My Christmas Mantra
As a kid, I remember waking up the morning after Christmas and feeling a sad emptiness because Christmas was over. Waking up in my Christmas pj’s from the day before, surrounded by my new presents, I felt glum. All that wonderful anticipation and build up, and suddenly, the day is over! Not only that, but I would also have to wait 365 days until it was here again. Since those sad December 26th days, I have come to realize Christmas is not defined by a day but by all the little experiences from Thanksgiving to Christmas. Unfortunately, we sometimes lose sight of that while rushing around with our heads spinning and to-do lists to the floor.
Chaos around the holidays usually comes from good intentions. We want special presents for our family members because we want them to know they are worth a thoughtful gift. We want to create memories by attending holiday parties because celebrating with family and friends is what the holidays are all about, right?
This week because of our #bebetter52 challenge, I have reflected on the true meaning of the holidays, and I have come to a conclusion.
When holiday presents, traditions, and parties become just another thing to check off our list, we need to choose NOT do them. On the other hand, if they add joy to our lives, we need to embrace them and enjoy the moments fully.
This is easier said than done. My whole life my head is full of great ideas, that later become unfinished projects that haunt me with guilt. So as simple as my conclusion seems, it can sometimes get complicated. Something that starts with good joyful intention can turn into too much. Two examples below:
#1 I was a little overly ambitious with my nieces’ and nephews’ Christmas presents this year and felt stressed by the Shutterfly deadline. I cannot disclose too much about the presents since they haven’t opened them yet, but it required creativity and photo editing. I am happy I did it, but next year I will try not to wait as long, or to simplify the present.
#2 I knew I had to get a first Christmas photo of Cooper with Santa but was dreading the two-hour lines. It is funny how I used the word “had to.” This is the number one sign I shouldn’t have done it. Luckily, I found a way to make it totally enjoyable. Instead of a two-hour line at the mall, we went as a family to Irvine Regional Park at night where we took a train to the “North Pole.” At the end of the train ride, we were able to see all the kids’ eyes light up when they saw Santa sitting in a huge chair as he hugged all the kids daring enough to sit on his lap. Cooper was up for Santa’s lap and didn’t even cry a single tear!
Again, I admit this is hard and you might disagree with the simplicity of my conclusion. You may feel you are obligated to participate in certain holiday activities even if they feel like checklist items because you see no way to get out of them. But I am trying my best to have this be my holiday mantra:
If it doesn’t bring you joy, choose to not do them. This is not a work obligation, this is a holiday. Choose to spend your time in ways that bring you joy. On that note, what brings you joy is also a choice. If we eliminate the things that don’t bring us joy, it’s amazing to see all the extra time we have to be happy.
Things that may seem like tasks can become little happy moments. For example, one might think going to Target to return an item during the holidays is a check-off--list chore, but it doesn’t have to be. With Cooper, these outings become adventures and she loves them. With her two little hands on the cart, she gleefully sits in the front, bouncing up and down. Yes, I acknowledge we sometimes don’t have time to stroll aimlessly around Target saying “ho ho ho” to everyone we pass, but sometimes we do.
Being a new mother has changed my perspective on how I spend my time. When I am not with Cooper, every moment is assessed as to its worthiness of my being away from her. When I am with her, I try my best to be detached from my phone and computer so I can enjoy the simple little things that bring her entertainment.
Last week one of my closest friends posted on Instagram a picture of her holding her newborn Mirai in front of a simply decorated fireplace with six stockings she knit during her eleven-week stay in the hospital before the birth of her twins. After Mirai and Koa were born, her son unexpectedly died a short 12 hours after his birth. In the middle of grieving the loss of a child, she is attending to her two older daughters and Mirai. Her post has stuck with me. It says:
“This Christmas, we are keeping things simple. No rushing around feeling frantic. Enjoying our kids and remembering Koa. The holidays are definitely much harder missing our baby boy so we have been extra kind to ourselves in not having big expectations or feeling things we “should be doing” because of the holiday season. We are in a season of mourning and healing. Koa continues to teach us-the most important things in life are things that last and truly matter- our family, our faith and love for each other. Remembering our Savior this season and thankful for His Life and His Atonement and the promises of eternity. Grateful for our baby girl Mirai- she is a bright lift to our family.”
The true meaning of the holidays is different for everyone. To me, Christmas centers around family, service, and love, all of which center on Christ. And with all of these things come JOY.