“Good riddance!” I said as I dragged the Christmas tree to the curb. “Thank goodness the holidays are finally over!” I was absolutely exhausted and sick of Christmas. As I stripped the house of its bright holiday trimmings, I vowed that things were going to be different next year.
To make sure that I kept my resolve, I sat down a few days later and wrote down everything that had gone wrong during the Christmas season. I reviewed my list, then decided on some changes that could help my family find the joy that should rightfully attend the celebration of Christ’s birth.
Here’s what we did the next year:
We started early. We began purchasing and ordering gifts in September, and we were nearly finished by Thanksgiving. The first weekend in December we gathered for a wrapping session. It turned out to be great fun—and the packages that needed to be mailed were sent speeding to their destinations with time to spare. We also made items for school and for church ahead of time so that when they were requested, we could hand them over with a smile.
We simplified our plans. We reviewed the calendar and eliminated every unnecessary activity and appointment. Now we could fill our December days and evenings with joyful and meaningful activities. We carefully selected every commitment; to avoid being out too many nights in the same week, we even turned down some attractive invitations. On the calendar we listed TV Christmas specials as well as a concert and a play we wanted to attend.
We let the music ring. Knowing that music ushers in the Christmas spirit as few other things can, we agreed to play only classical or Christmas music in the house and car. We often sang along as we did housework or drove to activities. This simple step lifted our spirits with every note.
We learned to relax. Whenever I noticed anyone in the family getting harried (including me!) I would say, “Slow down. Enjoy the process.” Those five words brought more patience when cutting out Christmas cookies, more joy when decorating the tree, and more delight when getting ready for special events.
We spent time loving. With a new goal in mind of expressing love, we altered many routines. Instead of going on a stressful shopping blitz with all of my children, I took each of them out alone to purchase their gifts for others. One day our family took a relaxing tour of the city just to see the lights and decorations. The only things we bought were fresh, warm doughnuts, and we ended the day with a Christmas story.
The open dates on our calendar left us time to respond spontaneously to the needs of others: we shoveled sidewalks, dropped secret surprises on doorsteps, and went caroling to shut-ins and to the fire station. The fire chief told us that in his eighteen years, we were the first people to carol at his station.
Our home was filled with joy throughout the Christmas season as a result of these simple changes. What a contrast with the year before! At the end of the holiday season I put away the decorations with regret. Our family had not only found the Christmas spirit, we had kept it.