You’re probably wondering where I’ve been, why I’ve distanced myself from you the last couple of years. Why, when I’d see you coming, I’d look the other way and avoid you. Why there was no jingle in my bells, no deck in my halls.
You probably blamed yourself. Truth be told, I blamed you, too. But now I realize it was never your fault. I let other people sabotage our relationship, and I want to try to fix this.
Remember when you used to be my favorite time of year? When I was little, I decorated the tree with my mom and dad, brothers and sisters. I sat next to the furnace register, wrapped in a blanket, and admired the glow of the lights. Remember when I’d fall asleep under the tree with scratchy old record albums playing in the background—Burl Ives and Elvis Presley?
I loved the old nativity scene with the glittery cotton-snow we reused year after year. How I arranged and rearranged Baby Jesus, Mary and Joseph, the wise men and the barn animals. Sometimes, Plastic Santa stood next to the manger, too. And sometimes Baby Jesus got a special ride in Plastic Santa’s sleigh. Good times.
TV meant planning our evenings around A Charlie Brown Christmas and Frosty the Snowman broadcasts, because we didn’t have the technology to record them or rent them.
Radio meant the Top 40 radio station played non-stop Christmas songs through the night, beginning on Christmas Eve and continuing until Christmas day—commercial-free for a whole 36 hours! It was the only time my sister and I slept with the radio on—just so we could wake up to the Carpenters singing Merry Christmas Darling.
Christmas Eve meant baked ham. Christmas morning meant a new baby doll, a board game, a new outfit. And Christmas Day meant turkey and creamed peas at Grandma’s.
As a teen and college student, I loved you, too. I worked at the mall, remember? And I loved working the day after Thanksgiving, not because the mall was crowded with Black Friday shoppers (Black Friday wasn’t even a thing), but because it gave me something to do over the Thanksgiving weekend. It was beginning to look a little like Christmas, but not a lot. Most people didn’t put up decorations until mid-December.
When I got married, I set out to recreate meaningful Christmas traditions with my new husband. We bought our own decorations and our own Christmas music (Hello, Mariah Carey!) and made our own Christmas Eve dinner. With the arrival of the babies, we watched afresh, through their little eyes, the magic of the season. Noah’s first outing, after his long 6-week stay in the NICU, was Christmas shopping, strapped to my chest in a little pouch. It was good. All good.
When the kids were little, we lived 1000 miles from family, and continued adding meaningful, memorable traditions. We bought a real tree and tried to keep chubby little toddler hands from breaking fragile ornaments and grabbing fallen needles.
I stopped by the store and picked up a box of Christmas cards. I propped babies up on the couch in festive clothes and snapped grainy pictures. After taking the film to the drug store for processing, I made extra copies to place them in my store-bought cards.
We exchanged gifts with our parents and our siblings. We bought little gifts for our nieces and nephews. Sometimes I’d make a plate of cookies for the women in Jon’s office or for the neighbors. Sometimes I’d buy a little ornament for a church teacher or special friend.
Year by year, our little traditions evolved into something worthwhile and special. It was the most wonderful time of the year, truly. I loved you, Christmas.
But something intrusive happened. Many things, actually.
Stores started selling Christmas décor in July and started decorating for Christmas in October. TV started to mean a month of Christmas specials and non-stop “COME IN NOW FOR THE BEST DEALS OF THE SEASON!!!!” (Really, the BEST deals are in November? This is really my last chance to get this price on that thing?)
Radio started playing continuous Christmas music beginning the day after Thanksgiving. No wait, the day after Halloween.
Black Friday morphed into this whole money-making monster. First stores opened early, at like 8 am. Then, earlier (6 am) and earlier (5 am). Then people said, “Well, shoot, I might as well camp here in front of the store because I need THE BEST DEALS OF THE SEASON!” Most recently, Thanksgiving Day became the first official shopping day of Christmas. It’s like a warped sporting event. The news cameras are there and everything. I don’t get it…
People starting fighting on social media about whether it’s better to greet people with Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays, and whether or not we can put nativity scenes up on public property, and when it’s okay to start decorating for Christmas, and how early is too early, and people contrived fake fights about red cups at coffee shops. It’s all too much.
My kids entered school and Christmas took on a new level of crazy. Every group/class/club has a Christmas party/program/concert. And also, a collection for a group gift. I no longer need to shop for a special something. I just need to keep shoving ten-dollar-bills into envelopes in backpacks.
My calendar is packed with Christmas events, beginning mid November, most of which I barely know the people hosting.
People take professional family pictures months in advance for custom Christmas cards that are nicer and more expensive than my wedding invitations.
My kids went from magical and full-of-wonder to demanding and materialistic and impossible to please. Well, all except the youngest, who still adores you, Christmas, and is thrilled with a new baby doll and coloring book.
Each year, in increasing measure, I find myself looking at the calendar and absolutely dreading November and December, wishing for it all to be over before it even begins. Yes, Christmas. It’s true. I run when I see you coming.
I’m looking for Christ and the celebration of His birth, but all I see are screaming advertisements and pressure to be too many places and spend too much money. I tell myself, if I just keep shelling out money and showing up in “festive attire,” it will all blow over and we can continue on with our normal lives.
I feel like I have a better shot at Silent Night Holy Night in January, not December.
But this year, I want things to be different. Christmas, I want to try to work this out between us. I realize I’ve been mad at you, and I see now, it’s not you’re fault. I’m sorry I judged you so harshly and pulled away.
Will you forgive me?
It’s November and I realize I need to make a change, and soon. My cynical attitude and reluctant participation has not served anyone well. This year, I’m going into the holiday season with a new attitude and fresh resolve.
So, Christmas, here is my vow to you:
I vow to keep you simple and meaningful.
I will not decorate and bake and shop in a pit of resentment, but because I actually enjoy those things. I vow to do it all with joy and gratitude.
I will take the time to choose gifts for people because God has blessed me with amazing people. not because I’m obligated as a member of such-and-such group/class/organization.
I will not succumb to the pressure to produce the perfect Christmas card. Instead, I will make it pretty, yet inexpensive. I will sit down and address each one individually. I will use this time as an opportunity to thank God for the precious people He’s placed in my life and send them a cute picture of my growing children.
I will steer clear of social media and television, where people would love to tell me how to celebrate and who I should be mad at and where I should shop and what time I need to arrive to get the Door-Buster special FOR THE BEST DEAL OF THE SEASON! Social media will not be the boss of my Christmas, Christmas.
I won’t care about the alleged best deal of the season because I will not spend exorbitant amounts of money on gifts. Turns out, a celebration of materialism and stress is the exact opposite of the way I want to honor Jesus on the celebration of His birth.
Instead, I vow to spend this season thanking Him for all the gifts He has already given me—family, friends, health, joy, freedom…
But mostly, I will thank God for the gift of His son, Jesus, from Whom all these blessings flow. And Who, at the risk of sounding completely cliché, is quite literally, the reason for the season.
I feel better already, don’t you, Christmas?
Looking forward to the Best Christmas Ever,
All my love,
P.S. I may, also, sit in a blanket near the furnace register and look at the lights on the tree while I listen to Burl Ives and Elvis Presley. And I will probably even give Baby Jesus a little ride in Santa’s plastic sleigh, just for old time’s sake. If you don’t mind.