. It had to be real. I wanted hundreds of lights. I wanted pretty ornaments. I wanted a train around the base of the tree. I wanted a Christmas village to set up. I wanted garlands on my fireplace.

And year by year reality set in. I was horrible at putting lights on a tree. And one year, because I couldn’t get them off, I cut the lights off the tree before throwing them away and hauling the tree out for trash pick up. I figured out that the cute little Christmas village was rather expensive to buy piece by piece. When we decided a real tree was too expensive, we tried cutting our own only to have thousands of baby praying mantises hatch from it the next day as it sat in our living room. (True story)

The fact is, planning for the holidays is a huge stressor for me. When my children were born, I found this handy little holiday planner as a free printable online. Of course I printed it out and made a holiday planning notebook. I dutifully planned out a list of decorations, foods to cook, who to buy gifts for, who to send cards to. I updated our holiday calendar daily. But even with all of these plans, my holidays never seemed to go as planned. My tree- real or artificial- never looked like those in magazines. I never did put together that whole Christmas village. And I spent the months of October through December trying to plan the perfect holiday. As soon as it was all over after New Year’s, I could finally take a deep breath.

And then all of a sudden (I’m sure it was God opening my eyes.) I was struck with a thought- “Why in the world am I doing this?!” I was trying and trying and trying to live up to these standards I had set for myself, and I still wasn’t living up, and I sure wasn’t having fun. In fact, I was beginning to dread the whole thing.

As a result of my epiphany, I’ve done less and enjoyed more in the holiday season. I’ve pared down the things I do to things that we really enjoy and that are actually meaningful to us as a family. We light an Advent wreath every week in December to help us focus on worshiping God. We do a Jesse Tree for the month of December to review the story of salvation that stretches through the Bible. We have traditional get togethers with our family. And we have a cookie baking day with friends.

I don’t send hundreds of Christmas cards with a perfect family picture included. I don’t cook grand dinners. We don’t plan on many holiday parties. We give gifts to those close to us, but we plan on a budget and try to focus on gifts that are meaningful to the person. We use an artificial tree, and it isn’t huge or fancily decorated.

I’m no longer looking for the perfect holiday. Instead I’m trying to keep my focus on worshiping God and enjoying my family. And that’s what makes for a very merry Christmas (with no planning).

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