Sometimes it feels as if Christmas is all about lists.
- Gift buying lists.
- Grocery shopping lists.
- Baking lists.
- Decorating lists.
- Gift wrapping lists.
- Lists of errands to run.
- Lists of tasks to perform.
- Lists of parties to attend.
- Lists of Christmas light displays to see.
- Christmas card lists.
- Holiday playlists to compile so you have the perfect soundtrack.
Santa Claus is not the only one who’s making a list and checking it twice. We’re all doing it – especially those of us who have children. The feeling is not exactly festive.
Sometimes, though, you have that moment. That bright spot that makes all the running around, spending money, coordinating schedules and so on worthwhile. It’s the moment that reminds you that traditions matter. That you’re making memories. That you’re doing it all in service of something much bigger, older and wiser than you. Ritual is powerful and it calls to us all. And few rituals are as deeply ingrained in my psyche and identity than the rituals of Christmas.
This afternoon I was decorating the tree with my children. There it is … I am a Christmas slacker. My Instagram feed has been filled with photos of other people’s fully-decorated trees since late November and I am just doing it now. And to make matters worse we still aren’t finished with the tree. I find that it’s easier and more fun to do it in fits and spurts, rather than pushing myself to get it done in one go. Those lists? I am better at making them than completing them, and sometimes it just doesn’t all get done.
Anyways, I bought new Christmas lights for our tree this year. They are small multi-coloured LED globes that flicker and blink and change colour. My children were delighted. And then I turned on the Christmas music, and we strung the garlands and got out the boxes of ornaments. My daughter sniffled because she has a cold, and clung to me like a kid who is much younger than almost 11 years old. Then my son, who is seven, placed his third ornament on the same branch of the tree and stopped to admire his handiwork before saying, “Mom, when you play Christmas music and we decorate the tree I feel the joy.”
And then Christmas happened for me.
Because this is what Christmas is. It is a tree that is haphazardly decorated with mismatched ornaments acquired over a lifetime. It is children who are excited and embrace the moment and don’t agonize over perfection. It is letting yourself step away when it’s all a bit much. And it is being present with your family in the mess. Those amazing holiday moments don’t come when you look at a list completed list. They come in spite of the lists.
I am trying to cut myself some slack and reducing what’s on my lists. Because someone will get sick. Some beautiful ornament or dish or brand new gift will break. Some family member will disagree with some other family member. And at some point the weather will get in the way of carefully laid plans. Accepting it is better than feeling bad that things didn’t go to plan. I don’t believe Christmas is meant to be an exercise in making yourself feel guilty for not being Martha Stewart.
In fact, I bet even Martha Stewart finds the pressure overwhelming sometimes.
So here’s to the holiday season. May it be joyous, and loving, and festive in spite of the lists.