Christmas is a time of mixed emotions for many people. For some it is hands-down the best time of the year. Others find it to be the hardest, either because the season has become so commercialized, or because they are missing someone special with whom to celebrate. It can be the loneliest time of the year, and one that just has to be survived rather than enjoyed.
My husband and I both struggle with December because of losses we experienced in years past, and the memories that have become associated with the season. Add to that the stress of trying to make it all “perfect” and sometimes we find we’ve lost our Christmas spirit.
Here are a few suggestions for getting a little of the magic of Christmas back:
Donate gifts to a charity – Shopping for people that you know will truly appreciate your gifts is an almost sure-fire way to make you feel better about the commercialization of the season. The thought of more toys coming into my already cluttered house is almost enough to make me cry, but I also know how lucky I am to have that as a problem. My favourite ways to donate gifts are to find charities that have a giving tree – people in need place their Christmas gift wish on an ornament that is placed on the tree, and those wishing to donate then have something specific to shop for, which I always find extra-helpful.
Work at a food bank or shelter – Nothing puts things in perspective like seeing what a difference those groceries or a hot meal makes to a person. Fretting about tracking down the ‘it toy’ or stressing over Martha-worthy decorations starts to feel a bit silly.
Have a Christmas movie marathon – We have most of our favourites on DVD, and the others staking out space on the DVR. There are some that I love to play while I do some of the drudgery chores like dishes and laundry, and others we like to watch as a family as we sip hot chocolate, taking some precious time in the busy season to just breathe and recharge. One of my fondest childhood Christmas memories was ducking into the movie theater with my parents when the Santa Claus parade was rained out to see a movie that wasn’t doing very well at the box office. But heck – it had Christmas in the title and there was popcorn, what did we have to lose? That movie was A Christmas Story, and I always feel like the season has officially begun when I watch that.
Make (and keep) traditions – It’s not the material things that we remember when we grow up. It’s the experiences and traditions. So make some with your family – ones that feel right to you, not ones that you feel you have to participate in. Each year that we do something that we’ve established as a tradition, it makes it feel more and more like Christmas.
Take the kids to a nursing home – The seniors at my aunt’s nursing home always light up when I bring the kids in, whether we know them or not. Some of them get very few visitors, and Christmas can be the loneliest time for them. Seeing the twinkle in their eyes is sure to ignite a little of that spirit.
Make cookies for someone who helps you – It’s a great way to say thank you; many people find baking relaxing; and the traditional scents and tastes will kick your olfactory senses into high-gear, hopefully flipping that festive on-switch.
Don’t start too early – I would think that I would be most festive the closer we get to the big day, but when I go all in to the season too early, the festivity has fizzled out by December 15th and I am ready to drag the tree to the curb – decorations and all. It’s kind of like dieting. Or schoolwork. Or any of my new years’ resolutions. Maybe I just have commitment issues.
Invite friends over – Friends will pull me out of my funk every time. Invite the low-maintenance ones that know you well and you don’t have to clean for. Bonus points if they are funny or their life is more of a hot mess than mine. Winning status if they bring booze.
Embrace your spiritual traditions – If it is a part of your faith, and you are feeling disconnected from Christmas, get involved in activities with your church to help you reconnect with the original reason for the season. Even if you haven’t attended regularly during the year, don’t let that discourage you – churches often take on a lot of extra projects around Christmas and welcome some fresh faces and extra helping hands. And an extra dose of choir music never hurts either.
Don’t force yourself – Give yourself permission to not be into it. No one is keeping score, and it’s okay if you won’t be recruited in the next round of mall elf hiring. Forcing yourself to have fun or questioning why you are not, can make it feel harder than it already is; acknowledging to yourself that it is okay to just get through it can be incredibly empowering.
I hope that you find some peace and joy in the season. And if you decide to bake, send some my way!