Holidays are a time for family, a time to reflect on what we hold most dear. It is also a time when we are barraged with deals and gifts and tradition to-do lists.
Over the years, I have grown increasingly anxious as Christmas approaches. There are too many people to buy for, too many homes to visit, too many activities to attend and rituals to uphold. December began to feel, all together, out of my control. I was simply along for the craziness of it all and would regress into the safety of my home to escape the inevitable meltdown (of me or my children).
Pretty soon, at the top of my Christmas list was the hope of a simpler Christmas. A day spent in one place, warm and cuddled as everyone gathers in a simple gift exchange. Nothing excessive, only things that were needed or beautiful, and most of all, thoughtful. Maybe we go for a hike, watch a movie, or play a game. There is laughter and love and the peace that should be associated with such a precious day. But the day overall isn’t rushed or hurried, it isn’t awash in mountains of wrapping paper with the soundtrack of hysterical children who are over-stimulated.
The more I thought of this “simple” Christmas, the more I realized that it envisioned what I most value: connection. I also looked more closely at what led to the stress and anxious feelings: overdoing it all in the name of perfection. We want the magic and wonder and joy, and we are literally buying right into the facade that that comes from having and doing more. The most memorable gifts and moments of holidays in the past usually are memorable because of the relationships around us being strengthened or our hearts feeling deep-rooted love.
Even with all this said, the pressure of the Christmas season is so normalized and accepted that it requires a conscious resistance to simplify. It takes preparation and belief that simplifying truly helps you magnify those special moments.
I am so grateful my church is working to refocus on what matters most this season. Last year it started a campaign called Light the World that is a service advent calendar. It will happen again this year where each day leading up to Christmas, you are prompted to serve in a specific way. Last year, as we participated as family, I found that all of those traditions and hopes for the holiday season happened more easily and there was so much more joy and purpose. We made holiday cookies and brought them to neighbors and our mailman. We focused on family and cuddled together with cocoa and a movie. We sent notes and drawings of gratitude to grandparents. So much more light and peace filled our holiday season.
Last year wasn’t perfect, but it helped me to understand that if I truly want to simplify and focus on what I most value, I need to stop buying into belief that joy comes from doing and having it all.
This season can be so dark and lonely for so many. If we get swept up in the hustle, we might miss the moments that will bring connection, joy, and light to others and ourselves. With each small act of service we can simplify our holiday season by bringing light to the darkness. We can illuminate and radiate the goodness that does exist and feel the simple delight of kinship and love.