Posts Tagged With: Christmas

Holiday Overachieving and Great Ideas

This time of year, it’s easy to feel like an underachiever. It’s not just all the ads and articles and advice about creating “perfect” Christmas gifts or Christmas wrap or Christmas cookies or Christmas dinners or Christmas decorating. It’s the people—admit it, we all know a few of them—who actually do all that stuff.

This year, as it happens, I’m doing more hands-on Christmas preparations myself than usual. Oh, we still haven’t done any decorating or put up a tree. No cookies have been or will be baked in our kitchen. Almost no shopping has been done, either.

But I am making gifts for several family members. As I often do, around the first of December I had a Great Idea for creating something handmade. Usually I consider factors like the days left till Christmas, the steps required to turn the idea into reality, and the probability that the Great Idea will result in a Not-So-Great Product, and I decide not to even try.

But this year I decided to actually carry out the Great Idea. Right now I’m in the middle of making a batch of Christmas gifts. I’m not doing it because I think I should. I’m not doing it because I think the recipients will be blown away by my creativity and overwhelmed with gratitude and keep these things forever. (Well, okay, I would like just a little bit of that. Not too much, though—it might make me think I need to do something similar next year)

I’m doing it because it’s fun. Mostly. There was that one little problem with figuring out how to make this part work, and that other little problem with getting another part to come out right. But I’m pleasantly surprised: Not only am I enjoying the process, but the reality of the almost-finished product is astonishingly close to the Great Idea as I imagined it.

And along the way, I had another Great Idea. This one deals with all the people I see as holiday overachievers. The ones who show up at a “please don’t bring anything” gathering with a little handmade gift for everyone or a batch of beautiful Christmas cookies. Or who wrap presents so beautifully that the wrapping itself is a work of art. Or who decorate every room in the house and has three color-coordinated trees in the front window.

Why should my response to any of that be a kneejerk flash of guilt, a feeling that I am a less-than-adequate human being who doesn’t quite measure up? Why should I care if someone else does a lot of elaborate holiday preparation that I don’t even care about or want to do? It has nothing to do with me, after all.

So here’s my Great Idea: Instead of feeling like an underachiever in those circumstances, I’m going to say something like, “Oh, you must have had fun creating this.”

If they did have fun, then more power to them. And the appreciation of people like me doesn’t much matter. It’s just a little bonus for them, the icing on the cookie, as it were.

If they didn’t have fun, that’s too bad, but it really doesn’t have anything to do with me, either. After all, no one forces any of us to do anything around the holidays. If stressed-out overachievers don’t like what they’re doing, they can come up with their own Great Idea and just say no.

And they shouldn’t feel guilty. Even if the rest of us miss out on some Christmas cookies.

Categories: Living Consciously | Tags: | 2 Comments

Christmas Tradition

“What’s your favorite Christmas tradition?”

Someone asked me that question this week, and it stopped me cold. I didn’t know what to say. In spite of thriving on routine—the phrase “rut person” may even come to mind—I don’t fill my life with a lot of rituals, holiday or otherwise. Besides, there has been a lot of upheaval over the years, and holiday traditions have shifted and evolved along with everything else.

Still, one thing has remained constant enough to be labeled “tradition.” That one thing is family. Get-togethers haven’t always been on the same date. They haven’t even always been with the same people. But no matter which members of which part of the clan get together, Christmas has always been about family.

Sometimes it’s been fun. Taking the kids to cut Christmas trees in the Black Hills National Forest. Watching little ones open gifts, then take great delight in playing with the boxes. Creating surprises that worked just the way they were supposed to.

Sometimes it’s been funny. One long-ago Christmas, a dozen or so of us were gathered at my aunt and uncle’s house on Christmas Eve. After we had eaten dinner, done dishes, and opened gifts, my aunt suddenly started to laugh. “Look at the tree!” she said.

There it sat, among the crumpled gift wrap and torn-open boxes, as bare as the Emperor without his clothes. In the midst of a busy day, she had forgotten to decorate it. And nobody noticed. (Or at least, anybody who did was too polite to say anything.)

Sometimes it’s been inadvertently adventurous. The year that my son and daughter were seven and one, we were traveling to my parents’ house on a bitterly cold December 23. The wind came up, and the beautiful snow covering the ground turned into a dangerous blizzard. We were smart enough to stop at a small town before the drifts got too deep, and we were lucky enough to get the last available motel room.

The next morning, over breakfast at the town’s single cafe, we met a man who invited us to spend the day at his house until the roads were cleared. He and his wife made us welcome, fed us lunch, and then left us in their house while they went off to their family’s Christmas Eve gathering. I remember sitting in their peaceful living room, rocking my daughter to sleep, feeling deeply blessed by the kindness and trust of these people whose Christmas spirit reached out to take in stranded strangers. In all the years since, I’ve never driven past that small town without thinking of them. And yes, the wind went down, the snowplows went by, and we did get home for Christmas.

Over the years, the dates and locations and faces have changed. We’ve had people in the hospital, people break bones at the family celebration (duct tape in the hands of a good veterinarian makes a good emergency splint), people too pregnant to travel, people too far away to travel, and of course the new arrivals that keep the family growing.

But the one constant has been family. As it will be this year. We have four different celebrations planned, with four different and sometimes overlapping parts of the family. So far, no adventures appear imminent. But then, if we knew about them in advance, they wouldn’t exactly be adventures, would they?

Merry Christmas!

Categories: Family | Tags: | 4 Comments

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